We are just beginning to understand the role that oxidative stress plays in arthritis and other chronic diseases.
The human skeleton has 206 bones most of which come together in some kind of movable joint that is designed to work smoothly for 120 years or so. A miracle of natural design, each movable joint is lubricated by a bag of fluid (synovial cavity) that is surrounded by smooth slippery cartilage. The bag of fluid and the cartilage keep the bones from touching and make the movement of the joint effortless—at least while we’re young.
What is arthritis?
When the lubrication system in a joint malfunctions, we call it arthritis, literally an “infected joint.” There are two general kinds of arthritis, osteoarthritis which is damage to the articular cartilage, and rheumatoid arthritis which involves extra tissue developing between the bag of fluid and the cartilage. Once the extra tissue starts interfering with the movement of the joint, unhelpful changes start occurring in the cartilage and in the bag of fluid.
Why do we get arthritis?
There probably isn’t a single cause. Injury is part of the answer, but there has to be more than that. Oxidative stress is thought to produce arthritis through Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) molecules that are produced in our bodies. If not removed they damage tissues and cause arthritis. Free radicals are one form of ROS. Antioxidants in our diet or supplements help to neutralize ROS molecules.
Inactivity contributes to arthritis. We need movement to keep the tissues lubricated and to flush dead cells and toxins out of the joint. The cartilage that helps joints to move smoothly has no blood supply of its own; it relies on the movement of other tissues to bathe it in fluids that contain nutrients and remove waste. Without movement the fluids are toxic and stagnant while the cartilage is starved of nutrients.
The feeding and cleansing of the bag of fluid also depends on the movement of joints. So movement is a factor. As we age, many of us become more sedentary.
Another contributing factor may be the acid-base balance in the body. Many Americans eat an artificial diet that makes the body more acid. A more natural diet such as the Mediterranean Diet, makes the body more alkaline as it was designed to be. Hormones and enzymes are chemical messengers that travel around the body helping to coordinate healing processes. Altering the acid-base balance can interfere with the biochemical reactions that produce hormones and enzymes and disrupt their communications once hormones are created.
What can we do about arthritis?
- Search Gogole for “arthritis” and see many helpful articles about specific forms of the disease and their therapies.
- Care for injured joints as recommended by your healthcare professional. Don’t just take a pain-reliever; actively heal the joint through hot or cold compresses—whichever your doctor recommends, or immobilizing the joint temporarily. Joints heal slowly so care for the joint, following your doctor’s instructions, beyond the point when the pain goes away.
- Keep your body as active as possible.
- Maintain a full range of motion in all your joints.
- Eat a Mediterranean diet.
- Supplement your diet with antioxidants.