"Arthritis affects more than 50 million Americans."
Though conditions can vary widely, arthritis is essentially the inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, caused when the protective, cushioned cartilage of the bones wears away. When there is little there to protect bone rubbing against bone, even simple daily activities become near impossible to do without sharp pain. Rheumatoid arthritis, a type of inflammatory arthritis, causes the body's immune system to mistakenly attack its own joints, which leads to erosion of the joints.
The Arthritis Foundation attests that the disease is commonly misunderstood and difficult to comprehend, but it does conclude that keeping a healthy weight and engaging in physical activity are crucial for maintaining joint function and quality of life. And that is exactly how a health retreat at Pritikin Longevity Center can help relieve the symptoms of arthritis.
Relieving pain naturally
Historically, practices for reducing symptoms of arthritis have predominantly focused on drugs. However, more and more research is pointing to non-medical treatments such as weight loss, diet changes and exercise that can help to drastically improve symptoms of arthritis. According to the The National Institutes of Health MedlinePlus magazine, researchers in the field are very encouraged by the results that lifestyle changes can have on arthritis. And they're not alone.
"Both the exercise and dietary components of the Pritikin Program should help with arthritis, including its two most common forms – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis," stated UCLA researcher Dr. James Barnard, author of more than 100 studies on the effectiveness of the Pritikin Program for controlling and even preventing many chronic illnesses.
The wellness retreat offered at Pritikin provides guests with the tools to make these kinds of lifestyle changes.
1. Weight loss
Carrying excess weight puts more pressure on your joints, which can lead to increased pain and swelling if you're living with arthritis. According to MedlinePlus, weight loss is one of the most favorable lifestyle changes one living with arthritis, especially osteoarthritis, can make. In fact, a 2005 study published by the NIH in Arthritis & Rheumatism found a significant difference in the pressure on joints after weight loss. For every one pound of weight lost, four pounds of pressure was removed from the joint.
That's good news for guests who come to Pritikin, one of the leading centers for promoting healthy, long-term weight loss. Multiple studies have found that an average of 11 pounds are lost within three weeks of beginning the Pritikin Program. Guest Lou Aiello experienced the transformative weight-loss program first-hand. When he arrived, he was living with arthritic-related pain that had grown severe enough that it interfered with even just walking short distances. But after one month at Pritikin, following the eating and exercise regimens, it wasn't just his weight that had improved.
Removing nine pills and 80 percent of his daily insulin, Aiello was in control of his diabetes, 30 pounds lighter and even feeling well enough to run! Claiming he was living an entirely new life, he reported that 95 percent of his arthritic-related pain had vanished.
2. Diet changes
When 52-year-old Pritikin guest Judi Morgan first arrived in Miami, she was unsure of what Pritikin would do for her. Living with rheumatoid arthritis pain had eventually caused her to become almost inactive, very fearful of injury and 20 pounds heavier.
"I'm virtually pain-free." – Pritikin guest Judi Morgan
In her initial meeting, the advice was simple: Don't eat anything that comes from a cow. That meant eliminating milk, cheese, red meat, etc., as these foods are known to be inflammatory for people with joint problems. The Illinois Bone & Joint Institute has advised arthritis patients to avoid any kind of food that is inflammatory, as it will only further inflame the joints. Instead, a diet packed with anti-inflammatory foods is best. Leafy greens, omega-3 fatty acids, legumes, fruits and vegetables packed with antioxidants are just some of the recommendations from the Arthritis Foundation – all of which are plentiful at Pritikin.
"It turned out to be practically a miracle for me. My physician at Pritikin was very knowledgeable about rheumatoid arthritis," she said.
The Pritikin Eating Plan, the supportive and encouraging staff and the customized fitness plan all helped Morgan start living in a new way. Not only did she stop letting her arthritis define her, according to Morgan, but within the next year she had lost 22 pounds and was feeling better than she had in years.
"I don't follow the Pritikin guidelines to a 'T,' but I'm pretty vigilant because I love how I'm feeling now, and I want to keep feeling this good," Morgan said. "I am virtually pain-free."
3. Physical activity
For those living with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, the thought of even just walking may feel painful. However, regular physical activity and movement can do wonders to naturally alleviate many of the accompanying symptoms of the disease.
"In fact, exercise is considered the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in patients with osteoarthritis," the Arthritis Foundation stated.
Flexibility exercises that improve range of motion, walking, water aerobics, endurance and strengthening exercises are all forms of physical activity that may help to improve the function of joints and reduce pain and swelling.
At Pritikin, there are a number of joint-friendly forms of exercise that, when practiced regularly, may also help to strengthen muscles, bones and joints that have been weakened from arthritis.
While there is still no cure for arthritis, a stay at Pritikin can help to significantly lower and ease the painful symptoms. Just take it from Aiello and Morgan – you may leave feeling lighter, stronger and years younger.