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Ask the Wellness Educator

Q: I am 56 years old and have always been an avid runner and hiker, but lately have noticed that my joints are feeling more stiff and sore. Sometimes I know the pain is because I exercised too much, but sometimes I hurt for no particular reason. Is there anything natural I can take?

Rita M., FL

A: Arthritis and chronic joint symptoms affect nearly 70 million Americans, or about one of every three adults, making it one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States. As the population ages, this number will increase dramatically, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control.

There are two forms of arthritis: Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is the more common of the two forms, typically caused by overuse of the joints.

RA usually has pain in both sides of the body in the same joints because it is a more systemic condition.

There are a variety of natural ingredients that can help symptoms of OA, which are most effective when taken long term. Glucosamine is a good place to start; it's a natural constituent of cartilage, but as we age, our body's ability to create this natural substance decreases. Numerous studies using 500 mg of glucosamine sulfate three times a day have shown significant improvement in relieving symptoms of OA, sometimes even better than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and with fewer side effects.

Another fairly familiar nutritional supplement shown to have positive results in the treatment of OA is chondroitan sulfate. Several studies have determined that a regimen of 400 mg three times a day can be quite successful. Many of today's nutritional joint and pain formulas are made with both glucosamine and chondroitin for best effects.

Curcumin, from the plant turmeric, is an anti-inflammatory that works by inhibiting certain enzymes, like COX-2. This means it works on some of the same pathways as the common anti-inflammatory medications, but it doesn't have any of the side effects or risks, such as ulcers or heart problems. One of the many studies on curcumin's anti-inflammatory actions showed that it significantly improves symptoms of osteoarthritis (joint pain). In this study, one group of arthritis patients took curcumin supplements with their pain medication and felt a significantly greater relief of pain than the group that took just the pain medication alone.

Other important nutrients that have been successful in reducing the symptoms associated with OA include manganese, boron, zinc, copper, vitamin C, vitamin E, niacinamide, and pantothenic acid.


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