By Walter Last
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, while the term ‘rheumatism’ includes a variety of symptoms, such as inflammation, pain, tenderness and stiffness of muscles and joints. These conditions are extremely widespread and most people develop some form of arthritis or rheumatism during their lifetime.
The most common forms of joint diseases are usually classified as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout. Apart from joint and muscle pain, rheumatism may also involve the tendons, bones and nerves and may manifest as rheumatic fever, sciatica, lumbago, spondylitis, low back pain, bursitis, neuritis and myositis.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects mainly younger individuals and is three times more common in females than in males. It can persist into old age, progressively becoming more disabling. Early symptoms include redness, swelling and soreness of joints. Often joints are affected symmetrically, that is both wrists or knees are involved. Pain and stiffness may also travel to other joints and affect the whole body. In later life lumps and nodules may appear at the joints and lead to deformities.
Osteoarthritis starts usually after the age of 40. It is also called degenerative joint disease. It develops more slowly than rheumatoid arthritis and does not spread to different parts of the body. Due to chronic inflammation around a joint, the protective cartilage wears away, causing bone ends to rub together, erode and sometimes fuse together (ankylosis).
Gout is characterized by painful joint inflammations, chiefly those in the hands and feet, usually the big toe is prominently involved. There is a high level of uric acid in the blood and tissues. Uric acid and other toxins and metabolic residues accumulating in muscles and around nerves, often in combination with food allergies, cause the inflammations and pain in muscles (myositis) and nerves (neuritis).
The common medical treatment for these conditions consists mainly of anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relief measures and physiotherapy to maintain a degree of mobility in affected joints, but it cannot slow or reverse the progressive deterioration of the disease. As a last resort affected joints may be surgically replaced.
Arthritis is sometimes called the ‘cooked food disease’. A high intake of cooked, sweet and fatty food is usually characteristic in the development of the disease. Alternatively, there is an inability to handle sweet and fatty food. Other main factors are a high incidence of food allergies, nutritional deficiencies as well as an unhealthy intestinal flora.
Rheumatoid arthritis in particular is closely linked to food allergy. Most sufferers greatly improve when they are on a fast or restricted diet, which eliminates the foods to which they are allergic. Cows’ milk products and wheat products are the most common offenders, but there is usually a whole range of foods to which individuals react with a worsening of symptoms.
When aspirin and other commonly used pain relieving drugs are taken, the intestinal wall becomes less effective in blocking harmful partly digested nutrients and frequently a worsening of symptoms occurs in the longer term. The same happens if fruit acids are ingested or sweet food is eaten. The inefficient metabolism of these individuals converts sweet food only partly into energy; the rest forms lactic acid. Acids liberate histamine, which in turn causes swellings and strong inflammatory reactions. Therefore, inflammatory conditions deteriorate if fruit acids or acid-forming foods are ingested, while alkaline-forming foods, generally vegetables and those rich in minerals are beneficial.
Another group of foods to increase allergic inflammations and pain sensitivity are the polyunsaturated oils. These are converted to arachidonic acid (also present in meat) and further into a group of tissue hormones, called prostaglandins, which are pro-inflammatory. Also inorganic iron in supplements and water (brown residues) can trigger inflammations.
The opposite effect, reducing pain sensitivity and inflammation, has another group of oils containing so-called Omega-3 fatty acids. These are mainly present in linseed and fish oils and form prostaglandins, which are anti-inflammatory.
While food incompatibility is a frequent trigger of rheumatoid arthritis, there may also be allergies to inhaled substances, such as gas from a gas stove or heater, car exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, solvent fumes, perfumes, moth balls or any strongly or persistently smelling substance at home or work. Even toothpaste, make-up, detergents in dishwater, synthetic clothing, especially nylon or any environmental, agricultural or food chemicals may contribute to this condition.
All of the factors causing or influencing rheumatoid arthritis can also contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. As the onset later in life shows, there must be another negative factor, which develops over time. As we will see, it is not age itself, which is the real problem, but the declining health of most people with advancing age and that is an important difference.
Joints need to be well nourished to maintain a healthy structure. Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are required in sufficiently high concentrations to maintain and regenerate the cartilage linings of the joints and the synovial membranes and fluids surrounding them. Most individuals living on a ‘normal’ mixed diet are more or less deficient in one or more of these essential nutrients and this will lead over time to a gradual deterioration of joints, especially those which are heavily used but do not receive an adequate supply of nutrients. Commonly affected are the weight-bearing joints in overweight individuals and also joints with old injuries.
There are various experimental studies, which show the extent of the allergy problems, especially in the causation of rheumatoid arthritis. In one report all 45 patients significantly improved in all seven objective and subjective disease parameters while on a 7-day water fast; a similar result was reported by another author in a study with 25 patients. Subsequent challenges with implicated foods provoked intense reactions with severe deterioration.
Reactions occur mainly against foods, which are overused in a society. While in Australia these are mainly wheat, cows’ milk products and meat, in the United States there is also a high incidence of allergy to corn and soy products. However, the deciding factor is the individual food preference of the affected person. Foods to which we are addicted and like to eat every day are usually the worst offenders.
Another report concerns 6 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who all had remissions of joint symptoms when they went on a low-calorie fat-free diet. When, after 7 weeks, either animal fat or vegetable oil was reintroduced they all experienced return of their symptoms within 72 hours. Chicken, cheese, safflower oil, beef or coconut oil all caused inflammatory deteriorations in their joints.
Foods of the nightshade family frequently have a negative effect on arthritis. These include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and capsicum. In a study with 5000 arthritics who avoided nightshades over 70% reported a gradual improvement over the 7 years of the experiment.
Nightshade foods contain the alkaloid solanine, which is highest in greened potatoes but also to some degree in green tomatoes and green capsicum. It may be assumed that it is mainly the occasional ingestion of green parts of nightshades, which cause the arthritic problems. This may include green capsicum and the green inner parts of some commercial tomatoes. Also damaged potatoes are higher in solanine.
Arthritics frequently do not have sufficient gastric acid for the proper digestion of proteins. This causes deficiencies in proteins, minerals and vitamin B12 as well as over-sensitivity to bacteria in food and water. Of a group of 35 arthritics 28.6% did not have any gastric acid (achlorhydria) while another 17% had only very low gastric acid levels (hypochlorhydria).
Supplementing meals with hydrochloric acid to assist in the digestion does not adversely affect joint inflammations. Such inflammations are aggravated by insufficiently metabolized fruit acids, such as citric acid, but also vinegar. However, with advancing age inflammatory processes decrease to be replaced by increasing calcifications and stiffness. In this situation it is actually beneficial to supply plenty of fruit acids and cider vinegar.
This difference in the reaction to fruit acids results from age-related changes in the metabolism. Initially the ingestion of sweet foods causes overacidity in the tissues through accumulation of lactic acid and metabolic fruit acids from the citric acid cycle. This causes joint erosion by leaching calcium from the bones. With advancing age, on the other hand, the metabolism slows down. Sugars may then cause diabetes or be converted to fat and cause overweight. Now a deficiency of metabolic acids develops. The tissues and fluids around the joints become too alkaline, inflammations fade out, instead calcium starts to deposit around the joints, forming spurs and causing joints to grow together (ankylosis).
The generally low gastric acid levels in combination with an unhealthy intestinal flora may be the major causes for the high incidence of malnutrition in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. In one study it was reported that nearly 75% of patients in Alabama have signs of malnutrition. Most frequently deficient are protein, zinc, folic acid, pantothenic acid, vitamin C, selenium and cystine. Cystine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is high in connective tissue, skin, nail and hair. In arthritics the cystine content of fingernails was only 8.9% compared to a normal value of 12%. Raw egg yolk is the best source of sulfur-containing amino acids (except if allergic to it). The best supplement for organic sulfur is MSM.
A major contributing factor, especially with rheumatoid arthritis, is an overgrowth of the intestines with undesirable bacteria and fungi. The main cause for this is usually antibiotic treatment, sometimes also the meat from animals reared with routine antibiotic feeding as well as other drugs. The problem is aggravated by low gastric acidity as well as a diet high in sweet foods.
Frequently the intestinal walls are damaged by a high gluten intake as well as by allergenic inflammations and this allows bacterial decomposition products to enter the bloodstream and weaken the immune system as well as aggravate the joint inflammations. Another contributing factor in this process is the use of aspirin and other analgesics that make the intestinal walls more porous.
This invasion of bacterial allergens combined with food allergens not only produces joint inflammations, but also a phenomenon called ‘sludged blood’: the red blood cells begin to aggregate and clump together.
In this condition they cannot be sufficiently charged with oxygen and in addition they clog the blood capillaries in the muscles, leading to oxygen starvation, lack of nutrients and accumulation of metabolic waste products. This results in a generally sluggish blood circulation, which is a major cause of the morning stiffness in arthritis.
The clumped blood cells and the resulting sluggish circulation could be directly observed in the capillaries of the conjunctiva of the eyes of arthritics. This same condition is responsible for a raised erythrocyte sedimentation rate or E.S.R. in the blood with inflammatory arthritis. A raised E.S.R. is usually indicative of a general infection or of inflammatory and widespread immune reactions in the body.
In addition to infections, inflammations and allergies, also a high fat intake induces temporary sludging of the blood. This is probably the reason for the improvement experienced on a low fat diet. Arthritics often have poor liver functions and a slow clearance of fat particles (chylomicrons) from the bloodstream. This makes blood cells stickier, causing them to clump together and the resulting oxygen deficiency increases the pain in the affected area.
It has been shown that sludging of the blood occurs temporarily in an area, which has been traumatized by a sudden impact injury such as a fall or a strong blow. This localized sludging may be the cause of the frequently resulting ‘traumatic arthritis’.
Meat and Sugar
Calcium leaching out of joints, bones and teeth is a major cause of arthritis, osteoporosis and tooth decay. There are two commonly used foods, which lead to elevated calcium blood levels and subsequently increased loss in the urine. These are meat and sugar.
Meat stimulates the parathyroid glands to become overactive, due mainly to high phosphorus content. Also many soft drinks are very high in phosphorus. Increased parathyroid activity means raised calcium blood levels and the sources of this additional calcium are the joints and bones. Compared to vegetarians, meat-eaters lose on average two to four times the amount of calcium in the urine; the higher the intake of meat and other animal protein, the greater is the calcium loss.
It is similar with sugar. After ingesting sugar, insulin blood levels are raised and these, in turn, raise the calcium level. When individuals with a normal insulin response ingest 100 g of sugar, the loss of calcium in the urine approximately doubles. However, many individuals have a poor sugar metabolism with an exaggerated insulin response as in hypoglycemia. In these individuals a test load of 100 g sugar increases the calcium loss with the urine about four-fold. It is unconceivable that joints could remain healthy with such huge and continuing loss of calcium.
Another important nutrient for joint health is magnesium, which is also regulated by the parathyroid glands. If calcium is raised in the blood, then magnesium is lowered and vice versa. This means, an increased magnesium intake will lower the calcium blood level and therefore less or no calcium needs to be leached from bones and joints. With sufficient magnesium intake calcium may even be redeposited into joints and bones. However, experience shows that a high calcium intake in this situation leads only to calcifications in the wrong places, such as spurs, kidney stones, ankylosis and arteriosclerosis.
With these insights we can also understand why the common medical advice for the prevention of osteoporosis – to ingest more milk products and use calcium supplements – is generally ineffective. Clinical statistics show that calcium loss from the bones continues unabated. Instead, the real solution is to minimize the intake of animal protein and sugar and increase the intake of magnesium and boron. In addition, hormonal changes (menopause) play a role as well as vitamin D deficiency.
A diet high in meat and other animal proteins contributes also to the formation of high levels of uric acid. Purines are formed from the breakdown of nucleic acids, which are part of the nuclei of cells. Uric acid is formed from the oxidation of purines, but it can also be synthesized from simple metabolic molecules. While it may not be advisable to eat large amounts of cooked beans and peas due to their purine content, sprouted legumes are still recommended even with gout.
Sugars, especially fructose and the fructose part of household sugar, increase the production of uric acid and possibly the breakdown of nucleic acids. However, an even stronger effect on uric acid production has alcohol, especially in the form of beer. 95% of those affected with gout are males and of these the most common feature is high beer consumption.
Caffeine from coffee and theophylline from tea are methylated purines. While they do not seem to have a direct effect on uric acid levels, they greatly contribute to the loss of calcium and magnesium from the body. 300 mg of caffeine, which may be found in three cups of coffee, doubles urinary calcium loss in both men and women.