The word ‘arthritis’ means ‘inflammation of joints’. It comes from two Greek words , athron meaning joints and itis meaning inflammation. It is a chronic disease process. In the early stages, the whole body is usually involved and one or two joints may become completely deformed, leaving the patient handicapped and somewhat weakened.
There are two categories of joints, namely, synarthrosis or those which do not move any very much and do not have a cavity, and diarthrosis or those which move freely and have a joint cavity. The first type of joints are found in the head and spinal column. The second type, which is most frequently affected by arthritis, is more common and is found in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, knees, ankles and toes.
Arthritis assumes various forms, the most frequent being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthirtis. Inflammation is the main feature of arthritis, which is a reaction of the joint tissues to some form of damage or injury.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease which usually occurs in the older age-group. It is mor frequent in women than in men. The disease results from structural changes in the articular cartilage in the joints, usually those which are weight-bearing such as the spine and knees.
The chief symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain and stiffness in the joints. The pain usually increases after exercise. Other symptoms include watery eyes, leg cramps, allergies, arteriosclerosis, impairment in the functioning of the gall-bladder and liver disturbances. The possible causes include malnutrition, continuous physical stress, obesity, glandular insufficiency, calcium deficiency and shortage of hydrochloric acid.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious disease which affects not only the joints of the fingers, wrists, hips, knees and feet but also the muscles, tendons and other tissues of the body. The onset can be at any time from childhood to old age but usually appears between the age 25 and 50. It is three times more common in women than in men. The disease is due to an inflammatory process of the synovium or lining of the joints accompanied by swelling and eventual deformity.
Rheumatoid arthritis is often called the "cooked food disease." It usually develops gradually over several months with persistent pain and stiffness in one or more joints. Ultimately the whole body is affected. Symptoms include anaemia, colitis, constipation, gall bladder disturbances, low blood pressure, deformed hands and feet. The condition may be caused by hormonal imbalance, physical and emotional stress, infection, severe fright, shock and injury. Hereditary factors may also be responsible for the onset of this disease.
According to the modern medical profession, there is no cure for arthritis and the patient must learn to live with it. Naturopathy, however, believes in dietetic cure of the disease. Most chronic arthritis patients are heavy eaters and often take food furnishing 3,500 to 4,000 calories. As they cannot utilise all the starchy elements of this intake, toxins accumulate and an excessive acid waste results in the aggravation of prevalent joint condition. A low caloric diet consisting of about 2,000 calories with a minimum carbohydrate content is advisable. The diet should, however, include an adequate amount of vitamins, calcium, phosphorous and iron. The diet of the arthritis patient should be alkaline in nature and include fruits and vegetables for protection and proteins and carbohydrates for energy. It may consist of a couple of fresh raw vegetables in the form of salads and at least two cooked vegetables. Cabbage, carrot, celery, cucumber, endive, lettuce, onion, radish, tomato and watercress may be used for raw salad. The cooked vegetables may include asparagus, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, celery, brinjal mushroom, onions peas, beans, spinach, squash, tomatoes and turnips.
In severe cases, it will be advisable to put the patient on a vegetable juice therapy for about a week. Green juice extracted from any green leafy vegetable mixed with carrot , celery and red beet juice is specifically helpful for arthritis. The alkaline action of raw juices dissolves the accumulation of deposits around the joints and in other tissue. Fresh pineapple is also valuable as the enzyme in fresh pineaple juice, bromelain, reduces swelling and inflammation in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Repeated juice fasts are recommended at intervals of every two months.
The raw potato juice therapy is considered one of the most successful biological treatment for rheumatic and arthritic conditions. It has been used in folk medicine for centuries. The old method of preparing potato juice was to cut the potato into thin slices without peeling the skin and place overnight in a large glass filled with cold water. The water should be drunk in the morning on an empty stomach. Fresh juice can also be extracted from potatoes and drunk diluted with water 50 : 50 , first thing in the morning.
Certain foods are harmful for arthritis patients and these must be excluded from the diet. These include aerated waters of any kind, all cheese except cottage cheese, bacon, ham, sausages and preserved meats, pastries, cakes, pies, sweet buns and white bread, all salad dressings, all soups made from meat stock, rice and white flour products. Candy, sweetness, sugar, ice cream, condiments, tea and coffee should also be avoided. Fruits permitted in arthritis are apples, lemons, oranges,bananas, pears, the various berries, apricots, pineapples, plums and melons.
Vitamin A and D play an important role in warding off infections, thereby preventing arthritis. Oranges, papayas, carrots, whole milk and butter, all green leafy vegetables, tomatoes and raw bananas are rich in Vitamin A. Vitamin D is chiefly obtained from exposing the skin to sunshine. Sunlight is an important factor in the prevention of arthritis.
Constipation should be avoided as it poisons the system and adds to the irritation and inflammation of the joints. Light exercises such as walking is beneficial. Maintaining a normal body weight is also an important factor in preventing arthritis. Obesity places excess stress on weight-bearing joints and interferes with the smooth functioning of tendons, ligaments and muscles.
The body should be kept warm at all times. Joints should not be bandaged tightly as this limits movement and interferes with the free circulation of blood. There should be plenty of ventilation in the bedroom. Rest is very important for those suffering from arthritis, who should not overdo their work, exercise or recreational activities.