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How To Manage Arthritis Naturally

A short while ago, I spoke at length with a new client about the nature of her arthritis and how different it is from osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease).

Our conversation made me realize that I should write up an entire piece discussing this, as I'm certain that there are some among our readership who don't have a clue why their joint pain is getting worse by the year despite giving their affected joints adequate rest.

Most people think of arthritis as joint pain that is the result of many years of wear and tear of the tissues within and surrounding joints. This describes osteoarthritis, and is simple enough to understand; if you put too much stress on a joint, over time, it will wear down and turn into a chronic source of discomfort.

Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, occurs to some degree in all of us as we age. As we go through life, our joints accumulate evidence of wear; on x-ray, this evidence includes decreased joint space, thickening of bones where they meet to form a joint, and even bone spurs.

Show me an x-ray of anyone who is 35 years or older and chances are really good that I can show you multiple signs of some stage of osteoarthritis - call this an inevitable consequence of living in a world governed by gravity.

The goal for all of us should be to minimize wear and tear, thereby decreasing our risk of developing painful stages of osteoarthritis. Here are some thoughts on how to accomplish this:

  • Strive to stay at a healthy weight.

    Consider what it would feel like to carry around a ten-pound bag of potatoes all day. Carrying unnecessary body weight is no different; month after month, year after year, every pound of unnecessary weight accelerates degeneration of the cartilage that lines all of your weight-bearing joints, from your ankles, knees, and hips, all the way up through the intervertebral joints throughout your spine.

    It's simple: all things being equal, people who carry excess body weight have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis than those who maintain a healthier weight for their body structure.

  • Strive to reduce impact during repetitive weight-bearing activities.

    This point is all about exercising common sense in caring for your weight-bearing joints.

    When taking part in athletic activities, use appropriate footwear and socks or insoles that provide shock absorbing cushioning.

    Whenever possible, choose softer surfaces over harder ones; for example, jogging every day on sand or grass rather than pavement should spare your joints of significant wear.

    When there's no getting around pounding a hard surface, give your joints ample time to rest and recover; for example, if you're a tennis enthusiast and only have access to hard courts, think about taking a break from heavy hitting at least every other day.

    When your tissues take a beating from intense physical activity, they become inflamed, and if you allow the process of inflammation to do its job, your tissues should recover and be ready for more work; if you stress your tissues while they're trying to recover during the inflammatory process, you increase your risk of developing a chronic injury.

  • Be an avid stretcher.

    Some of the most severe cases of spinal osteoarthritis that I have witnessed have been in truck drivers. There's a reason for this, of course; there's no position that puts more strain on your intervertebral joints than the seated position, and when your spine is subjected to constant up and down jostling for hours of driving at a time, you can imagine how easy it is to develop micro tears in the cartilaginous discs that act as shock absorbers between your vertebrae.

    Though not as bad as being in a moving vehicle for long stretches, working at a desk job is hard on the spine for the same reason.

    Regardless of what you do for a living, you can slow the pace at which your spine develops degenerative changes by taking regular breaks throughout the day to stretch.

    Lie down for a minute and try to separate the mid-section of your body by simultaneously pointing your hands and feet away from your middle.

    Provide a rotatory stretch to your lower and upper spinal joints by doing the following stretches:

    Two Stretches to Keep Your Back Healthy

    Doing these simple stretches a few times a day can reduce the strain that your spinal joints experience, and if you add this relief up over years, you have a lowered risk of developing osteoarthritis in your spine.

All of the above pertains to osteoarthritis. It's pretty intuitive; try not to over stress your joints, and you lower your risk of injuring the tissues within and surrounding your joints.

Arthritis Associated with Autoimmune Illness

Not as intuitive are other forms of arthritis that can actually get worse with or without a lot of physical activity. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis, arthritis associated with lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis. These forms of arthritis can be classified as being autoimmune in nature, whereby your own immune system has gone awry to some degree, and is causing gradual destruction of the tissues in your joints.

How does this happen?

You have countless immune cells in every corner of your body that are constantly working to keep you healthy by identifying, packaging, and eliminating harmful substances that have made their way into your blood.

If your immune system falters and begins to identify some of your own tissues as being harmful or unnecessary, it will work to attack and eliminate these tissues through an inflammatory response that can cause pain and discomfort in many forms - this is how autoimmune illness develops.

In the case of autoimmune-related arthritis, the specific tissues that your immune system decides to attack are within affected joints; this "decision" may be a genetic predisposition, or it may just be by chance; we don't yet have enough of an understanding of this issue to know exactly how specific areas get chosen for breakdown.

Keep in mind that just because you may have a genetic predisposition for an autoimmune illness does not mean that you are guaranteed to experience it sometime during your life, or that you cannot recover from it.

Genetic predispositions are largely triggered, maintained, and kept under control by environmental factors, namely, your diet, lifestyle, and how much stress you experience.

Ultimately, the development of autoimmune-related arthritis requires that your immune system begins to identify some of the cells within your joints as being harmful, and that control mechanisms that are in place to prevent such "glitches" no longer do what they are supposed to in preventing such occurrences.

There are several theories that attempt to explain why and how these glitches occur. Rather than get into biochemical jargon that will not do much to help you get better, we can explain these glitches in the following way:

Over time, as your cells are abused by lack of rest, lack of optimal nourishment, accumulation of waste products, and direct insult by excessive amounts of free radicals and toxins, your cells gradually become less efficient at eliminating waste products and exogenous toxins (toxins that are produced outside of your body i.e. environmental waste).

Eventually, waste products and toxins may incorporate themselves into your cell membranes, and if this happens, your immune system may identify such cells as being old and damaged. At that point, your immune system will work to attack and eliminate such cells from your body.

How does your immune system go about attacking and eliminating such cells? By producing antibodies, attaching said antibodies to the membranes of cells that have been identified as old and damaged, and then sending other components of your immune system to destroy these antibody-tagged cells. Your immune system destroys such cells using a process of inflammation, which is the source of pain and discomfort in autoimmune-related arthritis.

This is why, even with substantial physical rest, autoimmune-related arthritis can continue to exist and even get worse.

Before we look at how to address major root causes of autoimmune-related arthritis, you should know that there is another major mechanism by which autoimmune-related arthritis can develop and worsen, and it is this:

Whenever any unnecessary, harmful, or unidentifiable substances enter your bloodstream, they get noticed by your immune system. In an effort to preserve your health, your immune system produces antibodies that seek out and attach themselves to these unwanted substances; these substances are generally referred to as antigens.

Once your antibodies attach themselves to antigens, antigen-antibody complexes are formed. Your immune system will work to eliminate these antigen-antibody complexes from your body so that the foreign antigens cannot harm your cells. But if enough of these complexes are formed, your immune system may not be able to eliminate them as quickly as they are created. This can lead to some of these complexes getting deposited into your joints, where they can cause inflammation and damage. Again, your joints being chosen as the site where antigen-antibody complexes are deposited is likely determined by your genetic predisposition, but some of this may also be by chance.

Causes of Antigen-Antibody Complex Formation and Ensuing Inflammation

Perhaps the most common cause of excessive formation of antigen-antibody complexes is having an unhealthy digestive tract.

From your mouth to your anus, your digestive tract is one long tube that is meant to extract nutrients out of your food and allow smaller and usable components of these nutrients to slip through into your bloodstream so that they can fuel and nourish your cells. While your digestive tract is designed for proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients, it is also designed to protect your blood and inner cells against undesirable substances that can become antigens that lead to antigen-antibody complex formation in your blood.

If you abuse your digestive tract long enough with poor dietary and lifestyle choices, it can begin to lose its ability to prevent harmful substances from entering your blood. The lining of your digestive tract can begin to lose its integrity, and the population of microorganisms that line your digestive tract can shift from being predominately health-promoting and protective bacteria to largely microorganisms that can break down your digestive tract lining, such as yeast, bad bacteria, and even parasites.

This state – where your digestive tract lining loses its ability to keep harmful substances out of your blood – is often called "leaky gut syndrome."

Leaky gut syndrome can cause incompletely digested food to enter your bloodstream. And the most problematic incompletely digested nutrient in autoimmune illness is protein.

Your body expects to receive amino acids – the smaller constituents of protein – into its blood supply, not bigger molecules of protein (several amino acids linked to one another). So when incompletely digested protein enters your blood supply through an unhealthy digestive tract lining, your immune system identifies these molecules as being foreign and potentially harmful. Your immune system will quickly move to create antibodies that can attach onto chains of incompletely digested protein, forming antigen-antibody complexes. And you know what happens next. While your immune system will do its best to eliminate these complexes from your body, if enough of them form because you continue to have a dysfunctional digestive tract and you continue to eat large amounts of problematic protein, some of these complexes can get caught up in your joints and possibly even other areas of your body, leading to inflammation and pain.

Incompletely digested protein is not the sole group of substances that can contribute to autoimmune illness in this fashion. Any substances that your body cannot use for nourishment can potentially trigger the production of antigen-antibody complexes and ensuing inflammation. This is why it's important to be aware of common household and environmental toxins, and to do your best to decrease your exposure to them.

For example, great care should be taken to avoid unnecessary exposure to conventional cosmetic products. Lipstick, lip balm, and other products that are typically used around large pores have a relatively easy pathway to your blood supply. It's a well established fact that women suffer from autoimmune illness at a significantly higher rate than men; I have come to believe that this is, in part, due to the widespread use of cosmetics among women – this is a connection that has not yet been established in the medical literature; it's a personal hypothesis based on my own clinical experiences.

By now, I trust that it's clear how arthritis can exist and worsen even with plenty of physical rest; if you are consistently eating foods and being exposed to substances that can trigger breakdown of the cells within your joints, you arthritis can and will thrive.

But don't forget this: Because osteoarthritis develops to some degree in all of us as we age, the reality is that people who develop autoimmune-related arthritis are often experiencing both types (osteoarthritis plus autoimmune) at the same time, sometimes in the same joints, sometimes in different joints.

So every one of us can benefit from heeding the common sense tips at the beginning of this article on minimizing wear and tear of our joints.

If your physician diagnoses you with a form of autoimmune-related arthritis, in addition to minimizing physical wear and tear of your joints, if you want to prevent ongoing inflammation and destruction of your joints via autoimmune mechanisms, it's essential that you are careful about every choice you make, especially the foods that you eat and the amount of emotional stress that you subject yourself to, as these are arguably the two most important determinants of gut lining and immune system health.

My experience over many years has been that a significant trigger for autoimmune activity is dairy. Of course there are some people whose genetics and good overall health allow them to enjoy dairy without autoimmune activity or any other ill effects. But for those who do have a genetic predisposition for autoimmune illness, I'm certain that avoiding dairy is a wise choice.

Where there is an obvious trigger like dairy, you can easily identify this. How? You spend one week on the full body cleanse program or any other similar cleansing program that eliminates dairy and flesh meats, then observe how your affected joints feel. If it's not enough just to feel better and you really want to test things, after a week of cleansing, you can eat substantial portions of dairy - try your favorite cheese, which is an ultra concentrated source of dairy protein. See how your joints feel then, and you'll have a good sense of how your joints and body in general respond to dairy.

You can do the same thing for any other foods that you suspect are causing ill effects in your body. But remember this: Sometimes, the sites at which autoimmune activity occurs can shift without explanation.

One longtime client that I spoke with about a month ago is a perfect example of the possibility of inflammation migrating through the body. His right hip and left toes would predictably get inflamed after eating too much dairy and flesh meats. So he managed his pain for years by keeping consumption of these foods to a minimum - only very small amounts when his cravings were difficult to ignore.

While on vacation, he indulged and had a good amount of feta cheese with a salad. He braced for a sore hip and swollen toes the next morning, and was surprised to find that both areas felt just fine. So he had more cheese plus a little ice cream, and again, was happy to find that his hip and toes felt fine. This led to several months of eating larger portions of cheese and even hamburgers and bacon, foods that, in the past, would predictably create suffering for him.

All of this came to light during our conversation, which he initiated because he wanted my thoughts on some sharp, stabbing pains that he had been experiencing in his lower back with certain positions.

It just didn't occur to this fellow that the autoimmune activity that was occurring in his right hip and left toes had shifted to his back, understandably so, as the nature of his back pain was quite different from his hip and toe pain. In doing a thorough evaluation, my best diagnosis was that he was indeed suffering from autoimmune-related arthritis in his lower back, right at the junction of his lowest lumbar vertebra and sacrum. With ongoing inflammation in this area and the fluid that chronic inflammation begins, in certain positions, his nerves were being compromised, setting off his jolts of pain.

I've encountered this scenario enough times to know that it happens in autoimmune illness. We don't know why it happens, but sites of inflammation can and do migrate. So once you discover triggers to pain and inflammation in your body, it's probably best that you strive to avoid those triggers forever, even if one particular body part starts to feel better.

Holistic Approach to Addressing Autoimmune-Related Arthritis

To keep things practical, let's review some concrete steps that you can take to try to manage autoimmune-related arthritis with your daily choices. Please keep in mind that these steps shouldn't take the place of a thorough evaluation by your physician, as it's to your benefit to receive a proper diagnosis and to learn about all of your treatment options.

Give Your Digestive Tract a Chance to Heal

Think of your digestive tract as your first physical line of defense against autoimmune-related arthritis, or any degenerative illness for that matter.

From your mouth to your rectal pouch, the lining of your digestive tract is continuous with the skin that covers your body. Technically, this makes your digestive tract lining similar to your outer skin in the sense that it acts as a barrier that protects your blood and inner tissues against undesirable substances in your environment.

Once the lining of your digestive tract begins to break down, if your genetic programming allows for it, you will begin to experience the antigen-antibody complex formation that occurs whenever incompletely digested protein leaks through your damaged digestive tract into your blood. The same goes for exogenous toxins like synthetic chemicals found in cosmetic products.

If you are suffering from autoimmune-related arthritis, chances are good that your digestive tract is not as healthy as it can be, and that the effects of "leaky gut syndrome" and the formation of antigen-antibody complexes are contributing to your joint pain.

How can you know with reasonable certainty that your digestive tract lining is not as healthy as possible? Leaky gut syndrome is not recognized by conventional medicine as a health condition, most likely because there are no clear-cut drugs or surgical procedures that can justifiably be prescribed for it.

The loss of lining integrity that we are talking about is microscopic, which doesn’t make it any less harmful than it is.

In general, you can safely assume that your digestive tract lining is in need of significant repair if you have joint pain that doesn't respond to physical rest and you have one or more of the following symptoms of digestive tract dysfunction:

  • Excessive, foul-smelling gas production

  • Ill-defined discomfort in your abdomen following meals or even during meals

  • Chronic constipation and/or diarrhea

So how do you go about restoring the health of your digestive tract?

First, recognize that your body’s self healing mechanisms are already hard at work to repair any damage that exists within your body, including within your digestive tract.

Just as your body predictably works to heal a cut on your skin the moment the cut is created, your body is constantly on the alert for trouble spots throughout your body and will always work to repair damaged areas.

The difference between your digestive tract and your skin is that you can see your skin and clearly determine if your daily choices are helping or hindering your self healing mechanisms as they work to repair a cut.

Put another way, it's easy for you to see that when you keep a cut on your skin clean and protected against abrasive objects, your body can almost always successfully restore it to health. But when it comes to your digestive tract, it's not as easy for you to know how your daily food and lifestyle choices are helping or hindering your body’s attempt to heal damaged sections.

If you could see with your eyes how a specific food that you ate over lunch – say a large yogurt or a substantial serving of steak – was putting stress on your digestive tract lining and preventing it from making progress in healing, you would certainly be well motivated to avoid such foods.

Similarly, it isn't obvious to your eyes how other foods, lack of rest, emotional stress, and other lifestyle factors are affecting the health status of your digestive tract.

The good news is that you can learn – from this article and by listening to your body’s signals – how to best support healing of your digestive tract. And once your daily food and lifestyle choices consistently support your body’s ongoing efforts to restore the health of your digestive tract, recovery of your health is well within your reach.

When you want a cut on your skin to heal as quickly as possible, you know that you must do the best you can not to disturb that area. Leave it alone and let your healing mechanisms do exactly what they are well designed to do all the time.

This same principle applies to healing your digestive tract: leave it alone as much as possible. Do not give it any unnecessary stress.

Which takes us to our next major point...

Adopt Eating Habits that Facilitate Optimal Digestion

Perhaps the single most important eating habit that you can adopt to facilitate healing of your digestive tract is to chew your foods thoroughly.

Ideally, you want to chew your foods until liquid. When you chew well, you allow your digestive tract to efficiently break down nutrients in your foods into smaller building blocks that can pass through the wall of your small intestine into your blood.

Your teeth are designed to mechanically break down food, while the rest of your digestive tract and organs are designed to chemically break down your food. Whenever you do not chew well, your digestive tract and organs take on the burden of trying to accomplish what is much easier for your teeth to take care of.

If you have dental or jaw problems that make it difficult to chew well, consider blending your foods in a blender or food processor.

Chewing your foods and liquids well allows your saliva and digestive enzymes to mix in with your foods and liquids, and begins the process of digestion right in your mouth.

Thorough chewing encourages physical and emotional rest while eating. And being emotionally balanced and at rest while you eat allows your body to send a rich supply of blood to your digestive organs during a meal, which helps to optimize every step of digestion.

If possible, strive to combine the habit of chewing well with a steady focus on feelings of gratitude for your food and other blessings. Just as the connection between your mind and body can cause you to sweat when you are nervous, having a feeling of gratitude while you chew your food can help your digestive organs break down nutrients in your food and assimilate smaller food constituents into your blood.

Once you condition yourself to chew well and to eat with a grateful heart, the next habit to adopt to promote optimal digestive tract health is to...

Avoid Eating More Protein than You Need

As mentioned previously, a significant cause of autoimmune-related arthritis is the formation of antigen-antibody complexes that can float around in your blood and get deposited into your joints, which can cause inflammation and accompanying discomfort.

And a chief cause of formation of such immune complexes is the leakage of incompletely digested protein into your blood.

Chewing your food well will certainly help to minimize the amount of undigested protein that can make it into your blood.

But to stay optimally well, it is equally important to avoid eating more protein than your body needs.

In general, it's best to eat no more than half of your body weight of protein, in grams, per day. This means that if you weigh 150 pounds, you should strive to eat no more than about 75 grams of protein per day.

A three-ounce serving of beef, chicken, or fish contains approximately 25 grams of protein. And three ounces of meat equates to a serving size that is about the size of a regular deck of cards.

But don’t forget that every food that you eat, including fruits and vegetables, contains some protein (that's right - contrary to popular belief, fruit does contain some protein). So if you eat three ounces of animal-based protein for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you are almost certainly eating more than 75 grams of protein per day.

A cup of broccoli, cooked spinach, or corn contains approximately 5 grams of protein.

A cup of peas contains over 8 grams of protein.

Even a medium-sized potato contains almost 5 grams of protein.

If you eat plenty of vegetables and legumes, it isn't difficult to get enough protein to be optimally healthy without eating any animal foods at all. I'm not suggesting that you need to be a strict vegan for the long term to recover from and prevent autoimmune-related arthritis. Rather, I am striving to illustrate how easy it is to eat more protein than you need, which is a critical mistake when addressing autoimmune illness.

My clinical experiences have led me to believe that animal-based protein, especially when cooked at high temperatures, tends to contribute to antigen-antibody complex formation in people with autoimmune-related arthritis more easily than plant-based protein.

To best support recovery from autoimmune-related arthritis over the long term, I recommend eating no more than a single three-ounce serving of animal-based protein per day, cooked using a low temperature technique, such as steaming or boiling.

If possible, I even recommend staying away from all animal-based protein for a period of six months to give your digestive tract complete rest from having to digest animal protein. During such a time, it's best to avoid eating large amounts of protein-dense plant foods as well, such as nuts, seeds, and legumes. So long as you eat plenty of vegetables, especially green ones like broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage, you should get enough protein for your daily needs.

After six months of avoiding animal protein and going light on protein-dense plant foods, you can gradually increase your protein intake until you are eating approximately one gram of protein per day for every two pounds of your body weight, with no more than one major serving of animal-based protein.

Now that we've emphasized how important it is to avoid over-consumption of protein, let’s take a close look at how you can choose to...

Eat Foods that Optimally Nourish Your Cells and Cause Little to No Harm

In my experience, the best food groups for preventing and reversing autoimmune-related arthritis are vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. Ideally, you want to eat just these food groups (with perhaps very small amounts of legumes) for a period of six months to give your body the rest and nutrients that it needs to best support a full recovery.

Eat a fresh salad every day that includes plenty of dark green lettuces and colorful vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, shredded zucchini, and shredded red beets. Some help on this if you need it:

How to Make World-Class Salads

For concentrated healthy fat intake, add an avocado, as well as a simple salad dressing made out of extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, and a touch of honey and/or mustard if you like a little sweet and sour to your dressings.

How to Make Healthy Salad Dressing

Steamed vegetables are also an excellent food group for overcoming autoimmune illness. You can eat a lot more broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, red beets, and other hardy vegetables when they are steamed than you can when they are raw. Steaming such foods can actually help you extract more nutrients out of them.

Steaming can also soften the fiber found in these foods, which can be helpful if your digestive tract is sensitive to large amounts of raw fiber. Try eating steamed vegetables with healthy salad dressings or even soups that can serve as nourishing and flavorful sauces.

You can make vegetable soups by boiling vegetables and then running them and the water that they are boiled in through a blender or food processor.

Eating vegetables in their raw state allows you to benefit from naturally occurring enzymes that are destroyed with cooking.

Eating vegetables that are steamed or boiled allows you to eat more of them and extract more nutrients out of them than you can when they are raw. So eating both raw and cooked vegetables diversifies your intake of health-promoting nutrients.

Freshly pressed vegetable juices provide intact enzymes, and because they are nutrients that have already been extracted from fibrous vegetables, they provide a concentrated batch of nutrients that are readily absorbed into your system and able to nourish your cells. If possible, do your best to include at least one freshly pressed vegetable juice in your diet on a daily basis. And if your life circumstances don't allow for this, consider taking a high quality green food powder.

Whole grains like brown rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, and oats can provide you with plenty of complex carbohydrates that can take care of the bulk of your daily caloric needs. Whole grains are also rich in B vitamins and a wide variety of minerals.

Just be sure to soak whole grains in water for at least a few hours, preferably overnight, before cooking. Doing so makes whole grains easier to digest and also prevents potential problems with mineral absorption. The bran of whole grains contains a substance called phytic acid, which can bind onto calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorous in your digestive tract, preventing them from entering your blood.

Soaking whole grains helps to neutralize phytic acid and prevent such binding from occurring in your digestive tract.

As is the case with salads and steamed vegetables, adding healthy dressings and sauces to whole grains can make them an enjoyable staple in your diet.

Fruits are also a good choice for autoimmune illness, but you have to be careful about not eating more fruits than vegetables.

While certain fruits like berries, grapes, pomegranates, watermelon, and mangoes are concentrated in health-promoting antioxidants, most fruits have a lot more carbohydrates and naturally occurring sugar (fructose) than they do antioxidants.

Actually, the majority of health-promoting nutrients found in fruits are in their skins and seeds. So when eating fruits, choose varieties that are rich in color and, whenever possible, try to eat their skins and seeds. Excellent choices include cherries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates, mangoes, papayas, apples, watermelon, and cantaloupe.

Keep in mind that it's always better to eat fresh fruits rather than dried fruits. Dried fruits are heavily concentrated in natural sugars that can put stress on your blood sugar-regulating mechanisms, which can increase your risk of suffering from diabetes and other forms of cardiovascular disease.

Now let's take a look at a three suggestions related to lifestyle choices that go beyond your diet...

Ensure Adequate Physical Rest

Don't overlook the importance of getting adequate physical rest as you seek to recover from autoimmune-related arthritis. Simply put, the more you rest, the more energy your body can devote to repairing damaged areas, including your digestive tract.

What’s most important is to get deep, restful sleep each night. It's during deep, restful sleep that your body produces large quantities of hormones that are directly or indirectly responsible for facilitating healing and growth of your tissues.

These hormones include growth hormone, testosterone, and erythropoietin. Your body produces these hormones in small quantities while you're awake and active, but in order to produce them in optimal quantities for healing moderate to severe degrees of autoimmune-related arthritis, you need deep, restful sleep on a regular basis.

Ensure Optimal Vitamin D Status

Ensuring adequate vitamin D status is extremely important to treating and preventing autoimmune illness. And the safest way to ensure adequate vitamin D status is to regularly expose your skin to sunlight without getting burned.

UV-B rays in sunlight can convert cholesterol that is found in your skin to natural vitamin D. Amazingly, once you produce enough vitamin D through this mechanism, your body will not manufacture additional vitamin D until you need more, even with continued exposure to sunlight. This natural "stop" mechanism is important because you do not want to have more vitamin D than your body needs on a moment-to-moment basis; vitamin D is fat-soluble, and can therefore be stored to levels that are toxic to your body.

When sunlight is not regularly available, as is the case in the northern hemisphere throughout the late fall, winter, and early spring months, it is important to ensure adequate vitamin D intake through foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D.

For more help with vitamin D:

How to Make Sure that You Are Getting Enough Vitamin D for Your Best Health

Get Clear on Why You Want To Be Well

Have you ever experienced a frightful dream that was so real that you woke up with a pounding heart or a coat of sweat on your skin?

Have you ever experienced a gush of saliva in your mouth while thinking about eating something tart like a fresh lemon?

These and other everyday experiences are proof that your thoughts and emotions can create real physical change throughout your body. Every thought and emotion that you experience triggers countless chemical reactions throughout your body via your nervous and endocrine systems.

In recognizing how powerful your mind-body connection is, you can harness its power as you seek to address autoimmune-related arthritis.

Every time you strongly believe that you will experience a full recovery, your body moves towards that reality. Every time you start feeling sorry for yourself and believe that you will never be free of arthritis, your illness becomes more deeply rooted in your physiology.

Harnessing your mind-body connection to facilitate recovery goes beyond repeating affirmations to yourself, telling yourself that you believe you will be well. Affirmations are important and useful, but they must come from a place of genuine strength and conviction.

Using your thoughts and emotions to be well must begin with a careful evaluation of your core life values, beliefs, and desires.


If you're struggling with any form of arthritis, I hope that some of the thoughts presented here lead to measurable improvement in your quality of life. Unfortunately, it's simply not possible for most physicians to spend time discussing all of the points mentioned above, even if they are aware of them. Ultimately, it's you who has to put the most effort into understanding and caring for your joints and the rest of your health, and it all starts in recognizing that every choice you make contributes to your reality.

If you have any thoughts on this topic that you'd like to share, please use the comments section below. Thank you.


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I have also found practicing Tai Chi daily is good for joints, muscles, and bones. Dr. Paul Lam has a DVD titled "Tai Chi for Arthritis". I have also begun a vegan diet, but wonder how long will it take to reduce the pain I am feeling now?

I went vegan and the pain was halved, but still daily pain. Recently I went gluten free and am most days pain free and I have energy - something I haven't had in 10 years. That said not every day is a pain free day, but as a mostly vegetarian and daily interfere with life pain to a vegan with daily mild to moderate pain to a gluten free vegan with once in a while pain, I am happy. Btw with each lifestyle change it took at least a week to see results and a month or longer to see significant results, but it only takes 1 cheat to have problems again. My cheats tend to be in the form of dairy now and again and ie ery time I do, I remind myself Why I implemented a change.

I replaced nightly Advil with a cup of stinging nettle tea for inflammation reduction, just before bedtime. After about 10 days, the morning pain was significantly reduced and allowed me to function much better, near normal. I have continued with this nightly routine and have only resorted to Advil a few times in the past 18 months. The pain, swelling, and redness have all decreased. When I tried to stop drinking the tea, the higher level of pain came back after a few days. In addition to the drinking the tea, I have made a gradual effort to increase my intake of water, fruits, and vegetables, and decrease meat and dairy consumption, just as Dr. Kim suggests. I pray that each of you find pain relief soon. Thank you Dr. Ben for sharing your wisdom.

Hi Dr Ben Kim
Enjoy n love reading all your health articles. It is so logical n full of wisdom.
Just like to share with you on the benefits of using the therapeutic mat of negative ions, far infrared n amethyst crystals for sleeping as well as for treatments.
Besides the therapeutic mat and taking the appropriate food with supplements I am so far doing very well. My health challenges that I have/had were forestier's disease, appendix cancer and constant back pain.

To our health
Thank you.

Thank you very much for your comment and sharing about the nettle tea, I will try it. I was diagnosed with erosive Osteoarthritis. I'm taking an arthritis class here in Claremont, CA and a low paise yoga class. My other main concern is not sleeping well. I go to bed late and at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning I wake up.

Have a wonderful week.


Ben, you haven't seen me on the tennis courts much this past year as I have been suffering from osteoarthritis of my knees from the wear and tear of an active lifestyle over my 60+ years. Badminton and squash in my early adult years to tennis on hardcourts in later years have taken their toll on my joints. Your article has helped to reinforce what I need to do to manage the deterioration of cartilage in my joints. I rediscovered biking this spring, which is easy on knee joints, yet can provide a good cardio fact we are currently away on a cycling trip for a week. Your article was most helpful. Thanks.

Thank you, Dr. Kim, for this really insightful article. I've read a lot of stuff on the internet about inflammation, arthritis and auto-immune desease, having suffered myself for several years of horrible pain, because of some undiagnosed auto-immune desease. I've found my way to healing basically on my own, changing my life style and nutrition habits, doing many things you list in this article, renouncing the horrible usual cortison and methotrexate cure which was for the doctors the only solution, and I'm now doing really good!
Reading your article, which is really clear and to the point, confirmed me that I've taken the right choice and made me understand a few things much better; you've explained all very well. In my wish to heal I also would constantly keep in mind how a cut in the skin could heal espescially if treated correctly and I would immagine that the same would happen in my body with the right food. I discovered a world of amazing healing properties of foods, spices and herbs and have learned to avoid others, that you list in your article, which I learned would be harmful for me.
I can confirm to other readers of this article, who suffer arthritis, that a correct and conscious nutrition of both body (Whole Food Plant Based) and mind (meditation and visualization) can absolutely make a difference!

Dear Dr.Kim,Thank you for your very eloberate explanation for arthrities and possible suggestions for cure.My wife 68 years old is having Arthrities problem for last 10 years.She has been managing this so for with only mild excercises and occasional use of pain killers.Now seeing your article I feel it may something to do with diet system also.I shall try as per your suggestions and see she can get complete cure.Thank you again for your article.