Arthritis is not a single disease, it refers to a number of diseases affecting the joints of the body and most commonly found in old age persons. There are several types of arthritis such as traumatic, congenital, infectious, metabolic, rheumatoid and degenerative arthritis and many more. The most common of which is senile arthritis i.e. arthritis due to aging. With the increasing age the human body undergoes a series of degenerative changes. These changes lead to the formation of arthritis. In this article we are going to discuss degenerative arthritis, and how to prevent it by our diet and lifestyle modifications along with some Ayurvedic herbs beneficial for improving joints’ health.
Arthritis in common is characterised by swelling, stiffness, pain and reduced range of motion of the joints. These features can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the condition of the patient. Initially these symptoms can be on and off in nature but with increasing age they gradually aggravate and get worse resulting in inability to walk or climb stairs due to chronic pain in the multiple joints. The patient in later stages is completely unable to do the daily tasks.
Changes in Joints Due To Aging
Normally, there is a cushion between the bones that forms the joints, this cushion is formed by the synovial fluid, and moreover these joints are supported by ligaments, cartilages and muscles. As one became old, the progressive changes began in the body, that includes gradually aggravating stiffness and reduced flexibility of the joint movement because the lubricating fluid inside the joints reduces and there is thinning of cartilages. The stiffness in joints is mainly due to the shortening and loss of flexibility of the ligaments. The bones lose calcium, leading to osteoporosis characterised by weakening of bones resulting in increased tendency of fractures especially in females due to hormonal changes as a result of menopausal changes.
Rogah sarvepi mandganoo means all the diseases are caused as a result of mandagni (decreased digestive fire).
This decreased fire (jatharagni) will result in the incomplete digestion of the food, located in the stomach and intestines, aggravating factor for the tridosha, that fluid is known as ama (endotoxins).
In ayurveda, old age is considered to be the period of aggravated vata. This ama (auto antigen) on chronic deposition with increasing age under the influence of vitiated vata is transmitted to the places of the kapha i.e. scapula, knee, elbow joint and wrist joint etc. and reached in blood vessels. These endotoxins (ama) due to incomplete digestion are larger in size as compared to other contents in the blood vessels. Thus, they can’t be able to travel in the microchannels-subcellular levels, and thus causing blockage of the blood supply at the various levels. And creating the pain, inflammation, stiffness, heaviness etc. symptoms.
The above mentioned changes will definitely come to everyone with an increase in age. Due to current lifestyle it is obvious to have this type of degenerative changes till or even before the age of 60 years. But just by improving our lifestyle and dietary habits slightly we can delay these degenerative changes.
- Include nuts and dry fruits in daily regimen. These are a rich source of vitamins and minerals and other nutrients to the body. Use of dry fruits such as almonds, walnuts, resins, cashew nuts in the diet after soaking and peeling off is the perfect way to meet the nutrients requirement needed during old age for joints and other body parts.
- Vegetables and fruits– Seasonal fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants. These potent phytochemicals act as the body’s natural defense system, assisting to neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals that can damage cells. Fruits such as cherries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries etc. contain anthocyanins that are having an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Vegetables can be used as salad or in the form of smoothie (herbal drink made from green leaves), and in boiled or cooked form.
- Fruits can be consumed on a daily basis. Moreover, the citrus fruits such as oranges, lemon, grapes, Embilca officinalis etc. are the rich source of Vitamin C, and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale etc. contains high amounts of Vitamin K, both of these vitamins aids in dramatic reduction of inflammatory markers in the blood.
- Avoid frequent use of junk foods, unhealthy food, and oily foods. These food items promote the deposition of endotoxins and free radicals in joints which are responsible for fattening of degenerative processes in aged people.
- Alcohol fastens up the aging process and makes the multiple systems of the body weak on prolonged use. It must be eliminated from the normal routine.
- Pulses– Use of pulses must be promoted as these are the very abundant source of proteins. Beans, apart from the powerhouse of proteins, are being loaded with phytonutrients and fibres, and also have antiinflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Oils– Use of olive oil and kachi ghani mustard oil in a palace of refined oils for cooking is recommended.
- Grains– Grains especially positive millets are the rich source of fiber, they help in reducing the CRP levels (C-Reactive Protein- a blood marker of inflammation).
- Weight Reduction: The obese people are more prone for the arthritis conditions as the degenerative changes of the knee joints fastens up with increased load on the knees. Thus maintaining a healthy physique with adequate BMI is necessary for the good care of joints.
- Quit smoking.
- Exercise regularly, using all joints regularly will prevent the damage in after life. Always do warm up before exercising.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Manage weight with the help of a stick or other aid to prevent excess load on joints for walking and prolonged standing.
Ayurveda, there are several herbs that are beneficial for promoting joints function and prevent aging and damage of joints’. These include- Herbs such as Hadjod (Cissus quadrangularis), Sudh laksha (Purified form of Laccifer lacca), Shigru (Moringa oleifera), Curcumin, Ginger, Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) etc along with minerals that compensate the calcium deficit such as praval pishti (Corallium rubrum), mukta (Compound of Pearl Calcium) etc.
Moreover, the vayasthapan mahaakshay mentioned by Acharya Charka contains the ten best herbs that promote the rejuvenating factors that promote antiaging, these include
- Amrita (Tinospora cordifolia)
- Abhaya (Terminalia chebula)
- Dhatri (Emblica officinalis)
- Yukta-Rasana (Pluchea lanceolata)
- Shweta (Clitoria ternatea)
- Jiwanti (Leptadenia reticulata)
- Atirasa (Asparagus racemosus)
- Mandookparni (Centella asiatica)
- Sthira (Desmodium gangeticum)
- Punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa)
These herbs along with the lifestyle and diet modification will have anti aging effects i.e. delaying the various degenerative changes and making the person free from arthritis even at the age of 60.