Arthritis is one very common bone joint disorder. As I was researching on the topic, I was shocked to see how prevelant this disorder is and how fast it is spreading. In 2009, 50 mn adults in the United States were having some form of Arthritis. This number is likely to increase to 67 mn by 2030.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis causes an inflammation and pain of all the joints. There are three types that affect the foot, ankle and knee. Osteoarthritis affects middle aged people and causes a wear and tear of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is an inflammatory disease caused by a malfunctioning immune system. Post-traumatic arthritis can be caused after an injury like a severe sprain, fracture or ligament injury occurs on the foot, ankle or knee.
Common symptoms of arthritis include tenderness or pain of the joint, reduce motion, stiffness, swelling and difficulty walking. Treatment depends on the type of arthritis, its severity and the joints that are affected. Non-surgical treatments include anti-inflammatory and pain medications, shoe inserts, ankle-foot orthosis, custom-made shoes, physiotherapy and exercise, weight reduction, using a cane or brace etc. if arthritis does not respond to any of these treatment regime, then surgery maybe suggested.
There is a clear indicator that we need to do a lot more to change things here. One important step can be to change lifestyle (obesity is directly related to Arthritis in big way) and take foods which help prevent inflammation of joints, turmeric is one of them.
Turmeric for Arthritis In The Knee & Ankle
I have already discussed this in my previous article, the key reason why turmeric is beneficial in case of arthritis is its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant nature.
While turmeric has been used for its healing properties for centuries, it is only in recent years that it has been studied for the benefits of curcumin, which is a diferuloylmethane and offers anti-inflammatory benefits, especially in the treatment of pro-inflammatory chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, pulmonary, and other diseases. Inflammatory chemokines and cytokines, adhesion molecules and inflammatory enzymes are all responsible for arthritis. Apart from lifestyle and dietary changes, patients of arthritis are given NSAIDs, analgesics and other medications. Most of these medications are expensive and produce adverse effects.
Now I will discuss about a few studies which have found benefits of turmeric for arthritis and reasons.
Some studies do suggest that using turmeric could ease symptoms of inflammation, pain etc caused by arthritis, tendonitis and bursitis. This is due to the antioxidant properties of curcumin – the active chemical compound in turmeric.
Curcumin is an anti-oxidant that can neutralize free radicals. These free radicals travel throughout the body damaging cell membranes and healthy cells. In arthritis, free radicals are said to cause inflammation and damage to joints. When used regularly, turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties provide relief for arthritis. Some studies have found that using curcumin to treat rheumatoid arthritis is similar to phenylbutazone in improving morning stiffness, reducing swelling of joints and increasing walking time.
In a 3-month trial conducted in Italy on the benefits of turmeric for osteoarthritis, 50 patients were studied. They were given 1g daily of a special turmeric extract that was said to be easily absorbed by the body. One half of the patients were given the turmeric extract and the other conventional medications. After the 3 months were over, it was found that 58% of the turmeric group had improved physical movements and reduced stiffness and pain compared to the control group. There was a 16-fold decline in the inflammation marker – C-reactive protein and a 300% improvement in the patients’ emotional well-being. The turmeric group was able to reduce their NSAID usage by 63%. This is very good news for those suffering from osteoarthritis all over the world.
To examine the benefits of curcumin, rats were induced with arthritis. Increased glycoprotein levels and molecular weight caused paw inflammation in these arthritic rats. Giving them oral curcumin reduced the paw inflammation by 73%. As far as rheumatoid arthritis that also affects various joints like the knee and ankle, a study was done on the effect of curcumin and it was found that there was inhibition of symptoms. Arthritic index that measures joint swelling was used to assess benefits of turmeric extracts. It was found that curcumin could prevent joint inflammation before and not after onset.
Considered safer than NSAIDs
Since NSAIDs can cause gastric and cardiovascular problems, kidney and liver damage, curcumin is being studied as a safe, alternative treatment for arthritis that affects knee, ankle and other joints. Patients with osteoarthritis, given 200mg a day of curcumin, had better mobility and reduced pain. Curcumin is said to influence around 700 genes that can prevent inflammation of joints.
Turmeric and Ginger: A great combinatio
Turmeric can be used in diet or by combining with other herbs to benefit arthritis. Small pieces of ginger and turmeric can be boiled for 15-30 minutes in water, strained, cooled and drunk with some honey. Equal proportions of fenugreek, turmeric and ginger can be ground to powder and kept in a sealed container. You can have 1 tsp of this powder twice daily. A paste made from ginger and turmeric can be applied to stiff arthritic joints to provide relief. The main problem is to make turmeric more bio-available by preventing it from converting to glucuronides. Glucuronidation of curcumin can reduce its metabolism rates. This can be improved by including an adjuvant like piperine or using curcumin nanoparticles and as micelles. These can improve absorbability of curcumin and its circulation rates.
It has been suggested that a diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric and ginger may reduce or ease pain caused by osteoarthritis. Combining both ginger and turmeric in tea or simply in boiling water can ease arthritis symptoms. Bromelain is an enzyme extract of pineapples. It combines well with turmeric to improve its absorption levels and anti-inflammatory effects.
Turmeric has been used in Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat arthritis, for it is non-toxic and with almost no side effects.
Turmeric dosage should vary from person to person based on various factors. Also, it is not like dosage of modern medicine. The usual dosage for osteoarthritis is 500mg twice a day of Meriva, Indena – a specific turmeric extract and 500mg four times a day of non-commercial turmeric extracts. The usual powdered turmeric root dosage is 0.5 – 1g that can go up to 3g daily. It has been suggested that turmeric capsules have greater efficacy than tablets. A stabilizer is added and tablets go through a heating process. This can reduce their potency.
One of the best ways to include turmeric is to make it a part of your regular diet. This acts as preventive and curative method, preventing from possible future disorders while helping cure the existing ones.
Turmeric when used as a spice in food is generally safe for everyone. When taken as a supplement, turmeric in high doses and long-term use could cause indigestion, dizziness, nausea or diarrhea. Those with gallbladder problems or are taking medications for diabetes or anti-coagulants must avoid turmeric supplements. High doses have resulted in liver problems in laboratory animals although similar effects have not been seen in humans.
Those who need to undergo surgery may have to stop taking turmeric since it could slow blood clotting. Pregnant and breastfeeding women must avoid turmeric supplements for it could affect their pregnancy. Always inform your doctor about your plan to include herbal supplements and seek their advice.