Natural Ways to Treat Arthritis

Get More Vitamin D
If you’re running low on the “sunshine vitamin,” your joints may be at risk. Vitamin D, produced by your skin upon exposure to the sun, may help keep the immune system healthy and protect joints from wear-and-tear damage by strengthening nearby bone, too. When researchers tracked men and women whose knees showed signs of osteoarthritis, those who took in above-average amounts of D from food and supplements were in a better shape eight years later than those who didn’t. Vitamin D may protect against RA as well. When researchers at the University of Iowa followed 29,368 women ages 55 to 69 for 11 years, they found that women who got less than 200 IU of from food or supplement were 33 percent more likely to develop the disease.

At press time, the US Institute of Medicine recommendation was 400 IU of D per day for people ages 50 to 70 and 600 IU per day after age 70, although many experts were lobbying to have the guild lines revised upward, and some recommended 1,000 IU per day. Getting up to 2,000 IU per day is considered safe.

You’ll probably need a supplement to get you there. Unless you’re eating fatty fish like salmon of mackerel every day (3.5 ounces of either contains about 350 IU of D), it’s awfully tough to get enough from food. (A glass of fat-free milk, another good source, has just 98 IU.) And while your body makes D from sunlight, if you can’t see your shadow, the rays probably aren’t strong enough. What’s more, after age 50, your body simply makes less D from sunlight.

Eat Colorful Foods
If it’s red, orange, blue, or green, chances are it’s loaded with antioxidants, compounds that neutralize rogue molecules called free radicals that are thought to interfere with cartilage repair and rebuilding. Sweet, juicy mangoes, peaches, oranges, and watermelons are packed with betacryptoxanthin, a tongue-twisting antioxidant and one of a pair of joint-pampering compounds that lower the risk of arthritis by an impressive 20 to 40 percent a University of Manchester, United Kingdom study of 25,000 people. The other antioxidant, zeaxanthin, is found in spinach, sweet corn, peas and orange peppers. People with the highest blood levels of both of these antioxidants cut their arthritis risk even further, by 50 percent.

Good old vitamin C is joint friendly, too. Eating plenty of strawberries, oranges, red bell peppers, and broccoli – all loaded with C – could help slow the development of knee pain if you already have osteoarthritis, say Boston University researchers. In one study, people who got the most C were three times less likely to have arthritis knee pain than people who got the least.