Although many doctors still don’t believe it, studies show that changing your diet can help alleviate arthritic symptoms (Lancet, 1986; i: 236-8).
* Eliminate allergens although, even if an individual is allergic to a particular food, this may not necessarily be linked to arthritis symptoms (Clin Exp Rheum, 1995; 13: 167-72). Nevertheless, it may be worth looking into common allergens such as dairy, soya, wheat and the nightshade family (potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and tobacco). In a study of 5000 arthritis patients, 70 per cent reported gradual relief after eliminating nightshades from the diet (J Int Acad Prev Med, 1982; Nov: 31-7). You may wish to see a specialist to arrange for food-allergy testing.
* Chemical sensitivity, especially to food additives or gas heating, may also be linked to arthritis symptoms.
* Fasting. Studies at the University of Oslo have found benefits from a short fast followed by dietary changes (Lancet, 1991; 338: 899-902; Scand J Rheumatol, 1995; 24: 85-93). In one two-year study, improvement was noted in patients with rheumatoid arthritis after fasting followed by an individually adjusted vegetarian diet for a year. Follow-up a year later showed that the benefit remained for those who had stuck to the vegetarian diet (Clin Rheumatol, 1994; 13: 475-82).
* Increase B vitamins. Both B5 (pantothenic acid) and B3 (niacinamide) have been shown to be beneficial at doses of 25 mg. They should be taken within a balanced B-complex supplement and should not be taken at night. Niacinamide reduces inflammation and increases joint flexibility, and may help reduce the amount of first-line anti-inflammatories sufferers need to take (Inflam Res, 1996; 45: 330-4). Also, for those taking methotrexate, folic acid supplements can reduce the toxicity of this powerful immunosuppressant drug (Arthritis Rheum, 1990; 33: 9-18).
* Gentle exercises such as yoga can relieve pain and improve joint function in those with osteoarthritis (J Rheumatol, 1994; 21: 2341-3). Likewise, tai chi was more effective than traditional exercise in improving range of motion (Am J Occup Ther, 1987; 41: 90-5).
* Increase healthy oils. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce morning stiffness (J Rheumatol, 1992; 19: 1531-6) as can a diet high in polyunsaturated fat and low in saturated fat (Ann Rheum Dis, 2003; 62: 208-14; Lancet, 1985; i: 184-7). Blackcurrantseed oil, rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), can ease inflammation in RA (Br J Rheumatol, 1994; 33: 847-52). So can fish oil, though you need to take several capsules of EFA supplements daily to derive any benefit. Another alternative is green-lipped mussel extract (Allerg Immunol [Paris], 2000; 32: 272-8), which is not only rich in EFAs, but is also reputed to contain the powerful anti-inflammatory eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA).
* Other beneficial nutrients (apart from glucosamine) include selenium with vitamins C and E, recommended by the Institute of Optimum Nutrition. Antioxidants may be important as trials show that diets high in beta-carotene, and vitamins C and E can slow the progression of osteoarthritis (Arthritis Rheum, 1996; 39: 648-56). Other trials have shown that taking 400-600 IU of vitamin E daily may also help (J Am Geriatr Soc, 1978; 25: 328; Z Orthop, 1986; 124: 340-3).
* Check out homoeopathy. Several studies have shown that individually prescribed homoeopathic remedies can help arthritis (BMJ, 1989; 299: 365-6; Scand J Rheumatol, 1991; 20: 204-8); some may enhance the effect of conventional treatments (Br Homeopath J, 1986; 75: 148-57).
* Get a copy of WDDTY’s Arthritis Manual. This exhaustive review of all conventional and alternative treatments will help you to determine what works best for you.