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6 Natural Alternatives to Arthritis Drugs: Top Doc

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Friday, 22 January 2016 03:02 PM

The death of Eagles founder Glenn Frey, tied in part to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) medications he was taking that likely compromised his immune system, is a “wake-up call” about the dangers of powerful drugs used to treat the condition, a top doc says.

Frey died this week from complications of RA, ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia. His manager, Irving Azoff, said the RA drugs the legendary musician had taken for years left his body vulnerable to infection.

Dr. David Brownstein, a board-certified family physician and medical director for the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, Mich., says the case is a cautionary tale about the risks of such prescription medications that should push arthritis patients — and the doctors who treat them — to seek out safer available alternatives.

“Glenn Frey's death should be a wake-up call for all patients with autoimmune disorders, RA included,” says Dr. Brownstein, editor of the Natural Way to Health

“There are better ways to treat these illnesses than relying on toxic drugs which do not treat the underlying cause of their illness and predispose them to serious adverse effects.”

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For many of the 1.5 million Americans with RA, doctors prescribe corticosteroids, biologics, and so-called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), all of which suppress the immune system and leave patients vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections like pneumonia.

But Dr. Brownstein says natural remedies and healthy lifestyle changes can offer relief to patients and far are less risky than RA drugs, such as methotrexate, Humira, Imuran, and Enbrel.

“These drugs all poison enzymes in the body which block the immune system function,” says Dr. Brownstein, author of “Overcoming Arthritis,” a holistic guide to treating autoimmune disorders and arthritis. 

“DMARDs as well as other commonly used drugs to treat both RA and ulcerative colitis are all associated adverse effects which include an inability to overcome an infection. Glenn Frey reportedly died of complications due to pneumonia.”

While prescription drugs are required to help some patients, he says they should not be a first-line or long-term treatment.

“Do these drugs have a place in the treatment of arthritic disorders? The answer is ‘yes.’ DMARDs can cause immediate, powerful reduction of inflammation and pain for some arthritis sufferers,” he says. “However, the drugs are overprescribed, and, if used, should be used for the shortest course possible. I’ve found little need for these drugs. There is a better way to treat these chronic conditions.”

Dr. Brownstein, and other holistic health specialists, say the six following strategies can help manage RA and other forms of arthritis that strike tens of millions of Americans. They recommend discussing the options with your doctor when weighing the pros and cons of taking more powerful medications.

Boost your nutrition: Many studies show that diet plays a key role in arthritic symptoms. “The first step in any holistic plan is to clean up the diet,” Dr. Brownstein says. “Eliminate refined foods. Eat a whole-food diet including unrefined sugar, salt, oil, and flour, and as much organic produce as possible.”

Eliminate ‘pro-inflammatory’ foods. Cutting processed foods loaded with carbs, refined salt, flour, and sugar flour — the staples of most packaged and fast foods — can help combat arthritis. “The standard American diet, full of refined foods, is a pro-inflammatory regimen. Inflammation is what causes the redness, warmth, swelling, and joint destruction associated with arthritis,” says Dr. Brownstein.

Stay hydrated. Drinking adequate amounts of water can help alleviate arthritic symptoms. To determine much water you should drink, divide your weight (in pounds) by two. The resulting number is the amount of water, in ounces, you should drink daily. “I have seen many arthritic patients significantly improve their condition just by re-hydrating,” he says.

Exercise. Numerous studies have shown that exercise and physical therapy strengthen the muscles around joints, which can alleviate arthritis pain. Low-impact activities — such as swimming, water aerobics, tai chi, and yoga — are good bets and can also help stave off heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Try supplements. A handful of dietary substances have been proven to alleviate symptoms of arthritis in some patients. Among them: Fish oil, glucosamine, chondroitin, certain plant oils, ginger, green tea, and the Asian spice turmeric.

Apply heat, cold compresses. Applying heat or cold compresses to painful, inflamed joints can alleviate pain by increasing blood flow (heat) or dulling the sensation (cold) in those areas.

In addition to these six strategies, Dr. Brownstein notes that antibiotics may help some people with arthritis because the condition may be tied to bacterial infections. Mycoplasma, a bacterium, was first suggested as a cause of RA in the 1930s and later research has confirmed the connection. As a result, low-dose antibiotics may help.

“Based upon my clinical experience, I agree with [the] conclusion that many forms of arthritis have an infectious cause, and that patients will respond positively (often dramatically) to low-dose antibiotic therapy and natural therapies that allow the immune system to control infectious agents,” Dr. Brownstein says.

Dr. Brownstein also notes that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — such as Advil and Motrin — are a primary treatment for arthritic disorders. But while they can be useful in temporarily alleviating pain, they are not a long-term solution.

The big picture: Boosting the body’s natural defenses — not weakening them — should be the goal of treating RA and other chronic conditions.

“Supporting the immune system, rather than poisoning it is important in all autoimmune illnesses including RA,” Dr. Brownstein notes. “This includes supplying the body with the proper nutrients including vitamins and minerals.”

Portions of this article first appeared in Health Radar newsletter. To read more, click here.

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Glenn Frey's death, tied in part to rheumatoid arthritis medications he was taking, is a 'wake-up call' about the dangers of powerful drugs used to treat the condition, a top doc says. It should push arthritis patients and their doctors to seek out safer available alternatives.
arthritis, alternative, remedies, rheumatoid, glenn, frey
Friday, 22 January 2016 03:02 PM
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