Back in September, the drug company Merck pulled its painkiller Vioxx (rofecoxib) from the market after research revealed it more than doubled risk of heart attack. However, what at first appeared to be a big pharma acting with a degree of corporate responsibility turned sour when evidence came to light which suggests that Merck was aware of the life-threatening effects of Vioxx some four years before they withdrew it. The government agency responsible for drug regulation in America – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – now stands accused of suppressing this research and attempting to discredit the scientist who initially raised concerns about Vioxx’s safety. This heart-stopping tale would perhaps not be quite so shocking if the researcher in question were not himself an employee of the FDA.
More painful news for the pharmaceutical industry came with the recent publication of research in the on-line version British Medical Journal which shows that, in the long term, popular analgesics are no more effective than placebo (inactive medication) in treating the most common rheumatic disease of all – osteoarthritis. On the plus side, all this bad press about painkillers did at least get me thinking about some of the natural alternatives to these drugs. Such approaches may have special relevance at this time of year as many individuals find that the colder weather exacerbates their arthritic symptoms.
One natural remedy that I generally find very effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis is supplementation with the nutritional agent glucosamine sulphate. Glucosamine is believed to help repair the cartilage degeneration that is the hallmark of the condition. Those keen to try this remedy should take about 1500 mg per day, though it often takes weeks or even months for the maximum benefits are realised.
Brisker symptom suppression for those suffering from osteoarthritis is often had by taking cod liver oil. This traditional joint remedy is rich in the omega-3 fats that have natural anti-inflammatory properties in the body. Useful doses of these oils will generally be had from taking 1 – 2 teaspoons (5 – 10 mls) of cod liver oil per day. Another of cod liver oil’s components – vitamin D – may also bring benefits as higher intakes of this nutrient have been found to be associated with lower risk of osteoarthritis. Cod liver oil may also benefit those suffering from ‘inflammatory’ joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis – not just because cod liver oil’s omega-3 fatty content will help to dampen down the inflammatory process, but also because research suggests that higher levels of vitamin D offers some protection against rheumatoid arthritis too.
Those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis may also benefit from taking a nutritional approach. In practice, I find that many cases of inflammatory joint disease are rooted in adverse reactions to specific foods. While any food may cause problems here, the most likely culprits tend to be wheat (e.g. bread, pasta, pizza, pastry, biscuits, cakes and many crackers and breakfast cereals), milk and cheese. While individual food sensitivity testing is the ideal, I find that eliminating the common culprits from the diet quite often brings significant symptomatic relief in those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Experience shows that natural approaches can be a real boon for individuals who tend to feel wintry weather conditions in their bones.