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Inflammation and Arthritis
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The hottest topic in medicine these days is inflammation. This because it is now believed to be the underlying cause of diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke just to mention a few.

Being the cause of such painful conditions as arthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis isn't new news, but here's something that may surprise you. A 2003 study revealed that 70 million people, that's one in three Americans, have arthritis or chronic joint symptoms. That's why I believe that understanding inflammation and learning how to keep it at bay will be one of the great public health challenges we will continue to face in the 21st century.


Red-Hot Pain Trigger

Inflammation is a key component of the body's healing response, marked by pain, swelling, warmth, and redness. It's the body's way of getting more blood and immune cells to an injured area. When inflammation is confined to where it's needed for an appropriate length of time, it's not a problem. But when it persists or becomes too intense, it can cause disabling symptoms and tissue damage.

Here's the science. The body tightly controls inflammation via substances called prostaglandins, which are synthesized from essential fatty acids. They're involved in maintaining the complex chain of chemical reactions that keep us alive and functioning. When this delicate internal ballet goes awry (as it can when your diet contains too many of the wrong fatty foods for example), prostaglandins can precipitate inflammation and even make you more susceptible to pain.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including over-the-counter aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, and the prescription drug celecoxib (Celebrex), effectively target inflammation and relieve pain. But there's a downside. They have significant side effects, especially stomach irritation.


This can lead to potentially complications gastrointestinal complaints. For example, the manufacturers of the prescription NSAID drug, Vioxx, was removed from the market in September 2004 when a study linked it to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.


Herbal Alternatives


Herbal anti-inflammatories work the same way though have few side effects. However, herbs work much slower than fast-acting NSAIDs. It will take up to 4 to 6 weeks of continuous use before you'll feel their effects unfortunately and while saying that there is good chance the health risk of side-effects is minimal. The most studied of the anti-inflammatory herbs are ginger and turmeric. Known for centuries to practitioners, these two herbs are currently undergoing clinical trials at the University of Arizona's National Center for Phytomedicine Research in the College of Pharmacy.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) for example, is probably best known for its ability to ease motion and morning sickness as well as drug-induced and postoperative nausea. In a double-blind clinical trial, ginger extract reduced knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa), a plant related to ginger, is the herb that gives curry its brassy golden color. Turmeric is proven to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-tumor properties. In one animal trial, a turmeric compound was almost as potent as cortisone in treating acute inflammation.

You could use ginger and turmeric in cooking, but it would mean consuming a lot of both herbs on a daily basis. That's not practical for most of us. A good supplement to try is Kaprex from Metagenics. It combines ginger and turmeric with other anti-inflammatory herbs and gives good results.

Ease Up on the processed Foods

If your diet is heavy on processed foods and fast foods and light on fruits and vegetables, you're not doing your arthritis pain any favour. Diets that promote inflammation are high in omega-6 fatty acids (found in many vegetable oils) and in partially hydrogenated fats in stick margarines and solid-at-room-temperature shortenings, fried foods, most chips, and store-bought baked goods.

Anti-pain diets are high in omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon, sardines, and other oily fish; walnuts, flax, and soy as well as in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados. The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables are also an absolutely essential part of a pain-free program.

If you have osteoarthritis, be sure to take 1,500 mg of glucosamine daily. Consistently used, it may help rebuild cartilage and prevent further damage.

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