Can Spices Relieve Your Arthritis Pain?

various spices(BlackDoctor.org) — In your search for relief from the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, you might hear or read about spices and dietary supplements that are said to help ease symptoms.

But before you head to your kitchen, or the grocery store, you need to find out which ones will fit best into your rheumatoid arthritis treatment plan. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health, just about all supplements have the potential to interfere with your regular medications or cause other unwanted side effects, such as an allergic reaction, so learning more about them and talking with your doctor beforehand is essential.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Supplements

A variety of complementary and alternative claim to be helpful for arthritis. Some of the most commonly known supplements include:

Borage oil comes from a plant and contains omega-6 fatty acids, which are thought to offer people with rheumatoid arthritis some relief from pain and joint stiffness. According to NCCAM, however, results of studies involving borage oil for rheumatoid arthritis have not been conclusive. Borage oil and other oils that contain omega-6 fatty acids, such as evening primrose oil, can increase bleeding and bruising. NCCAM also warns that borage oil is made with an additive that may increase liver damage. Also, the appropriate dose of borage oil varies with each individual, so discuss what is appropriate for you with your rheumatologist.

Capsaicin cream is numbing agent that comes from cayenne peppers. The cream is rubbed onto joints that are sore and inflamed. Studies suggest that this cream is modestly effective in reducing joint pain if it is used daily. Side effects can include a burning sensation after application.

Cod liver oil, a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, is the only dietary supplement that has been strongly associated with relieving symptoms such as inflammation and pain among people with rheumatoid arthritis. “It has results similar to non-steroidal drugs like ibuprofen and can be used safely,” says Robert W. Hoffman, DO, professor and chief of the division of rheumatology and immunology in the department of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “It also has cardiovascular protective benefits.”

The risks of cod liver oil include increased bleeding and bruising and possible exposure to mercury from the original codfish. Research has shown 10 grams of cod liver oil daily to have a positive effect on joint pain, but there are no official recommendations about how much you should take.

Flaxseed oil, which comes from ground flax seeds, also contains omega-3 fatty acids. This oil is available in gel capsules and as in oil form for salad dressings or foods, but it must be kept refrigerated. Adults can take about 3,000 milligrams a day. It is available at pharmacies, health food stores, and some grocery stores.

Ginger is a spice that comes from the root of the ginger plant. It can be ground up to a powder, used fresh, boiled as a tea, or crystallized. Ginger has been used in Ayurvedic medicine (ancient medical practices native to India) for hundreds of years to fight inflammation. Data from scientific studies is scarce and inconclusive, but at least one study has shown ginger to help relieve some of the pain and swelling experienced by people with RA. Ginger can be bought at grocery stores as a spice, tea, crystallized candy, or a fresh root. It is available in capsule form as well. It can be used daily, but you should not use more than four grams each day.

Turmeric is a spice that, like ginger, has played a role in ancient Ayurvedic practices as an inflammation fighter. Research into its effectiveness is ongoing. At least one study has shown that taking turmeric daily can help relieve morning stiffness and joint pain. Turmeric is available as a ground spice, in capsules, and as a cream. Curcumin is the active ingredient that addresses inflammation. Taking too much turmeric can cause stomach problems such as ulcers. About 1,200 milligrams a day is what is typically recommended. It can be bought at health food stores and grocery stores.

Rheumatoid Arthritis & A Healthy Diet

Although many supplements are available in pill form, it may be a healthier (and less expensive) to turn to your diet for pain relief.

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables is also a diet rich in antioxidants, which also play a role in fighting inflammation. “All RA patients should eat a healthy, balanced diet,” says John M. Stuart, MD, professor of medicine and rheumatology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. “There is good evidence that diets rich in antioxidants may have at least modest long-term benefits.”

Before trying any supplements…

If you decide you’re interested in taking supplements, talk to your doctor first about what’s right for you, and be sure to keep them informed after you begin taking the supplements. Remember that unless your doctor says differently, those with rheumatoid arthritis should not stop traditional — and more proven — treatments.

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The Best Holiday Foods For Your Heart

Collard greens in a basket(BlackDoctor.org) — One of the most popular things about the holidays? The FOOD!!! However, most holiday food selections wouldn’t make a doctors “Healthiest Foods Ever” listing. That said, there are a number of foods that are not only delicious holiday delights, but are also surprisingly healthy.

1. Turkey

Turkey is a dynamite healthy protein source — unless it’s deep fried and slathered with gravy. Sarah Krieger, RD, National Spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, points out that a serving of turkey provides almost half of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid and is a good source of vitamin B, zinc, and potassium. These nutrients have been found to keep blood cholesterol down, protect against cancer and heart disease, and boost the immune system (not bad for an old bird). A normal portion size is usually 3 to 4 ounces — and if you stick to white meat and peel the skin off, you’ll literally save hundreds of calories at a holday table. Fortunately, turkey is one of those dieter’s dream foods that will fill you up when you eat just a little.

2. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are among the healthiest vegetables around — so long as they don’t get doused with butter, marshmallows, or some other high-calorie holiday sabotage. If roasted — which keeps the flavor very intense without adding fat — sweet potatoes burst with fiber, vitamin A, potassium, and phytochemicals, which stave off aging, cancer, and arthritis. Plus, they’re very filling, so you don’t have to overload your plate with them.

3. Cranberries

As millions of us reach for pretty-in-pink cranberry sauce to garnish our turkey and stuffing, few realize we’re getting much more than a sweet-tasting accoutrement. Krieger points out that cranberries are loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants and their fiber content helps to lower “bad” cholesterol levels. However, because these beautiful berries are naturally low in sugar, many recipes call for large doses of added sweetener. Steer clear of all that sugar and, instead, try adding a sugar substitute like Splenda to keep this side dish healthy, suggests Krieger.

4. Pomegranates

Power to the pomegranate! This gorgeous fruit is proving its worth as one of the richest sources of antioxidants around, and it’s popping up more and more in holiday dishes. You can indulge in the pomegranate’s benefits by simply buying a bottle of its juice to add to your favorite recipe, or sprinkling the pretty seeds over a salad.

5. Collard Greens

Collards are ultra-healthy — except when sabotaged by greasy fat sources like pork, a popular additive in many holiday recipes. By preparing these leafy greens in a steamer, you’ll leave out the unnecessary calories and gain a ton of vitamins and antioxidants. If you just can’t give up flavoring your greens, use turkey bacon or saute the veggie in olive oil, suggests Krieger.

6. Nutmeg and Cinnamon

More and more research is being conducted on the health benefits of spices, says Krieger. Nutmeg, with its nutty, earthy flavor, and cinnamon, which shines with its sweetness, can do a whole lot more than garnish eggnog. Mixing these spices into fruit or vegetable sides can help you lower your cholesterol and maintain insulin levels in the blood.

7. Red Wine

While wine and cocktails can add needless calories to an already over-the-top meal, wine delivers heart-healthy properties in exchange for its calorie count (about 100 calories per 5-ounce serving). All wine is naturally heart-healthy, but red wines will provide the most antioxidant bang for your calorie buck.

And take note: the dryer the wine, the higher the concentration of those disease-fighting properties.

To keep your calorie count to a minimum, ask your host for a spritzer — half wine, half calorie-free seltzer water.