The prevalence of arthritis is rising year on year across the nation. Its prevalence is higher than diabetes, aids and cancer and affects 180 million people in India. It will emerge as the fourth most common joint disease, in the next decade. The country needs to ramp up its health infrastructure to tackle this upcoming burden…
There are more than 80 types of arthritis. Among them, the most common types of arthritis in India are uric acid, gout, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Studies by SRL diagnostic predicts that India will emerge as the capital of osteoarthritis by 2025, with more than 60 million to be likely affected.
Studies observed that it is more common in women than men. Nearly 45 percent of women over the age of 65 years have symptoms while radiological evidence is found in 70 percent of those over 65 years.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis means inflammation, swelling, stiffness in one or more joints.
A joint is a part of the body where two or more bones meet and facilitate the movement of one or the other. A joint is usually formed of fibrous connective tissue and cartilage; this tissue covers the surface of the bone at a joint.
In this type of arthritis, the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over the time and this causes the bones within the joint to rub together. This can cause intense pain, stiffness, and discomfort in the joints. Here, once the cartilage is damaged it cannot be repair itself as it does not have any blood vessels.
It is a chronic inflammatory and an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s own immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. It happens due to the prolonged prevalence of inflammation in the body. In the case of RA, multiple joints get affected, also it can cause bone erosion and joint deformity.
High levels of uric acid form crystals that deposits in the joints and cause gout. It is a complex form of arthritis that can affect anyone. It causes severe pain, redness, swelling and stiffness in the joints.
Uric acid is a normal body waste product. It is formed when body breaks down purine, which is found from many food items. High uric acid also forms when kidneys do not eliminate it efficiently.
October 12 is observed as World Arthritis Day, and while allopathy has been the lead treatment provider so far, it is time we recognize that Ayurveda has a healthy treatment protocol to deal with arthritis.
The Ayurvedic treatment protocol emphasizes on the correct eating regimen to create healthy state of mind, soul, and body. It explains that incompatible food habits and lifestyle are the root cause of several major diseases and disorders such as diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. It is here that Ayurveda comes in as a saviour. Ayurveda has an outstanding approach to treat lifestyle and metabolic disorders.
Arthritis: the result of inappropriate eating habits and lifestyle
According to Ayurveda, rheumatoid arthritis is ‘Amavata’. ‘Ama’ means toxins formed from the undigested food in the body. When ‘ama’ is produced Vata becomes imbalanced. When these toxic substances accumulate in the body at the cellular level, joints get affected the most, causing inflammation that leads to pain, and stiffness in the joints.
There are several factors that lead to undigested food remaining in the body; from lack of physical activity or exercise, to eating food when thirsty, and drinking water when the body craves food; it can also result from eating food at small intervals, or when you’re not really hungry.
Ayurveda suggests that you eat food only when you feel hungry and drink water only when you feel thirsty. It is also vital to follow basic eating etiquette like sitting and eating rather than standing and eating and importantly, eating calmly and slowly. It also stipulates that drinking water while standing must be avoided and not immediately after a meal. If necessary, sips of water may be taken in between meals or after an hour of the meal. Drinking water after drinking milk is also not recommended as that diminishes jatharagni (digestive fire) due to which the food does not get digested properly.
“Hence, rather than a glass of water one should drink a glass of buttermilk after a meal during daytime only and a milk at night one hour after dinner. Buttermilk has got a cleansing property and it is the nectar that helps to clean the intestines,” says Dr Sanand Thekkayil, a member of the British council of Rheumatology and chief medical officer at Sree Subramanya Ayurvedic Nursing Home in Calicut.
Further, he explains that protein rich non vegetarian food requires a considerable time for digestion. Once it is digested only then a second time meal should be consumed.
If eating in this Ayurvedic appropriate way is not followed, then the undigested food will be left in the stomach. And, if this habit continues for long, then that undigested food will form a fungus in the stomach and may increase the chances of colon cancer.
On the rising trend of osteoarthritis, Dr Sanand mentions that women are more prone to get it than men because of the poor nutrition in their diets. A lack of vitamin D and calcium weakens the bones and causes joint pain, he says. Women generally get it after the age of 40 and after menopause. Hence, a calcium rich diet and sun exposure is necessary for women and generally for all age groups as well. These days even the young are also susceptible to get arthritis with the lack of vitamin D, nutritional deficiency, and an unorganised lifestyle.
Besides, there are other factors why women are more vulnerable to joint pains. One of the reasons is that women tend to eat stale food that is kept in the fridge for one or two days. They consume it in order to not waste that cooked food while another reason is that in many households, they eat late night upon completion of all their household work and they tend to reheat the food again before consumption. All such actions cause metabolic disorders which in turn cause inflammation in the joints. Inflammation does not occur overnight: it is the outcome of years of some of the poor eating habits that I have mentioned here.
Speaking about gout and uric acid, Dr Sanand says that Pitta Dosha aggravates in gout and uric acid. So, people should take good amount of water and diuretic food, which will increase the chances of urination that will in turn help remove the crystals from the body. Also, whenever there is uric acid in the body, it means there is dryness in the intestine, which can be cured through proper treatment.
He adds that uric acid can be prevented through diet restrictions. People should avoid taking tea without milk because tea is hot in potency adding milk will balance it as milk has cold potency. Though in uric acid and gout, milk products should be avoided for three to four months till the treatment continues, in case if one consumes then it should be a low-fat milk in tea or coffee.
Also, vegetables such as spinach, mushrooms, cauliflower which have high purine content, should be avoided, if one has uric acid and gout. Also, green peas, beans, cabbage, tomatoes, okra, beetroot are best avoided. Foods that may trigger gout attacks are red meat, seafood, alcohol, and beer so it is advisable to strictly exclude these from the diet.
Fruits such as papaya, pears, banana, apples, cherries, gooseberries should be included in the diet. While vegetables such as bitter gourd, bottle gourd, fenugreek, snake gourd, ivy gourd, apple gourd, scarlet gourd, ridge gourd, cucumber, carrots, are best if they are included in the meal.
A low-fat butter milk curry can be consumed in uric acid and gout. It should be cooked on a low flame adding salt and turmeric with a pinch of fenugreek seeds for tempering.
Talking about the cure of arthritis, Dr Sanand asserts that Ayurveda has an excellent treatment for arthritis patients with stage 1 and 2 arthritis. “It is easy to cure it with the right treatment if it is diagnosed at the initial stage. Ayurveda, also provides supportive treatment for stage 3, where the quality of life improves at least 50 to 60 percent with reduction in pain.”
A 100 percent cure depends on the constitution of each individual and the extent of harm that has already occurred. In several cases, people come to Ayurveda with severe damage already caused by the consumption of modern medicine like anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids, which suppress the immune system of the body. Also, these medicines cause permanent damage to the joints accompanied by other side-effects.
In Ayurveda, external therapies are prescribed along with Ayurvedic medicine for internal consumption - medicines that help revitalise the nervous system, neutralise immune system, reduce inflammation and restore damaged joints.
Conflicting lifestyle patterns are stumbling blocks on the path to a complete cure. However, through Ayurveda management, one can keep themselves safe from it getting worse.
Dr Sanand discusses the top six home remedies that can help manage aggravated inflammation and pain. It is advisable to follow these remedies for an extended period. These remedies may not be a permanent course of treatment but are a great palliative for the pain and inflammation in arthritis.
Along with it a doctor’s advice or an Ayurveda doctor’s medication should also be followed.
1. Punarnava, ginger and turmeric
Boerhaavia diffusa (Punarnava), ginger and turmeric have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Besides, punarnava has diuretic and anti-microbial properties. Ginger is anti-viral, and turmeric has antioxidants. Dr Sanand says, “Taking its decoction helps remove uric acid crystals, reduces inflammation and pain.”
How to use: Take one litre of water add three grams of each herb in a pan. Boil it until half the quantity is left. Drink it, preferably in the morning or one hour after food or at any other time of choice.
2. Coriander seeds
Coriander has a diuretic effect, which increases the passing of urine – this helps eliminate excess uric acid from the body.
How to use: take two cups of water boil it until the half. Strain the decoction and drink it after it cools down.
3. Carom seeds
Carom seeds (ajwain) are rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Ajwain aids digestion. These super seeds have anti-fungal, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects.
How to use: Take one glass of water, add half tablespoon of Ajwain to it. Strain the water and drink it first thing every morning. Another remedy is to take half a tablespoon of Ajwain and one-inch slice of ginger and boil them in a cup of water. Strain the decoction and consume half of it in the morning.
4. Rice water and dry ginger
Take one teaspoon of dry ginger powder in half a cup of rice washed water. Mix it well. Give it a boil and apply this lukewarm water on the swollen joints for at least one hour.
5. Rasnadi churna
Take rasnadi churna as per requirement.
How to use: roast it in a pan for a few seconds on a low flame. Roast it so as not to turn it black. Add three to four drops of lemon juice to it. Apply it on the joints for two hours. Try it for 10-15 days. This remedy helps to reduce joint pain.
6. Turmeric, ginger, and fenugreek seeds
This remedy is widely used to remove uric acid. These four herbs - turmeric, ginger, fenugreek and Giloy - together provide great relief from pain and inflammation. Giloy is a wonderful herb used for an upset stomach, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, fever, the immune system, and hepatitis.
How to use: Take three spoons of turmeric, ginger, and fenugreek seeds powder; mix it well together and store it in a small container. Take half a teaspoon of powder, mix it well in a medium-sized cup with room temperature drinking water and drink it one hour after food. One can also add an equal quantity of tinospora cordifolia (Giloy) powder in the above mixture.
7. Harsingar and nirgundi
Parijat leaves (harsaingar) have several medicinal properties that help to alleviate several types of fever, helps increase platelet counts, and is especially used to cure rheumatoid arthritis.
Nirgundi, scientifically termed as vitex negundo, is a highly effective ayurvedic herb that helps treat several ailments. It is used to alleviate asthma, anxiety, and high fevers. It is also a potent herb for rheumatoid arthritis.
These herbs should be taken under the right guidance.
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