Arthritis is one of, if not the most, common age-associated medical conditions in the world. While arthritis comes in many forms, the most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, or OA. Though considered an ‘old person’s’ disease, it may actually be one of the oldest diseases in the world. In fact, it may even be older than all of human history.

dinosaurDr. Judyth Sassoon, a paleontological researcher at the University of Bristol, was examining the fossil remains of a Pliosaur, a giant extinct type of marine dinosaur that looks like a cross between a penguin and an alligator. She noticed something unusual in its jaw. It had all of the signs of a degenerative condition that appeared to have eroded its jaw bone until it became severely deformed. The deformity weakened the jaw bone and it eventually broke. This condition likely caused the death of the animal.

If you have arthritis or are developing, don’t be alarmed. The living creatures of this earth have been dealing with this condition for hundreds of millions of years. You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last, but luckily there is definitely something that can be done about it.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a degenerative disease that affects the joints. The degenerative aspect of the disease comes about from the loss of cartilage and degradation of the bone tissue in the joint. The main symptom of OA is pain. This pain also brings about stiffness in the joints, especially in the morning, as well as reduced ability and functional performance of the affected joint or joints. Often there can be inflammation in the joints that comes in the form of fluid and swelling. The joints can also develop hard bony nodes around the joints that restrict movement, but aren’t always painful.

While there is an abundant amount of research that shows that lifestyle changes and exercise can help improve the symptoms of OA, the most common course of action and the first line of therapy is to resort to pain killers, predominantly acetaminophen and in more serious cases NSAIDS. Both of these medications have risks of serious side effects including bleeding in the digestive tract and liver failure. But these medications do not address the source of the disease, they merely mask the symptoms.


Masking the pain with dangerous, and expensive, medications will not halt the progression of the disease. It only removes the pain, your body’s primary means of communicating its distress. It’s like putting on headphones when you hear a fire alarm going off, a poor choice if you want to remain alive.

OA can come from many different sources, but the mechanics are generally the same. Contrary to common belief, age is actually not a cause of OA. There are documented cases of people who were almost a hundred years old who had no symptoms of OA. Interestingly, the statistics even show that 80% of people over the age of 65 show signs of OA on X-Ray but only 60% will have symptoms. Why?

As with most aspects of medicine, each person with OA has a unique set of lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors that contribute to the onset and progression of the disease. In order to help that person effectively, they need to be assessed as an individual.

A study was conducted by the American College of Rheumatology on the lifetime risk of Osteoporosis of the knee. They studied a cohort of over 3,000 people in North Carolina. Men and women of different races all over the age of 45 were interviewed and studied between 1990 and 2003. The results were analyzed and published in 2008.

The study discovered some interesting facts about what increases or decreases the risk of OA. For example, those with a higher than high school level education have a lower risk of developing OA, but high school graduates have a higher risk than those who dropped out of high school. Puzzling, but recommending that people drop out of high school to avoid OA does not seem like a logical solution.

Where the information comes through really clear is the correlation between BMI and the risk of OA in the knee. People with a normal or underweight Body Mass Index (<25) had risk percentage between 23% and 37.4%. People who were clinically obese (>30) had between 53% and 68%. On average, that means people with an obese BMI are twice as likely to develop OA in their knees compared to someone with a normal or underweight BMI. Not only that, but people with a normal or lower BMI are also the ones with the lowest overall risk of developing OA in the knee regardless of gender, race, educational level, even if they had already suffered a knee injury. As long as their BMI was healthy they had the lowest overall risk of developing OA in the knee.

bmiThe logical extrapolation is that ‘less body weight means less weight on the knees so of course the risk of arthritis in the knees is lower’. Does a lower BMI also lower the risk of OA in other joints? A growing body of research would suggest that it does.

People with a high BMI are at elevated risk for many chronic diseases diabetes, heart disease, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. The increased risk of chronic disease is not related to the weight, but actually the quantity of fat, predominantly the abdominal fat. This fat mass, especially in the abdomen, releases chemicals that promote inflammation and other undesirable effects in the body that increase the susceptibility and severity of certain conditions. This can also exacerbate one of the factors of osteoarthritis.

One of the key elements of osteoarthritis is the rate at which cartilage is lost in the joints. As people age, their ability to produce certain proteins deteriorates. One group of proteins important to the health of our joints is the proteoglycans. These proteins increase the strength and resilience of cartilage. As our bodies age and we lose the ability to produce enough of these proteins and our cartilage becomes weaker and breaks down more easily. When the cartilage gets broken down, the cells surrounding it become signaled and begin producing inflammation, which only further compounds the problem and accelerates the degradation of the cartilage.

In individuals that are more prone to produce an inflammatory state, such as those with a high BMI, this can exacerbate the OA and increase the likelihood of developing more severe symptoms. It stands to reason then that if one reduces their BMI and modifies their lifestyle to be more anti-inflammatory, their risk of OA and potentially the severity of the symptoms should improve.

Interestingly, this is exactly what we are seeing at the Nutrikon Wellness Center. When individuals with OA who are having symptoms, when they are put on a low-inflammatory diet and their BMI is improved, their symptoms improve as well. We have had many patients perform very well on our program, which is designed with a combination of non-inflammatory foods, coupled with anti-inflammatory dietary supplements, and in certain cases we also use our unique meal replacement formula to quickly reduce inflammation in more sensitive individuals.

A few natural supplements are available that can either reduce the inflammatory responses and help slow the progression of osteoarthritis, or simply relieve pain by one method or another. All of these supplements are safe and derived from completely natural substances.

EPA and DHA are Omega-3 fatty acids commonly derived from fish oil and have a very powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the body. EPA/DHA are very well known for their ability to reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, the aggressive form of arthritis that occurs as the result of an auto-immune condition. Even though osteoarthritis does not have an inflammatory aspect due to an immune system irregularity, there is still an inflammatory component to the disease progression and reducing this inflammation can help interrupt this vicious cycle and possibly slow the disease progression.  

Another helpful supplement that works well to reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis is MSM. MSM stands for Methylsulfonylmethane, an organic sulfur compound that has undergone significant amounts of animal testing, as well as various human studies and all of the research suggests that MSM can effectively reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis for as long as the supplement is taken. There is no evidence yet that deomstrates any ability to slow the progression of the disease or reverse it, but the pain reduction aspect has brought a lot of relief to many osteoarthritis sufferers.

There are a number of other natural and effective supplements that can benefit someone with osteoarthritis, but the best course of action is to get professional consultation in order to determine which supplements would work best for your condition, as well as determining the appropriate dosages.

Osteoarthritis is not the inevitable result of aging, nor is it irreversible or hopeless if you have symptoms. There is something that can be done about it, and you can feel better without medications, without surgery, and without fear. It requires only a decision to change your life in the most beneficial ways.