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Arthritis Cathie

Patients often tell me as an afterthought about their arthritic hands or dodgy knees, not expecting to be able to do anything about it.

‘That’s wear and tear’, they say with resignation. It’s what doctors often tell people, and because it’s so common, that’s an easy assumption to make. But it’s not entirely true.

When I worked in a naturopathic clinic back in the 80s, patients with arthritis were usually put on an exclusion diet. Six pounds of grapes a day – and nothing else – was a frequent choice, and the rationale then was that grapes contained useful minerals that would combat joint inflammation. Most people had some improvement, and a few reported complete remission of their symptoms. But we now know that there’s more to it than a few minerals.

There are foods that encourage inflammation, and foods that do the opposite.

Grapes certainly fall into the second category, and so do most vegetables and fruits, with the possible exception of the Solanaceae family (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and chillis) and citrus fruits. Some contain active anti-inflammatory ingredients, like flavonoids and essential oils, but recent studies suggest that fibre – which is the part you don’t digest – has a very important part to play.

There is a strong correlation between a diet high in fibre – which includes whole grains and pulses as well as vegetables – and a lower risk (up to 61%) of developing arthritis.

What’s more, if you already have joint problems, increasing your dietary fibre can help to improve or even resolve them. In other words, ‘wear and tear’ doesn’t have a lot to do with it.

Of course, it does sometimes play a part, but that part is much smaller than we used to think. And that’s very good news. If you’re waiting for a hip operation or a knee replacement, for example, you might be able to do a great deal by modifying your diet, and maybe even avoid the operation altogether.

And along the way, you’ll be improving your general health as well.

EDITOR: Su has an excellent Herb Handbook available to buy directly from her website or from Amazon.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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