Categories
Condition

Migraine Natural Treatments

Written by Sandy Cho, MD and reviewed by Julie A. Cerrato, PhD

A migraine headache, often described as an intense throbbing or pulsing on one side of the head, is commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraine attacks can be especially debilitating and cause significant pain for hours to days. They can be so severe that they interfere with activities of daily living.

Find migraine natural treatments such as herbal medicine, supplements, acupuncture, massage, and biofeedback for treating migraines below.

Overview

What are the signs/symptoms of a migraine?

Migraines may progress through four stages, consisting of prodrome, aura, attack and postdrome. However, you may not experience all four stages.

Prodrome

One or two days before a migraine, you may notice subtle changes which may indicate the onset of a migraine, including:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Euphoria
  • Food cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to smells or noise
  • Neck stiffness

Aura

Most people experience migraine headaches without aura. Auras are usually visual but can also be sensory, motor or verbal disturbances. Each of these symptoms typically begins gradually over several minutes, then commonly lasts for 10 to 30 minutes. Examples of aura include:

  • Visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
  • Vision loss
  • Pins-and-needles sensations or numbness in arm or leg
  • Speech or language disturbances
  • Less commonly, an aura may be associated with aphasia or limb weakness (hemiplegic migraine)

Attack

When untreated, a migraine typically lasts from four to 72 hours, but the frequency with which headaches occur varies between individuals. You may have migraines several times a month or much less frequently. During a migraine, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Pain on one side of your head
  • Pain that has a pulsating, throbbing quality
  • Sensitivity to light, sound and sometimes smells
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea, lightheadedness, sometimes followed by fainting

Postdrome

The final phase, known as postdrome, occurs after a migraine attack, when you may feel weak and fatigued, though some people report feeling mildly euphoric.

What causes a migraine?

  • Hormonal alteration (menstruation): Changes in estrogen can trigger headaches in many women. Women with a history of migraines often report headaches either immediately before or during their periods, when they experience a decline in estrogen. Others have a greater likelihood of developing migraines during pregnancy or menopause. Hormonal medications, such as oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy, can also worsen migraines.
  • Stress/anxiety: Stress and/or anxiety atworkor home can cause migraines.
  • Sleep disturbances: Changes in wake-sleep pattern, such as jet lag, is a main culprit. Getting too much or too little sleep can cause migraines.
  • Certain drugs/foods: Common foods that cause migraines include alcohol, especially beer and red wine; aged cheeses; chocolate; aspartame; overuse of caffeine; monosodium glutamate; salty foods; and processed foods. Skipping meals or fasting also can trigger migraine attacks. Certain medications can aggravate migraines, especially oral contraceptives and vasodilators, such as nitroglycerin.
  • Weather and/or environmental changes and factors: Changes inweatheror in atmospheric pressure can trigger a migraine.

What are conventional treatments for migraine?

If migraines are mild, analgesics such as NSAIDs or acetaminophen are often taken. If not, a dihydroergotamine (DHE)or a triptan may be prescribed by a physician.

  • Dihydroergotamine is used for moderate to severe attacks whenvasculardiseaseand hypertension are absent. It should not be used during pregnancy or within 24 hours of triptans due torisk of heart attack.
  • Triptans (sumatriptan, rizatriptan, almotriptan, zolmitriptan) are serotonin receptor agonists and are for moderate to severe migraine when vascular diseaseand uncontrolled hypertension are absent. Triptans inhibit vasoactive peptide release, cause vasoconstriction, and block pain pathways in the brainstem. They should be avoided in pregnancy and in hemiplegic or basilar migraine.

Nutrition

Nutritional approaches to migraine are often effective. They can be particularly useful for pregnant women.

  • Elimination Diet: Avoid foods that are known to trigger migraine headaches and eliminate them from your diet. Foods commonly identified as migraine triggers include dairy products (eg, cheese), chocolate, eggs, citrus fruits, meat, wheat, nuts and peanuts. Tyramine- and phenylalanine-containing foods, such as aged cheese, beer, and red wine, are also migraine triggers. Eliminating food additives, including MSG (monosodium glutamate), aspartame, and sodium nitrate, is vital in reducing the intensity and frequency of migraine headaches. You need to read food labels and be aware of the ingredients of the food you are consuming.

Herbs
Feverfew

Herbs are commonly used to provide relief from migraines. Feverfew and butterbur are remedies for a migraine in either preventing them or reducing their severity. Riboflavin also may prevent migraines. Seek the advice of a health professional to see if these treatments are right for you.

  • Feverfew: an herb with anti-inflammatory properties. A study shows that feverfew extract of 6.25 mg three times a day decreased migraine attacks by nearly half.The primary active ingredient in feverfew can be found in some other plants such as artichoke, sunflower, lettuce, spinach, and ginkgo biloba.Feverfew action appears to affect a wide variety of physiologic pathways. Some of these mechanisms include inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis, decrease of vascular smooth muscle spasm, and blockage of platelet granule secretion.Feverfew supplements are available fresh, freeze-dried, or dried and can be purchased in capsule, tablet, or liquid extract forms. Feverfew supplements with clinical studies contain a standardized dose of parthenolide. Feverfew supplements should be standardized to contain at least 0.2% parthenolide. Parthenolide is central to the biological effects of feverfew.
  • Butterbur (Petasites hybridus root): an ancient plant which has been used for medical and edible purposes. 50-75 mg twice a day have demonstratedsignificant reduction in migraine frequency.The mechanism by which butterbur may reduce migraine includes inhibiting the inflammatory effect of chemicals like leukotrienes and prostaglandin E2 in the pain pathway. Another mechanism of butterbur may be its ability to function as a natural beta blocker whose action results in the normal flow of blood to the brain. This helps control blood pressure and spasmodic capillary action, which can also contribute to the onset of migraine headaches.When purchasing butterbur products, be sure to choose a brand labeled PA-Free. This means the product was processed to remove potentially harmful, toxic chemicals found in the butterbur plant known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA). The special butterbur extract is prepared by having all liver-toxic alkaloids removed.

Supplements

  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): a water-soluble vitamin, which means it is not stored in the body. Therefore, it needs to be replenished in the body every day. Riboflavin is important for body growth and red blood cell production. It is also required for energy metabolism, such as the metabolism of carbohydrates.

Studies show a deficit of mitochondrial energy metabolism may play a role in migraine pathogenesis. Therefore, riboflavin has been investigated as a treatment and/or prevention for migraine.

Studies have found significant reductions in headache frequency with daily pharmacologic doses (400 mg) of riboflavin.  Furthermore, riboflavin was demonstrated to be a safe and well-tolerated alternative in migraine prevention and treatment. It even reduced the number of abortive anti-migraine tablets (ie. Ergotamines, triptans) used in migraine sufferers.

  • Magnesium is another important mineral to add to your treatment plan. Magnesium deficiency is a major contributing factor to the development of migraine headaches and many of us are deficient in magnesium.The recommended amount of magnesium is 600-800 mg a day in in divided doses throughout the day. Taking it in this manner maximizes its absorption.While there are many different oral forms of Magnesium, one form that be extremely beneficial for migraine sufferers is Magnesium Threonate. This is because it is able to penetrate the brain unlike other forms of Magnesium.
  • Ginkgolide B is an herbal extract derived from Ginkgo biloba. It is used not only for the acute attack of migraine headaches but is also extremely beneficial for the prevention of migraine headaches.In one study, patients with a history of migraine with auras when given  the combination of Gingkolide B, Coenzyme Q 10 and Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) demonstrated not only a decrease in the frequency of migraines with aura but also their duration.
  • Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone): Supplementation with Coq10 has demonstrated to decrease the frequency of migraines headaches.Because ubiquinone can have a blood pressure-lowering effect, it is recommended to begin at low doses. Begin at 50 mg twice a day and increase slowly over the next few weeks.
  • Omega 3 Fish Oil: Adding Omega 3 fish oil can help  in the prevention of migraines, especially in adolescents and young adults. In one study, Omega 3 supplementation decreased the recurrence of migraines in adolescents.Begin at a dose of 1000-2000 mg a day. This can  be slowly increased to 3-4 grams a day.As Omega 3 fish oil can thin the blood, talk with your healthcare practitioner if you are taking blood thinning medications such as Coumadin.

Bodywork

Acupuncture

Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles through your skin at strategic points on your body followed by gentle manipulation of the needles. Clinical trials have found that acupuncture may be helpful for headache pain. Because the pain of a migraine may be associated with the dilation of blood vessels in the head, increasing circulation in this area can worsen symptoms. Thus, a unique approach to the treatment of migraine attacks is used. By avoiding points in the head, neck and upper body, and instead using points exclusively in the lower body, dilation of the blood vessels of the head is limited.

Massage
Biofeedback

Biofeedback appears to be especially effective in relieving migraine pain. This relaxation technique uses special equipment to teach you how to monitor and control certain physical responses related to stress, such as muscle tension.

Manual therapy

Massage and chiropractic treatments may help reduce the frequency of migraines. They can also improve the quality of your sleep, which can, in turn, help prevent migraine attacks.

Prevention

  • Nutrition/Diet: refer to immediate above section
  • Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise reduces tension and can help prevent migraines. Progressive muscle relaxation, meditationand yoga don’t require any equipment.
  • Rest and relax: Spend at least a half-hour each day doing something you find relaxing — listening to music, gardening, taking a hot bath or reading. If possible, rest in a dark, quiet room when you feel the onset of a headache. Place an ice pack wrapped in a cloth on the back of your neck and apply gentle pressure to painful areas on your scalp.

Updated: August 2019

  • Agosti R, Duke RK, Chrubasik JE, Chrubasik S. Effectiveness of Petasites hybridus preparations in the prophylaxis of migraine: a systematic review. Phytomedicine 2006;13(9-10):743-6.
  • Dall’Acqua S, Viola G, Giorgetti M, Loi MC, Innocenti G. Two new sesquiterpene lactones from the leaves of Laurus nobilis. Chemical & pharmaceutical bulletin 2006;54 (8): 1187–1189.
  • Gilmore B, et al. Treatment of acute migraine headache. American Family Physician. 2011;83:271-280.
  • Hildreth C, Lynm C, Glass R. Migraine Headache. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2009;301(24):2608.
  • NINDS Migraine information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
  • Schoenen J, Jacquy J, Lenaerts M. Effectiveness of high-dose riboflavin in migraine prophylaxis. A randomized controlled trial. Neurology. 1998 Feb;50(2):466-70.
  • Vaughan T. The role of food in the pathogenesis ofmigraine headache. Clin Rev Allergy. 1994;12:167-180.
Categories
Condition

High Blood Pressure Natural Treatments

Written by Dr. Rich Snyder

High blood pressure (or hypertension) relates to a significant risk factor for a heart attack and heart disease, congestive heart failure (CHF), stroke, and kidney disease.

The holistic treatment of high blood pressure concerns evaluating for factors that can cause high blood pressure and bringing the body back into balance. This includes correcting nutrient deficiencies, promoting meditation-based therapies to reduce stress, and detoxification and supplementation when needed.

Often, there are multiple imbalances occurring simultaneously elevating the blood pressure that need to be managed. Applying a holistic approach and focusing on ways to correct body imbalances, can be successful in getting your blood pressure under control. The information that follows are high blood pressure natural treatments.

Overview

High blood pressure (or hypertension) is a significant health concern in many industrialized countries. In the United States, one out of every four people is diagnosed with high blood pressure. While genetics and a family history of high blood pressure do play a role in the development of hypertension, more significant influences include a high sodium, pro-inflammatory Western diet, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and long-term exposure to environmental toxins. Of note, this last risk factor is often overlooked by Western medicine, but elimination of toxins from the body remains an important aspect of treatment.

What exactly is blood pressure?

It is the measurement of the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Each time your heart beats, it pumps out blood into the arteries. When your heart beats, your blood pressure is at its highest. This is called the systolic blood pressure, and represents the top number on a blood pressure cuff. When your heart is at rest, in between beats, this is referred to as the diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number on a blood pressure cuff). Your blood pressure reading is a measurement of these two values. Usually they are written either one above or before the other.

How do I know if I have high blood pressure?

The numbers on the blood pressure cuff can tell you if your blood pressure is low, normal, or very high. A normal blood pressure is defined as 120/80 or lower.

  • Between 120 and 139 for the top number, or between 80 and 89 for the bottom number is called prehypertension. This stage is important because dietary and lifestyle changes can dramatically decrease the risk of developing hypertension.
  • A blood pressure measurement of 140/90 or higher is referred to as hypertension. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, adopting a healthy lifestyle is vital to lowering your blood pressure.

Why is having high blood pressure dangerous?

High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for a heart attack and heart disease, congestive heart failure (CHF), stroke, and kidney disease. Understand that uncontrolled blood pressure over time causes damage to the arteries and blood vessels over the entire body. They can cause significant damage to the inner lining of the blood vessels called the “endothelium.” This “endothelial damage” causes oxidative stress, the formation of toxic substances called free radicals, and worsening total body inflammation. Over time this can cause “narrowing” and “hardening” of the blood vessels through the formation of atherosclerotic (cholesterol) plaques in the blood vessel wall.

What are risk factors for hypertension?

There are other risk factors, in addition to those mentioned already, that increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. Some of these risk factors, you may not even be aware of. These can include:

  • Cigarette smoking

    Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, which can acutely “constrict” or narrow your blood vessels and raise blood pressure. Cigarettes are also filled with toxins, including the heavy metals mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic. Finally, tobacco is toxic to the blood vessels. It dramatically increases inflammation and exponentially increases the risk of atherosclerosis.

  • Poor sleep

    Sleeping less than eight hours a night as well as sleep apnea can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. In fact, sleep apnea is one of the most underdiagnosed causes for high blood pressure.

  • Pain

    Untreated pain, in addition to affecting quality of life, can be a significant cause of high blood pressure.

  • Increased Stress

    Stress naturally stimulates our body’s natural “fight or flight” instinct which can dramatically raise blood pressure.

  • Diabetes

    If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, this increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. Having diabetes also increases your risk of developing heart disease, vascular disease, and kidney disease.

What are other causes of high blood pressure?

Often, having one or more of the risk factors described above, in addition to your particular genetic susceptibility often can be a cause of hypertension. It is important to be aware of other causes high blood pressure as well. These can include kidney disease, sleep apnea, adrenal gland dysfunction, hyperthyroidism and hormonal imbalances. If you are younger than the age of eighteen or older than sixty-five and suddenly develop very high blood pressure, these may be potential causes of why you developed high blood pressure and should be further investigated.

What are some conventional treatments of high blood pressure?

The traditional treatment of high blood pressure includes the prescription use of medications. Commonly prescribed drug classes of anti-hypertensive medications include Beta-Blockers, Calcium Channel Blockers, Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors, Alpha blockers, and Diuretics.

  • Beta Blockers: These medications can slow your heart rate; other potential side effects can include fatigue, dizziness, and depression. If you have a history of a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or congestive heart failure (CHF), you may have been prescribed these medications as studies have shown them to be heart protective.
    Caution: Beta-Blockers can deplete the body of ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10), a potent anti-oxidant that is important not only for maintaining a healthy heart but also for maintaining cellular health as well.
  • ACE Inhibitors: These medications are used in the treatment of high blood pressure, CHF, and diabetes-related kidney disease. Studies have demonstrated that ACE Inhibitors have beneficial effects on your heart and kidneys. This class of medications can cause a cough anytime while you are taking this medication (not just when starting it). They can also cause high potassium levels as well. Rarely, this medication has been associated with an allergic-type of reaction called angioedema. Swelling of the tongue and face are signs of this potentially life-threatening condition.
    Caution: If you are experiencing nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea for any reason talk with your health care provider about temporarily stopping this medication until the above symptoms resolve. In this type of situation, this medication can adversely affect your kidney function. Blood tests to monitor your potassium and kidney function should be followed if you are taking this class of medications.
  • Calcium Channel Blockers: These medications can cause constipation and edema, or swelling especially of the legs, especially at higher doses of this class of medication.
  • Alpha Blockers: This medication is not only prescribed for high blood pressure, but it also is prescribed for men with Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy as it relaxes the bladder muscle and makes it easier to empty the bladder. This medication class can cause a condition called postural hypotension, meaning that when you stand up you can experience dizziness due to a drop in your blood pressure.
  • Diuretics: In addition to being used in the treatment of high blood pressure, medications such as Lasix (Furosemide) are often prescribed for the treatment of CHF and/or edema.
  • Caution: Diuretics, especially as we get older, can cause significant nutrient and mineral depletion, including low sodium, potassium, and magnesium levels. If you are taking this class of medications, your health care provider may ask you to have routine blood work done to monitor your electrolyte levels.

Nutrition

One of the most important changes necessary in the treatment of high blood pressure is changing your diet.  A diet higher in fruits and vegetables is recommended. Did you know that the new Food Pyramid actually recommends five to seven fruits and vegetables each and every day?

DASH Diet

One of the well-studied diets is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. The DASH diet not only lowered blood pressure it increased longevity and reduced the risk of developing other complications of high blood pressure, including congestive heart failure (CHF) as well as dramatically reducing the risk of developing diabetes.

This diet advocates the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It emphasizes reducing foods high in polyunsaturated fats as well as significantly reducing the amount of meat-based protein in the diet. Notwithstanding the chemicals, toxins, food additives, and antibiotics that may have been used in the preparation of the meat, high animal protein intake increases total body inflammation, which plays an important role in the development of high blood pressure.

Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet

Another diet that has been extensively studied in the treatment of high blood pressure is the Mediterranean diet. Like the DASH diet, this diet stresses the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats, particularly promoting the use of olive oil instead of butter. Eating fish, especially salmon twice a week is recommended for its high Omega 3 content. Much research has been done advocating the many benefits of the Mediterranean diet, especially for its heart protective effects.

A plant-based diet can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure as well as lowering high blood pressure once diagnosed. It also has many other significant health benefits.

Treating high blood pressure successfully also means reducing the consumption of the following:

  • Caffeine

    Coffee and other caffeinated beverages should be avoided as they can elevate blood pressure. The first morning cup of coffee can be stressful not only on the heart, but also on your adrenal glands as well.

  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

    Foods high in fructose corn syrup not only have the ability to increase high blood pressure, but can also cause your body to produce more insulin than it needs. Excessive consumption of foods high in HFCS can increase the risk of developing diabetes as well. As a consumer, it is very important to read food labels carefully.

  • Sodium

    As a society, we consume a lot more sodium than we need.  For the general population, it is recommended that you consume no more than 2000 mg of sodium a day in your diet. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, then you should lower the amount of sodium to a maximum amount of 1500 mg a day. Again, be observant of the sodium content of the food you buy. Did you know that some canned soups can have up to 1000 mg of sodium per can?  It is also important to limit the salt shaker. One-fourth of a teaspoon of salt contains about 600 mg of sodium.

Supplements

Key nutrient and mineral imbalances can dramatically increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is essential that this aspect of treatment be addressed. Be aware that some prescription medications can cause nutrient deficiencies that need to be supplemented, including ubiquinone (see below) and low potassium and magnesium levels.

  • Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone)

    Replacement of this antioxidant is necessary to help improve blood vessel health and lower high blood pressure. Be aware that several classes of medications, including the statins (prescribed for the treatment of high cholesterol), beta- blockers, and a group of medications used in the treatment of diabetes (oral sulfonylureas) can deplete your body of this vital anti-oxidant. If you are on a typical Western based diet, you need to add Coenzyme Q10 to your regimen.  Begin at low doses, starting at 50-100 mg daily and increase to twice a day after several weeks. Smaller doses taken during the day maximizes its absorption. Monitor your blood pressure closely. If you have diabetes, this nutrient can also help lower your blood glucose levels and need to be monitored as well.

  • Magnesium 

    Many, if not all of us in Western countries are depleted of this vital nutrient. Magnesium helps to dilate the blood vessels and helps keep them pliable and flexible. It again is important for maintaining the health of our blood vessels. By eating vegetables, seeds (sunflower and sesame for example), and nuts (almonds and Brazil nuts for example) you can get a lot of magnesium. If needed, magnesium can also be supplemented either orally or in a gel or oil formulation applied directly to the skin.  Chelated magnesium is a form of magnesium taken orally without the heavy metals. This can be started once a day and increased to twice a day for a total dose of 400-600 mg. Note that very high doses of magnesium can cause diarrhea. An alternative is to apply Magnesium gel to your skin once or twice daily. Applied at night, this can help you get a great night’s sleep as well (Low Magnesium levels can also affect your quality of sleep). If you have been told that you have kidney problems, you may need to monitor blood magnesium levels and limit your magnesium intake.

  • Olive Leaf Extract

    In addition to treating high blood pressure, this is a potent anti-oxidant that can reduce total body inflammation and maintain intestinal health (by decreasing Candida overgrowth). In one study, Olive leaf extract was comparable to the ACE Inhibitor Captopril in lowering blood pressure. Start at 500 mg daily and slowly increase to 500 mg twice a day over the course of several weeks. A “usual” dose for the treatment of high blood pressure can be 1000 mg twice a day. Again, be sure to monitor your blood pressure closely.

  • Pomegranate

    This is great not only for maintaining and improving the health of your blood vessels, but also for keeping your heart healthy. This supplement comes in many forms. One way to keep track of what you are taking is to purchase this supplement in capsule form starting at 500 mg daily.

  • Hawthorne Extract

    While this can be used in the treatment of high blood pressure, significant research has demonstrated its beneficial effects in the treatment of CHF. It does have blood pressure lowering effects. Start at 250 mg twice daily; this dose can be increased slowly.

  • Calcium

    It is not recommended that calcium be taken as a supplement.  Recent studies show that calcium taken in supplement form may increase the risk of developing a heart attack. It is better to increase your dietary intake of calcium. Many of the same foods that are high in magnesium also contain significant amounts of calcium as well. These include the leafy greens, such as broccoli and kale, seeds, and nuts.

  • Garlic

    Not only is garlic excellent for keeping the blood vessels soft and pliable, it is an-antioxidant. It is also excellent for the treatment of high cholesterol as it decreases the inflammation of “cholesterol plaque.” Aged garlic extract can be taken in capsule form starting at 400-600 mg a day. As garlic is a natural blood thinner, be careful if you are on prescription blood thinning medications such as aspirin, Plavix, or Coumadin.

  • Grape Seed Extract

    This is a great anti-oxidant, and also has blood-pressure lowering properties. In one study, those taking grape seed extract compared to placebo experienced a decrease not only in systolic but also diastolic blood pressure. While there are various preparations in capsule form, start at 200 mg daily and increase slowly.

Reducing Pain & Treating Inflammation

Reducing pain and keeping the body in alignment is so important in the treatment of high blood pressure. While traditional therapy often involves prescribing a medication to “lessen the pain,” the goal should be to get to the route of the problem as to what is causing the pain. Pain is often a result of inflammation and a body that may be structurally out of alignment. Conversely, pain can also be a cause of the body being out of alignment. When your body is not structurally aligned, altered spinal mechanics can increase the activity of the body’s “sympathetic nervous system” which can raise blood pressure. Back pain, which is a common reason that people visit their health care practitioner, can be debilitating.

Choosing the Right Practitioner

There are various practitioners  that can help you not only identify body alignment issues, but also help you develop a plan to structurally get your body back into balance, identify the source of your pain, and then work with you to develop a treatment plan.  They include practitioners of osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, chiropractic care, and structural integration specialists.  Getting your vertebrae in alignment can dramatically help in the treatment of high blood pressure.

Considering Supplements for the Relief of Pain and Inflammation

There are several supplements that you should consider that can help with pain, but as with many natural treatments, provide other health benefits as well, including blood pressure lowering effects. Omega 3 fish oil is tremendous, not only for reducing inflammation and helping with pain, but it can also help with blood pressure and maintain the health of the blood vessels.

Omega-3Omega 3 fish oil supplementation is especially important if your diet is a typical Western diet which is often low in Omega 3 and high in Omega 6, which can promote inflammation and pain. In one study, omega 3 supplementation was as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (like Motrin) at relieving pain. You can start at 2000 mg a day and increase slowly to a maximum of 4-5 grams a day. Be aware that Omega 3 fish oil can thin the blood, so you may need to decrease your dosage if you are taking any blood thinners.

Turmeric is a great anti-oxidant that can reduce inflammation and pain. It can be taken as a 400 mg capsule daily or simply buy Turmeric powder and sprinkle a little on each meal. In one study, Turmeric was as effective as an analgesic in controlling post-operative pain.

Concerning magnesium, note that low magnesium levels can not only exacerbate high blood pressure but also promote pain and inflammation. For sore muscle and/or joints, the use of Magnesium gel or oil applied directly to the area can promote healing and reduce inflammation and increase joint and muscle mobility and flexibility.

Exercise

Our bodies were meant to move. Beginning an exercise regimen is crucial in lowering blood pressure. Walking thirty minutes four times a week has benefits of not only improving endurance, but also strengthening the heart as well as helping you lose weight. Other forms of exercise include jogging, biking, swimming and aquatic-based therapy. Exercising in the water is not only rejuvenating, but as it reduces the wear, tear, and constant pounding on the joints, it is an ideal choice, especially if you are suffering from arthritis or have difficulty walking. Depending on your health issues, it is recommended that you see your health care practitioner to develop a personalized exercise regimen that matches your likes and limitations. Don’t forget to include muscle resistance training into your exercise regimen.

YogaYoga

Yoga is a great way to increase total body flexibility but also reduce pain (especially back pain) and reduce stress. It is important to start slowly and work with a certified instructor to learn the right way to do each exercise. Yoga and tai chi represent a form of exercise that not only improve muscle strength and flexibility and does not require the use of expensive equipment but are also great stress relievers and can lower blood pressure.

Reducing Stress and Meditating

Meditative deep breathing is a great way to relieve stress and lower blood pressure. It only takes five minutes to do and you should try to incorporate this several times into your day. Meditation on a daily basis reduces stress and brings the body back into balance. Yoga can also be a great way to reduce stress. Don’t forget the role of exercise in stress reduction as well.

Detoxification

Detoxification is the process of eliminating the toxic substances and heavy metals from the body. Chronic exposure to heavy metals and the buildup of these toxins in the body tissues over time is an unrecognized cause of hypertension. Eliminating these toxins through detoxification is an excellent way to bring balance back to the body, as well as restore and rejuvenate. Detoxification should not occur quickly; slower detoxification regimens over several days to a few weeks are recommended as it allows you time to adjust.

Keeping yourself properly hydrated, as well as the use of anti-oxidants and chelation agents such as green tea, Vitamin C, garlic, and alpha lipoic acid are kidney friendly and allow your kidney to slowly eliminate the heavy metals and other toxins slowly. The use of a probiotic to replenish intestinal flora and a greens supplement is recommended to supplement nutrients and anti-oxidants during your detoxification regimen.


Updated: March, 2013

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Categories
Condition

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Natural Treatments

Reviewed & edited by Dr. Jeffrey C. Lederman, DO, MPH and Julie A. Cerrato, PhD, AP, CYT, CAP

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a serious, chronic condition involving a problem with the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that results in acid reflux and additional symptoms, like heartburn. The term GERD is often used interchangeably with acid reflux or heartburn, however the conditions have distinct differences.

The following is information on Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease natural treatments.

Overview

Acid reflux

Acid reflux is the action of acid flowing back into the esophagus, and occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle that acts as a valve between the esophagus and stomach, does not function properly. Chronic episodes of acid reflux constitute Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD.i

Heartburn

Heartburn is a single or infrequent solitary event of stomach acid leaking back to the esophagus that creates a burning sensation and can be caused by specific food and drink, like alcohol, black pepper, chocolate, coffee, fatty food, fried food, ketchup, mustard, onions, orange juice, peppermint, soft drinks, tomato sauce, or vinegar. Heartburn should not be confused with the condition GERD/acid reflux since it is only a symptom of the condition. When acid refluxes into the esophagus, it stimulates nerves that produce a “burning” sensation, often behind the breastbone, commonly felt by heartburn sufferers.ii

How Does GERD Feel?

GERD presents with symptoms that include acid leaking into the esophagus, regurgitation of refluxed liquid or food into the mouth, heartburn, coughing, wheezing, nausea and/or vomiting.

Depending on one’s individual case, heartburn may be infrequent or frequent. Episodes tend to occur periodically, whereby they may present regularly for a timeframe of several weeks or months and then begin to occur less frequently, or may even be absent for several weeks or months.

In most cases of GERD, only small amounts of liquid typically reach the lower esophagus. In occasional cases, larger amounts of liquid, sometimes containing food, may reflux and reach the upper esophagus.Individuals who suffer from GERD may experience nausea and/or heartburn. While nausea is uncommon in patients with GERD, it may be frequent and can occasionally result in vomiting. In patients who experience unexplained nausea and/or vomiting, GERD is one of the first considered conditions. Yet it is not understood why some people with GERD develop mainly heartburn and other patients develop mainly nausea.iii

How Is GERD Conventionally Treated?

Many individuals suffering from the symptoms of GERD, like nausea or heartburn, will likely visit their primary care physician (PCP) first.iv Gastroenterologists, who treat the digestive system, are the specialists for GERD when primary care physicians, such as Family Practice and Internal Medicine physicians, are unable to assist the patients with controlling their GERD symptoms.

GERD can be diagnosed via a series of tests. Gastroenterologists may use esophageal pH monitoring, endoscopy, or manometry to ascertain whether a patient’s symptoms constitute GERD. Esophageal ph monitoring provides a direct physiologic monitoring of acid in the esophagus during a 24-48 hour period, and is mainly performed to rule out GERD if one’s symptoms are not typical for acid reflux. Endoscopy uses a flexible tube with light and video camera on the end to examine the esophagus for inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis), narrowing of the esophagus (strictures), and for an abnormal change in the lining of the esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus). Manometry determines problems of movement and valve pressure in the esophagus, and allows doctors to measure function of the LES.v

Once GERD is confirmed, physicians may treat the condition by suggesting certain lifestyle changes and/or by prescribing over-the-counter antacids, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and prescription drugs. Medication is used to neutralize acid or improve gastric emptying. Treatments done with an endoscope are performed and,in rare cases, surgery is necessary.vi

Three types of drugs are generally used to treat GERD. They include antacids such as Maalox, Rolaids, and Tums, antistamine H2-blockers such as Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantac, and proton pump inhibitors such as Aciphex, Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Protonix, Kapidex, Dexilant, and Zegerid. Taking antacids may be helpful for the initial treatment of minor or infrequent symptoms of GERD. H-2 blockers cut the stomach’s production of acid and are most effective for people with chronic, mild GERD. They are available in half strength doses OTC and in prescription doses as well.

For people with moderate or severe GERD, doctors may initially prescribe H-2 blockers or choose a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). PPIs are stronger than H-2 blockers, since they turn off acid pumps that stimulate the production of acid from the stomach. They are available in prescription strength, and Prilosec OTC, Prevacid 24hr, and Zegerid OTC are available over the counter. For complicated or chronic GERD, proton pump inhibitors are taken indefinitely. Consulting a physician to assess GERD and its associated symptoms prior to taking OTC or prescription medication is highly recommended so that more serious problems are not being overlooked.vii

Holistic Healing for GERD Sufferers

GERD is often challenging to treat even with clinically prescribed medication. Holistic healing for GERD offers a broad whole-body approach to potentially resolving both symptoms and the root cause of GERD. Several holistic healing modalities present healing methods for treating GERD including Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yoga & Meditation, Aromatherapy and Homeopathy.

Ayurveda

Through the lens of Ayurveda, the root cause of GERD is thought to be an initial imbalance of the digestive forces within the digestive system. The imbalance often stems from stress, worry and anxiety and results in a reaction to “fiery” or spicy food. Ayurveda aims to address this imbalance by restoring the digestive system back to a balance state.Natural Holistic Ayurvedic

GERD often presents with an upward moving force pushing food and acid into the esophagus instead of allowing it to be properly digested in the stomach. When sufferers of GERD eat spicy, heating foods that cause gastric irritation, acid in the stomach can leak out of the stomach, resulting in reflux. GERD sufferers often feel nausea prior to this as an early sign.

Ayurveda uses a combination of bodily treatments, diet, and herbal supplements to address the symptoms of GERD and restore the suffer’s energetic imbalances. Ayurveda also uses Yoga and Meditation as complementary techniques for treating GERD.

Ayurvedic body treatments that are particularly beneficial for calming and balancing nervous energy associated with GERD include a bodily oil massage called abhyanga and shirodhara, a method of oil streaming to the forehead to sync scattered neurons.

Abhyanga uses the healing benefits of sesame oil infused with herbs to treat GERD imbalances. Massaging the body invigorates tired, sore muscles and stimulates lymphatic drainage to remove toxins from the circulatory system. Warming the oil prior to its application helps open pores for optimal absorption and calming of the nervous system.

Shirodhara is a unique Ayurvedic treatment that involves pouring a thin stream of warm, herbal sesame oil onto the center of the forehead or space between the eyes known as the ajna chakra. Although the exact mechanism of Shirodhara is still unknown, the current hypothesis points to the regulation of neurons and stimulation of the hypothalamus.viii

An Ayurvedic diet used to treat GERD may include cooling foods that are gently cooked, easy to digest and soothing, such as broth soups, steamed vegetables, lentils or basmati rice. Common Ayurvedic herbs used to treat GERD include avipattikar, slippery elm, amalaki, brahmi and haritaki. An Ayurvedic Practitioner may also use a combination of these as in an herbal formula like Cool Digest from Lifespa.com.

Yoga & Meditation

Ayurveda’s sister science Yoga offers several complementary, self-healing techniques for GERD sufferers. Yoga poses (asanas) that are cooling and restorative can help promote relaxation and decrease heat in the body. Asanas like Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining angle pose), Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose), Viparita Karini (legs up the wall pose) and Savasana (corpse pose) will calm the body.Yoga Meditation

GERD sufferers should avoid Yoga poses that constrict or put pressure on the abdomen such as seated twists, forward folds, and inversions such as shoulder or head stand. They may also wish to adopt a calming, gentle Yoga practice instead of a vigorous one, to relieve digestive and whole body aggravation.

Often, the Yogic regulation of breath, called prayayama, is useful in controlling the upward energy creating the acid reflux, nausea or vomiting associated with GERD. Individuals may wish to try cooling pranayama , such as Sheetali/Sitali (Cooling Breath) ixx or Sitkari Pranayamaxi to rebalance the fire and wind elements.

A renewed Yoga practice combining restorative asanas and calming pranayama with the addition of Meditation may be very helpful in controlling or eliminating GERD. Meditation is a powerful tool for reducing stress and anxiety. As Eastern medicine modalities view the root cause of GERD to be stress, the use of calm, relaxing meditation techniques can be highly beneficial. Through its focus on observation and breathing, meditation helps to calm nerves and stimulate proper functioning of the body’s systems.

For a simple meditation, exhale deeply through your nose. Then, inhale slowly through both nostrils to a fixed count of 4 or 5 and exhale for the same count Repeat five to 10 times, each time focusing intently on your breath. xii

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) supports the idea that our bodies, out of balance due to years of stress and unhealthy lifestyle choices, can be brought back to equilibrium through practices like herbalism, moxibustion, cupping, acupressure, and acupuncture. These practices aim to balance the “Five Elements” (or five elemental qualities) that make up our bodies and all phenomena of the universe.Natural Holistic Chinese Medicine

According to TCM, instances of heartburn and reflux associated with GERD are most often caused by emotional upset and ingesting improper foods. Similar to Ayurveda, TCM views GERD as having an imbalance that arises when the chi (energy) of acid reflux rises when it should sink.

Herbs and medicines in the Chinese tradition function to rebalance chi and body’s digestion process. Several herbs and herbal formulas are available from a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner that will address this misdirection of chi, manage the acid reflux and help quell additional symptoms of GERD.
Some common TCM herbs used for GERD include:

  • bai shao
  • shan zha
  • chai hu

Some common TCM formulas for GERD include:

  • xiao yao san
  • si ni san
  • ping wei san.xiii

Acupressure/Acupuncture

A part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture supports the idea that our bodies, while out of balance due to years of stress and unhealthy lifestyle choices, can be brought back to equilibrium through the practice of needling points on energy channels (located throughout the body) called meridians.

AcupunctureAcupressure, or shiatsu, works with the same system of meridians and points but does not use needles. A shiatsu practitioner uses his or her fingers to hold down acupressure points on the body, therefore rebalancing one’s chi, or life force, to promote health.

Some common Acupuncture or Acupressure points xiv used to treat GERD include:

  • Pericardium 6-Nei Guan-Inner Pass/Inner Gate xv
  • Spleen 16-Fu Ai-Abdomen Sorrow xvi
  • Conception Vessel 6/Ren Mai 6-Qi Hai-Sea of Qi/Sea of Energy xvii
  • Conception Vessel 12/Ren Mai 12-Zhong Wan-Middle Cavity xviii

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses the medicinal properties of essential oils drawn from plants and herbs to treat a variety of conditions ranging from skin disorders and infections to stress and immune deficiencies. Luckily, there are specific essential oils which can help treat symptoms of GERD.

aromatherapyAll oils that are being applied to the body should be diluted in a carrier oil before use or may be diluted in water if taking a bath. Alternatively, essential oils can be directly inhaled via drops on a tissue or the use of an aromatherapy diffuser.

Some essential oils and formulas that may help with GERD include:

  • Digestion Support by Heritage Essential Oils

    Containing a mixture of tarragon, ginger, peppermint, juniper berry, anise, fennel, lemongrass, and patchouli oils, Digestion Support helps to relieve acid reflux and heartburn. Ginger essential oil helps eliminate bacteria that can cause acid reflux xix, while tarragon oil has “antispasmodic, antiparasitic, anti-fermentation and digestive aid properties” that can help GERD sufferers.xx 

  • DigestZen by doTerra

    This formula contains ginger, peppermint, tarragon, fennel, caraway, coriander, and anise essential oils, all of which work together to restore balance in the digestive system. Fennel oil has long been used to treat stomach disorders like indigestion and acid reflux.xxi Applying peppermint oil in combination with caraway oil in a carrier oil to the body, may reduce feelings of fullness and mild gastrointestinal (GI) spasms.

  • Lemon Oil

    Lemon oil’s antibacterial properties may be effective against H. pylori bacteria in the stomach. Application of lemon essential oil in a carrier oil to one’s stomach may temporarily sooth the stomach and has the potential to reduce the excretion of digestive acids associated with heartburn.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy, developed by German doctor Samuel Hahnemann in the early 1700s, strives to relieve emotional and mental imbalances to restore the health of one’s body, mind, and spirit. Homeopathic remedies are made from minerals, animals, and plants, and professional homeopaths consider each individual’s constitutional type: physical, emotional, and genetic, before prescribing remedies. The philosophy of homeopathy follows the idea that toxic substances in diluted quantities can also be remedies; a medicine which in large quantities causes the symptoms of a disease will in smaller amounts cure the disease.

Natural Holistic HomeopathyIn relation to GERD, homeopathic medicines help lessen acidic build-up, strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter, and rebalance pH by cleansing and restoring the digestive system.xxii

Some common homeopathic remedies are:

  • Acidil Tablets for Indigestion

    Acidil tablets temporarily soothe occasional heartburn, acid indigestion, bloating, or upset stomach. They contain Abies nigra 4C HPUS, which relieves stomach pain after eating, Carbo vegetablilis 4C HPUS, which treats stomach bloating with gas, Nux vomica 4C HPUS (has less than 10-9 mg alkaloids) which combats heartburn due to excessive eating and drinking, and Robinia pseudoacacia 4C HPUS, which relieves heartburn with acid indigestion.

  • Cinchona Officinalis (Peruvian bark, Cinchona) for Diarrhea

    The main use of Cinchona Officinalis is to treat diarrhea accompanied by gas and bloating, which is accomplished through the main active ingredient, Cinchona officinalis 3X to 30X – 3C to 30C HPUS.

  • Gasalia® Tablets

    Gasalia® Tablets temporarily relieve bloating, pressure, discomfort and pain associated with gas. They contain four active ingredients, all of which perform unique functions. Carbo vegetabilis 6C HPUS soothes stomach bloating with gas, Lycopodium clavatum 6C HPUS relieves a bloated lower abdomen, Nux moschata 6C HPUS eases abdominal bloating accompanied by constipation, and Raphanus sativus 6C HPUS relieves abdominal bloating caused by difficulty passing gas.

Holistic Lifestyle Changes for GERD

Once one is aware of the lifestyle changes that can alleviate symptoms of GERD, consistent self-care helps enforce the healing process. Lifestyle changes involve cutting out certain foods from one’s diet, supplementing one’s diet with healthy foods, and paying attention to the body.

Elevate Your Head
Elevated Head during Sleep

If symptoms of GERD arise during sleep, elevate the head of your bed at least six inches. Placing a wood/cement block between the box spring and the mattress at the head of the bed may be ideal. The goal of elevation should be to raise your head higher than your stomach, so just increasing the amount of pillows may not work. Elevating your head will help keep stomach acid from rising.xxiii

Lose Weight

Research shows that excess weight creates a greater likelihood of GERD. Belly fat especially puts pressure on the stomach, which in turn causes fluids to rise up and reflux. For those who are overweight, losing as little as 5-10 pounds can help decrease one’s chance of developing GERD.xxiv

Avoid Cigarettes

In addition to the various harmful effects of cigarettes, cigarette smoking raises one’s chances of developing GERD. Smoking slows the creation of saliva, which protects the esophagus with it’s essential acid-reducing chemicals. In addition, smoking can weaken the LES, and it stimulates the creation of stomach acid.xxv

Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake and drink more water
Glass of water

Much like smoking cigarettes, caffeinated beverages and alcohol can raise acid production in one’s stomach. To avoid this, do not exceed 1-2 cups of coffee or tea per day. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation—men should not have more than two drinks per day, and women should not have more than one drink per day.

Make sure to drink water—at least 6-8 cups per day—to neutralize stomach acid and rinse out the stomach acid refluxed into the esophagus.xxvi

Holistic Diet & Nutrition for GERD

citrus fruitCarefully Selecting Dietary Items

Diet plays an important role in the prevention and treatment of GERD. Foods that can trigger GERD include fatty or fried foods, coffee, tea, alcohol, spicy foods, oranges and other citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, carbonated beverages, chocolate and mint.

GERD sufferers may wish to keep a food journal, observe one’s own reactions to different kinds of foods, and cut out those that trigger symptoms. In addition, supplementing the diet with foods that help to prevent GERD—leafy greens, melons, bananas, oatmeal, tofu, fennel, parsley, and rice is recommended to help soothe symptoms.xxvii

Eliminate fructose and artificial sweeteners

Studies have shown that fructose and artificial sweeteners increase bacterial overgrowth. Eliminate artificial sweeteners from your diet completely, and reduce fructose (especially in processed form).xxviii

BranLower or Eliminate Fiber In The Diet

Reducing or avoiding fiber in the diet can restore healthy levels of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. There is a growing body of evidence that less may be more when it comes to fiber. High fiber diets have been shown to contribute to bacterial overgrowth and may worsen GERD. Because about 15-20% of the starch and most of the fiber we consume escape absorption, these carbohydrates that escape digestion turn into food for intestinal bacteria to thrive on.

In addition, pre-biotics (fructo-oligosaccharides), which are fermented foods typically used to restore gut flora and feed beneficial gut bacteria, should probably be avoided in patients with heartburn and GERD for similar reasons to fiber. While these are helpful in restoring bacterial balance for some people, studies show that pre-biotics raise levels of gas produced in the gut, which then affects GERD sufferers.xxix

Furthermore, fiber has the potential of binding with essential nutrients and removing them from the body before they are absorbed. This is especially harmful for patients with GERD, who might be missing key nutrients due to prolonged hypochlorydria (low stomach acid).

Low-carbohydrate diet

Because high carbohydrate diets create the potential for bacterial overgrown, it makes sense to eat less carbohydrates and supplement the diet with other, more symptom-reducing, foods. Bacterial overgrowth is associated with an ongoing decline of digestive function.

In a study done at Duke University, professors took a look at five patients with GERD that also had other medical problems like diabetes. All of the patients had failed conventional GERD treatments before the study, and even though some of the patients continued to drink, smoke, and take other GERD-unfriendly habits, in each patient’s case symptoms of GERD were eliminated within one week of taking on a very low carbohydrate diet.

In another study, professors at Yale examined how the VLC (Very Low Carbohydrate ) diet on eight obese subjects with severe GERD could help. Measuring the esophageal pH of the subjects before and after the study, all five patients were able to decrease levels of acid in the esophagus. Because obesity is a risk factor for GERD, the benefit of a low-carb diet is that it also promotes weight loss.

VLC diets do not have to be continued for long periods of time: once one has recovered his or her digestive function, a diet low to moderate in carbohydrates is adequate to prevent a recurrence of symptoms.xxx

GAPS diet/Specific carbohydrate diet

In this diet, patients focus not on the quantity of the carbohydrates that they eat, but on the quality, or type, of carbohydrates that they eat.

Specific Carbohydrate DietDeveloped by Sidney V. Haas, M.D., the Specific Carbohydrate Diet helps cure the unbalanced relationship between carbohydrates and intestinal microbes. It is this imbalance that often causes gastrointestinal disorders: bacteria multiply and food absorption declines in the gastrointestinal tract, and the body has difficulty digesting carbohydrates because of microbial overgrowth and toxins.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet follows that longer-chain carbohydrates (monosaccharides) do not pose a problem; while all grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables are eliminated, fruits and specific non-starchy root vegetables, like turnips, winter squash, rutabaga, and celery root, can be eaten.

According to Elaine Gotschall, M.Sc., if this diet is rigidly followed, many intestinal disorders “appear to be cured at the end of a year.” This diet focuses on eliminating all cereal grains in any form, while at the same time cutting out dairy products and processed foods.xxxii 

Mastic Resin (resin from the variety of the pistachio tree)

Mastic, a resin obtained from the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern varieties of the pistachio tree (Pistacia lentiscus), is often called “Arabic gum” or “Yemen gum” in pharmacies and natural health food stores. Mastic resin has been used to relieve gastritis xli, inflammation in Crohn’s patients xlii and may inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori), a bacteria which may impair one’s ability to recover from GERD.xxxiii 

Bitters
fennel

Bitter herbs, or “bitters”, have been used to improve digestion in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Recently, studies have confirmed bitters to increase the flow and quality of digestive juices, including HCL, bile, pepsin, gastrin and pancreatic enzymes.xxxiv

Bitters are usually taken in small doses (just enough to create a strong taste of bitterness).

Some common bitter herbs commonly used in Western and Chinese herbology include barberry bark, caraway, dandelion, fennel, gentian root, ginger, globe artichoke, goldenseal root, hops, milk thistle, peppermint,wormwood and yellow dock. See a licensed herbalist to tailor herbal treatments to your own constitution.xxxv

Eat Foods Containing Probiotics

Since bacterial overgrowth is a major factor in heartburn and GERD, restoring a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria is an essential part of treatment. Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, help create balanced intestinal levels, and they also protect against potential pathogens. Like bitter herbs, probiotics help treat H. pylori infections.

Contrary to what a lot of the marketing of commercial probiotic manufacturers say, you can get your probiotics from the foods you eat.

Apple Cider VinegarFor thousands of years, fermented foods have been consumed for their probiotic health benefits, and foods like yogurt and kefir generally have high concentrations of beneficial microorganisms. Apple cider vinegar, raw (unpasteurized) sauerkraut and pickles, and kombucha are time-tested, fermented remedies that often relieve symptoms of heartburn and GERD.

Although these remedies may resolve symptoms, they do not increase nutrient absorption and assimilation to the extent that HCL supplements do. This may be important for those who have been taking acid suppressing drugs for a long period. Furthermore, fermented milk products like kefir and yogurt offer more nutritional benefits than beneficial bacteria alone, including amino acids, vitamins, minerals, protein, L-carnitine, fats, CLA, and antimicrobial agents.

One caveat to treating GERD with fermented milk products is that they are relatively high in carbohydrates, which may create problems for people with severe overgrowth of bacteria. In these cases, small amounts of kefir and yogurt may be therapeutic. Homemade kefir and yogurt are best, as the microorganism count will be much higher. If you want to avoid dairy, but also want the health benefits of kefir, make water kefir, a Mexican remedy. Water kefir grains, also known as sugar kefir grains, allow fermentation of juice or sugar water to produce a carbonated lacto-fermented beverage.xxxvi

Bone Broth

Since many factors can lead to a damaged gut lining including bacterial overgrowth, chronic stress, medications, restoring a balanced stomach lining is important in recovering from GERD. The mucosal lining of the stomach protects it from its own acid, so a damaged stomach lining can lead to irritation, pain, and even ulcers.

Homemade bone broth soups work to restore a healthy mucosal lining in the stomach. They contain collagen and gelatin, which have been shown to help people with ulcers. Bone broths are also high in proline, a non-essential amino acid that is an essential precursor for the creation of collagen. Glutamine is also present in bone broth, and is a crucial metabolic fuel for cells in the intestine. It has been shown to help the gut lining in animal studies.xxxvii

Products and Equipment to Help Relieve GERD

MedclineRest/Sleep

  • Medcline
    Medcline is a specially designed pillow used for preventing acid reflux/GERD when one sleeps. Use it if you experience symptoms of GERD while sleeping. The goal of Medcline is to position the head higher than the stomach.

Supplements

  • GES-5

    A product called GES-5 helps prevent the action of reflux so commonly associated with GERD. In the form of a chewable tablet, it contains alginic acid, sodium alginate, slippery elm, and deglycyrrhized licorice. The combination of these ingredients when joined with saliva and gastric juices helps create a foamy layer of froth. This layer, functioning as a barrier to prevent acid and food reflux, sits on top of gastric contents of the stomach. It prevents refluxed material from coming into contact with the esophagus lining so that pain, discomfort, and further damage to the lining of the esophagus can be avoided.In addition, slippery elm and deglycyrrhized licorice are demulcents that calm irritated esophageal tissue. They also help the lining of the esophagus heal. Two tablets should be chewed and swallowed after a meal, and drinking a glass of water after chewing the tablets is suggested. Keep in mind that the “alginic raft” endures for about two hours, which is sufficient time for the stomach to break down a meal.xxxviii 

  • Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)

    Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) raises the concentration of prostaglandins, compounds which promote mucous secretion, stabilize cell membranes, and inspire new cell growth. All of these actions help create a healthy gut lining.It is important to note that chronic stress and the use of NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) suppresses production of prostaglandins, so if using DGL to treat GERD, manage stress and avoid the use of NSAIDs whenever possible.xxxix 

Aromatherapy

  • Digestion Support by Heritage Essential Oils

    Containing a mixture of tarragon, ginger, peppermint, juniper berry, anise, fennel, lemongrass, and patchouli oils, Digestion Support helps to relieve acid reflux and heartburn. Ginger essential oil helps eliminate bacteria that can cause acid reflux xix, while tarragon oil has “antispasmodic, antiparasitic, anti-fermentation and digestive aid properties” that can help GERD sufferers.xx 

  • DigestZenDigestZen by doTerra

    This formula contains ginger, peppermint, tarragon, fennel, caraway, coriander, and anise essential oils, all of which work together to restore balance in the digestive system. Fennel oil has long been used to treat stomach disorders like indigestion and acid reflux.xxi Applying peppermint oil in combination with caraway oil in a carrier oil to the body, may reduce feelings of fullness and mild gastrointestinal (GI) spasms.

  • Lemon Oil

    Lemon oil’s antibacterial properties may be effective against H. pylori bacteria in the stomach. Application of lemon essential oil in a carrier oil to one’s stomach may temporarily sooth the stomach and has the potential to reduce the excretion of digestive acids associated with heartburn.

Homeopathy

  • AcidilAcidil Tablets for Indigestion

    Acidil tablets temporarily soothe occasional heartburn, acid indigestion, bloating, or upset stomach. They contain Abies nigra 4C HPUS, which relieves stomach pain after eating, Carbo vegetablilis 4C HPUS, which treats stomach bloating with gas, Nux vomica 4C HPUS (has less than 10-9 mg alkaloids) which combats heartburn due to excessive eating and drinking, and Robinia pseudoacacia 4C HPUS, which relieves heartburn with acid indigestion.

  • Cinchona Officinalis (Peruvian bark, Cinchona) for Diarrhea

    The main use of Cinchona Officinalis is to treat diarrhea accompanied by gas and bloating, which is accomplished through the main active ingredient, Cinchona officinalis 3X to 30X – 3C to 30C HPUS.

  • Gasalia® Tablets

    Gasalia® Tablets temporarily relieve bloating, pressure, discomfort and pain associated with gas. They contain four active ingredients, all of which perform unique functions. Carbo vegetabilis 6C HPUS soothes stomach bloating with gas, Lycopodium clavatum 6C HPUS relieves a bloated lower abdomen, Nux moschata 6C HPUS eases abdominal bloating accompanied by constipation, and Raphanus sativus 6C HPUS relieves abdominal bloating caused by difficulty passing gas.

Community Resources for GERD

American Gastroenterological Association

Updated: October 2014


Written by Nicole Kagan

Reviewed & edited by Dr Jeffrey Lederman and Julie A. Cerrato, PhD

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  • xx Di-Gize Essential Oil Takes On Stomach Challenges and More!. (n.d.). Experience-Essential-Oils.com . Retrieved July 24, 2014, from http://www.experience-essential-oils.com/di-gize-essential-oil.html
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  • xxiii http://www.doctoroz.com/slideshow/say-goodbye-gerd?gallery=true&page=7
  • xxiv http://www.doctoroz.com/slideshow/say-goodbye-gerd?gallery=true&page=7
  • xxv http://www.doctoroz.com/slideshow/say-goodbye-gerd?gallery=true&page=4
  • xxvi http://www.doctoroz.com/slideshow/say-goodbye-gerd?gallery=true&page=5
  • xxvii http://www.doctoroz.com/slideshow/say-goodbye-gerd?gallery=true&page=2
  • xxviii http://chriskresser.com/get-rid-of-heartburn-and-gerd-forever-in-three-simple-steps
  • xxix http://chriskresser.com/get-rid-of-heartburn-and-gerd-forever-in-three-simple-steps
  • xxx http://chriskresser.com/get-rid-of-heartburn-and-gerd-forever-in-three-simple-steps
  • xxxi Trivieri, L., & Anderson, J. W. (2002). Gastrointestinal Disorders. Alternative medicine: the definitive guide (2nd ed., p. 718). Berkeley: Celestial Arts.
  • xxxii http://chriskresser.com/get-rid-of-heartburn-and-gerd-forever-in-three-simple-steps
  • xxxiii http://www.life-enhancement.com/magazine/news-articles/595-got-heartburn-try-mastic
  • xxxiv Wright, Jonathan M.D. Why Stomach Acid is Good For You. M Evans 2001. p.142
  • xxxv http://chriskresser.com/get-rid-of-heartburn-and-gerd-forever-in-three-simple-steps
  • xxxvi http://chriskresser.com/get-rid-of-heartburn-and-gerd-forever-in-three-simple-steps
  • xxxvii http://chriskresser.com/get-rid-of-heartburn-and-gerd-forever-in-three-simple-steps
  • xxxviii http://www.needs.com/product/HWC06-DGH-06/l_Heartburn
  • xxxix http://chriskresser.com/get-rid-of-heartburn-and-gerd-forever-in-three-simple-steps
  • xl http://www.medcline.com/
  • xli http://www.bioidenticalhormones101.com/Heartburn_Reflux_PPI_Drug.html
  • xlii http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4066008/
Categories
Natural Health News and Articles

Is Your Diet Causing Your Headache?

Chronic daily headache, a condition marked by recurrent migraines and severe pain, can be extremely difficult to treat with conventional prescription drugs. For those suffering with Chronic daily headache (CDH), day-to-day activities and interactions become increasingly difficult to navigate while experiencing excruciating pain. This debilitating condition markedly alters the sufferer’s ability to enjoy their life while suffering headaches 15 days or more a month.

A 2013 study, conducted by PAIN online journal, has revealed that the headache remedy you seek can be found in the aisles of your local grocery market. After introducing a dietary change that increased amounts of Omega-3 fatty acid and decreased amounts of Omega-6 fatty acid, the test population experienced a reduction in symptoms associated with CDH. The healing properties found in an appropriate balance between the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids helps to reduce inflammation in the system, and in turn, extreme headache pain. In the study, participants experienced a significant reduction in headache hours and severe pain symptoms, as well as an improved quality of life.1

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our health, but do not naturally occur in our systems. Because of this, we must intake our Omega-3 fatty acids through food or supplements. Wonderful Omega-3 rich foods include grass fed beef, eggs, walnuts, edamame, black beans, flaxseed, and fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for brain functioning, normal growth and development, have an anti-inflammatory effect, and are powerful agents in lowering the risk of cancer and other diseases.2

Omega-6 fatty acids are also essential for our health, but must be consumed through food or supplements as they are not naturally occurring in our bodies. However, high levels of this fatty acid will have a reverse effect in treating disorders and will actually cause inflammation in the system. Unfortunately, our modern diet has overloaded us with Omega-6 through the influx of processed foods and various types of vegetable oils. Food sources that you want to regulate in your diet in order to reduce your intake of Omega-6 fatty acids include refined vegetable oils (those commonly found in processed foods, cookies, and sweets), avocados, pine nuts, and pumpkin seeds.3

An easy way to increase your intake of Omega-3 and decrease the levels of Omega-6 in your system is to eliminate heavily processed foods from your diet and begin to include Omega-3 rich foods and supplements. This simple dietary change, corroborated by the 2013 randomized trial in the treatment of chronic headaches, can transform the lives of an estimated 10 million adults in the United States who suffer from Chronic Daily Headache and other chronic pain conditions.4

Written by Kristin Accorsi

References

  • 1PAIN journal. Targeted alteration of dietary n-3 and n-6 fatty acids for the treatment of chronic headaches. ctsi-price.sites.medinfo.ufl.edu/files/2014/02/Ramsden-et-al-2013-Alteration-of-n-3-and-n-6-fatty-acids-for-Chronic-HA.pdf
  • 2 Omega-3 fatty acids. umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega3-fatty-acids
  • 3 Understanding the Omega Fatty Acids. www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/omega-fatty-acids
  • 4 PAIN journal. Targeted alteration of dietary n-3 and n-6 fatty acids for the treatment of chronic headaches. ctsi-price.sites.medinfo.ufl.edu/files/2014/02/Ramsden-et-al-2013-Alteration-of-n-3-and-n-6-fatty-acids-for-Chronic-HA.pdf
  • photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/5r4S8J

Categories
Natural Health News and Articles

One of the advantages of alternative medicine is that it affords the individual the broadest range of health treatment options.

Categories
Condition

Menstrual Cramps Natural Treatments

Reviewed & edited by Dr. Jeffrey C. Lederman, DO, MPH and Julie A. Cerrato, PhD, AP, CYT, CAP

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful menstruation and is a common problem experienced by women in their reproductive years. It can interfere with daily activities and may contribute greatly to absenteeism at school and work for those affected.

Dysmenorrhea may be characterized as two types, primary and secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is the presence of cramps lower abdominal pain that occurs during a female’s menstrual cycle when there is no other cause for those symptoms. Secondary dysmenorrhea is the presence of the same symptoms but is caused by another medical problem such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids. For both types, hormone- like substances released during a woman’s menstrual cycle called prostaglandins are thought to play an active role. This information here for menstrual cramps natural treatments focuses on primary dysmenorrhea, lower abdominal cramps.

Overview

Who Dysmenorrhea Affects

The prevalence of dysmenorrhea in women of reproductive age is between 16 % and 91% and severe symptoms occur in 2%-29%.1 High stress and a family history of dysmenorrhea have each been associated with a worsening of dysmenorrhea. In contrast, age, an increased number of pregnancies, and the use of oral contraceptives have shown to correlate with a decrease, or improvement of dysmenorrhea. Although some research indicates that cigarette smoking, diet, obesity, depression, and abuse may be risk factors for worsening of dysmenorrhea, the evidence is inconclusive.

How Dysmenorrhea Feels

The pain associated with dysmenorrhea is classically considered as “cramps,” however it is often accompanied by back pain, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, bloating, sluggish digestion, constipation, breast tenderness, lower leg aches and/or headaches. Although some suffers may feel symptoms as periodically intense, many may present with constant, uncomfortable dull aches, exhaustion and malaise. Dysmenorrhea cramps usually occur in the lower abdomen and in the area above the pubic bone. Dysmenorrhea tends to begin one to two days prior to menstrual bleeding or with the onset of menstrual bleeding and then gradually diminishes over 12 to 72 hours.

How Dysmenorrhea is Conventionally Treated

In conventional medicine, a woman’s gynecologist will typically assist in diagnosing and treating an individual’s dysmenorrhea.

Conventional medical treatment of dysmenorrhea aims to reduce the pain associated with discomfort. Initially, the primary treatment is supportive and includes methods to bring heat to the lower abdomen, increase exercise, and reduce stress. However, as the severity of the pain increases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) medication may be used to help alleviate the symptoms. Commonly used NSAIDs include ibuprofen, naproxen, and Aspirin. Prescription strength NSAIDs like diclofenac, etodolac, and celecoxib (Celebrex) are sometimes given when symptoms worsen and can be obtained from a physician.

Hormonal birth control is often the next line of pharmaceutical treatment for dysmenorrhea. This may include birth control pills, vaginal rings, contraceptive implants, hormonal releasing intrauterine devices ( IUDs), injections, or hormonal patches. These agents work by reducing the uterine lining where prostaglandins are produced and, in turn, decreases uterine bleeding or contractions responsible for menstrual pain and cramps. Hormonal birth control has traditionally been a frequent pharmaceutical choice for women not trying to get pregnant. The combination of using NSAIDS and hormonal birth control is also a very common medical plan for reducing dysmenorrhea.

Other potential conventional treatments for dysmenorrhea include medications used to reduce uterine contractions (tocolytics), however there is inconclusive evidence for their overall effectiveness. Examples of these medications include Nitric Oxide, magnesium, calcium channel blockers (i.e., nifedipine), and nitroglycerin. There is also limited evidence to support the use of phosphodiesterase inhibitors like sildenafil (Viagra) and procedures that disrupt pelvic nerves.

After 3-6 months of treatment failure with NSAIDs and hormonal birth control a surgical procedure, often a laparoscopy, may be indicated to look for pelvic pathology like endometriosis in secondary dysmenorrhea. However, many holistic approaches are also available that complement a clinicians’ active and important role in the treatment of dysmenorrhea.

Holistic Healing for Menstrual Cramps

The menstrual discomfort of dysmenorrhea is a significant distraction from normalcy for many women on a monthly basis, interfering with routine activities. Plagued by severe abdominal cramps confounded by migraines, fatigue, bloating and nausea, women often feel incapacitated and unable to function. Many women turn to conventional treatments such as over the counter pain relievers or progress to prescription medication, but there are numerous holistic remedies available to help alleviate symptoms naturally and alternative healing modalities to rectify the underlying cause. Homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Reflexology, Ayurveda, Yoga, Meditation, Aromatherapy, Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and Holistic Diet and Lifestyle modifications each offer beneficial therapies for treating dysmenorrhea.

Homeopathy
Natural Holistic Homeopathy

Homeopathic remedies are natural, chemically minute dilutions of various substances used to stimulate the body’s immune system at a low level. This smaller reaction conditions the body to create a gentler reaction to future exposure of the substance. Several homeopathic formulas are available for treating dysmenorrhea and associated menstrual symptoms.

According to Dr. Yukova’s Guide to Homeopathy 2, some homeopathic medicines have a localized action and may provide rapid pain relief such as a reduction in dysmenorrhea cramps. Other remedies, known as constitutional (chronic) homeopathic medicines, target the root of the condition and are focused on eliminating the cause of the dysmenorrhea. Dr. Yukova cites the following formulas as the most common for rapid pain relief of primary dysmenorrhea.

  • Belladonna – for relief from sudden onset of intense throbbing pain that worsens from light touch or sudden movements
  • Chamomilla – for relief from unbearable pain accompanied by anger or irritation
  • Cimicifuga – for relief from pain that is proportional to the flow; ie. whereby increased bleeding results in increased pain; also indicated for shoulder and neck stiffness
  • Colocynthis – for relief from intolerable cramps
  • Magnesia phosphorica – for relief from cramps relieved by pressure or warmth
  • Veratrum album – for relief from severe menstrual cramps accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sweating; heavy flow; fatigue or chills

Two classic constitutional homeopathic remedies for dysmenorrhea include Pulsatilla and Sepia. According to Dr. Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, RSHom(NA), President of the National Center for Homeopathy (NCH), the plant remedy Pulsatilla has an affinity for the genito-urinary organs, stomach and bowels and may be well-suited for women who suffer from chronic headaches, sinus infections, allergies, discharges, bladder infections, digestive disturbances, ovarian cysts or anxiety. 3

Sepia is derived from cuttlefish ink, and according to Miriam McCrea Malevris, DS Hom. Med., may be useful to treat PMS for women characterized by indifference, irritability or fatigue prior to menses. 4

Treating dysmenorrhea with homeopathic remedies may be a powerful way to improve a woman’s monthly quality of life. As always, please consult a certified homeopathic provider for a proper evaluation and treatment advice.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that after years of stress, insufficient nutrition and irregular lifestyle habits, the body’s natural elements fall out of balance with one another and Nature. TCM supports the notion that order can be restored to the elements by removing energy blockages and redirecting its flow using therapeutic modalities such as acupuncture, acupressure, cupping and herbal treatments.

TCM Herbal Medicine

According to Wei Liu, TCMD, MPH, LAC and Changzhen Gond PhD, MS of the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAOM) 5, pain associated with dysmenorrhea is similar to other forms of pain and can originate from one or the combination of the following: a deficiency of Qi and blood; the retention of heat, dampness or Wind; or an imbalance of the kidney and liver. TCM acknowledges that the pain is only a symptom reflecting a deeper condition, and like most holistic modalities, a practitioner will seek to alleviate the root cause.

TCM treatment of dysmenorrhea, whether via herbal or via hands-on means, ie. acupuncture or acupressure, requires the identification of the type and timing of the pain. Pain may occur days prior to menses, during menses, after menses or a combination of these. In addition, blood color, flow and blood clotting help indicate the specific elemental imbalance.

Two of the most common TCM herbal treatments for dysmenorrhea pain are angelica (Dang Gui) and corydalis tuber (Yan Hu Suo).

  • Dang Gui is beneficial for tonifying and harmonizing the blood as it regulates menses and reduces abdominal pain and cramping. Studies with Dang Gui have shown that it interferes with prostaglandin regulating mechanisms, which may account for its successful treatment of dysmenorrhea6
  • Yan Hu Suo is thought to invigorate the blood and enhance the flow of Qi through the body. Yan Hu Suo contains the alkaloid tetrahydropalmatine (THP), a known sedative and analgesic that may be responsible for alleviating dysmenorrhea pain. 7

According to TCM practitioners from the Yin Yang House Chattanooga Acupuncture and Wellness Center, several formulas are available to treat dysmenorrhea and associated menstrual symptoms. 8

  • Ba Zhen Wan – Anemia, Heavy Menstruation, Dysmenorrhea (Cramps), Dizziness, Weakness
  • Chai Hu Shu Gan Wan -PMS, Menstrual Pain, Irregular Menstruation, Emotional Stress, Depression, Irritability
  • Xiao Yao Wan – Stress, Depression, Anxiety, PMS
  • Si Wu Tang Wan- Tonifies and Regulates the Blood, Regulates the Liver
  • Fu Fang Dang Gui Wan (Dong Quai Tablet) – Syndromes of qi and blood deficiency; Irregular Menstruation, PMS, Menstrual Pain, Infertility, Fatigue, Memory
  • Shao Fu Zhu Yu Wan – Treats Stagnant Qi, Blood Clotting, Abdominal Pain, Dysmenorrhea (Cramps), Fatigue, Weak digestion, Gas, Bloating, Loose stools/Diarrhea, vomiting, gastritis, edem
  • Wen Jing Tang Wan- Warms Meridians, Dispels Cold, Nourishes blood to Remove blood stasis

Acupuncture & Acupressure
Acupressure Neck

Two of TCM’s most effective therapeutic modalities for treating dysmenorrhea include acupuncture and self-acupressure. Acupuncture accesses sensitive points on the skin’s surface that channel energetic pathways called meridians running throughout the body. The nervous system is particularly accessible to these points and studies have shown that acupuncture drives neurological stimulation of the brain when trying to reduce pain. 9

Acupuncture has been shown as an effective modality for reducing dysmenorrhea pain. 10

Acupressure works with the same system of meridians as acupuncture but does not use needles to stimulate the points. Instead, self-application with fingers or hands may be used to activate the energy at the points and promote self-healing.

Some common Acupuncture or Acupressure points used to treat symptoms of dysmenorrhea include:

GB20 –Headaches, anxiety, insomnia
GB34 – Inflammation, anger, irritation, edema
TW 5 – Migraines, neck stiffness, nausea, diarrhea, constipation
P6- Dizziness, nausea, acid reflux, constipation, headache
SP 6 – Cramps, edema, bloating, menstrual clots, back pain, anxiety and dizziness
SP8 & 9 – Cramps, edema, bloating, menstrual clots
CV4 – Cramps, kidney pain, menstrual clotting/flow

Reflexology
Natural Holistic Reflexology

Similar to the TCM modalities of acupuncture and acupressure, the system of reflexology developed by Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, M.D. is based on the Zone Theory that specific points in the hands and feet correspond to areas of the body and can relieve pain when stimulated and massaged. 11 Reflexology has been used successfully to treat dysmenorrhea and was shown to be equally effective as ibuprofen in a trial with 68 university students. 12  Women may choose to get regular reflexology sessions to relieve symptoms during menses and/or have regular sessions prior to their menstrual cycle to prevent pain.

Ayurveda

The 5,000 year old medicinal wisdom of Ayurveda from India provides much insight into the treatment of dysmenorrhea. According to the sacred medicine text called the Charaka, imbalances in a woman’s lower abdominal energy, governed by Vata, create pain and discomfort in menstruation. Most often, this imbalance is preceded by faulty dietary and lifestyle habits such as poor nutrition, lack of sleep, stress, fear or anxiety, which build slowly and heighten during menses.

The severe discomfort women experience with dysmenorrhea stems from the pain-inducing hormone-like substances called prostaglandins that are produced by the endometrial cells of the uterine lining shortly prior to menses. During the breakdown of these cells in menstruation, prostaglandins are released locally, constrict the blood vessels, and cause the muscle layer of the uterus to contract, resulting in painful cramps. Some prostaglandins may also enter the bloodstream and cause associated symptoms such as headache, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting. 13

Women who experience dysmenorrhea have been shown to produce higher levels of prostaglandins than those without menses pain. 14 Ayurveda aims to balance these cellular processes responsible for excess prostaglandin synthesis by targeting the misdirected energy, improving digestion and calming the nervous system.

Diet, lifestyle modifications, herbal treatments and body therapies recommended by Ayurveda can be used to identify the root of the woman’s specific energetic imbalance and help restore it. With respect to diet, Ayurveda treats the mind and body by synchronizing both with Nature’s rhythms and emphasizing fresh, whole, seasonal foods.

Fall and Winter seasons particularly upset uterine Vata energy, but can be improved by avoiding certain foods. The energetic Vata imbalance associated with dysmenorrhea is worsened by foods that are cold, dry and rough such as:

  • Crackers
  • Chips
  • Bread
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Raw Fruits
  • Raw Vegetables

According to Ayurveda, the properties of these foods aggravate the nervous system and create excess gas and dryness in digestion and throughout the body that disturbs the lower abdominal energy. This energy is then free to disrupt other energies including the fire force of Pitta and result in nausea, acid reflux, vomiting and diarrhea. Emotionally, both aggravated Vata and Pitta energy can create additional symptoms associated with dysmenorrhea such as restlessness, sluggishness or fatigue, spaciness, frustration, anger and pain.

Vegatable SoupTo further balance both energies with diet, focus on warm, cooked, wet food that are in season and high fiber foods such as:

  • Soups
  • Cooked Vegetables
  • Stewed Fruits – Apples, Pears, Prunes
  • Brown or Basmati Rice
  • Legumes – Kidney beans, Chickpeas, Lentils (up until the last week prior to menses)

Ayurveda also teaches that reducing or avoiding pungent, sour, inflammatory foods and fatty, fried foods will also help pacify the Vata and Pitta energies.

  • Nightshades – Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers, Eggplant
  • Hot Sauces
  • Pungent Spices – Chili Powder, Cajun, Paprika
  • Meats- Beef, Lamb, Goat, Pork
  • Fried Foods: French Fries, Potato/Tortilla Chips, Tempura, Samosas etc.

Lifestyle-wise, Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of structure and even-pacing in daily routines to keep Vata and Pitta energies balanced. Women who experience dysmenorrhea often have busy, hectic, stressful days filled with multi-tasking at work and home. This constant juggling of career and family creates great variability in the daily routine and often leads to missed or late meals, poor nutrition, loss of sleep and challenges in relationships. Ayurveda suggests creating stability through “anchors” in the day such as:

  • Regular Meal Times
  • Meal Plates that Include all 6 Tastes
  • Morning Self-Care Routine
  • Evening Bed Time Routine
  • Family, Significant Other or Friend Connection Time
  • Self-Reflection Time

In addition to diet and lifestyle modifications, several herbal therapies and body treatments are recommended by Ayurveda. Women may not be aware that everyday kitchen spices are herbs that can help improve digestion, relieve constipation or diarrhea and ease pain associated with dysmenorrhea. These include:

  • Turmeric
  • Garlic Powder/Garlic
  • Hing (Asafoetida)
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Fennel

Herbal formulas provided by Ayurvedic Practitioners may also help with dysmenorrhea by targeting the urogenital and reproductive systems.

  • Some Ayurvedic herbal formulas recommended include:
  • Goksura – Restores Energy and Vitality to the Kidneys and Reproductive Organs; Alleviates Menstrual Cramps
  • Shatavari- Revitalizes the Reproductive Organs and Balances Hormones
  • Amalaki- Removes Excess Heat and Balances Pitta Fire Energy

Balancing the root disturbances of the Vata and Pitta energies with herbs will often target the nervous system and include:

  • Shilajit – Draws Out and Removes Deep Toxins from Cells
  • Brahmi – Calms Nervous System and Reduces Anxiety
  • Shankapushpi – Calms Nervous System and Reduces Anxiety

Soothing Ayurvedic body treatments are available for self-care and at wellness spas/centers to help treat dysmenorrhea and include:

  • Abyhanga- Herbal Oil Body Massage
  • Shirodhara- Herbal Oil Streaming onto the Forehead
  • Svedhana- Steam Box to Eliminate Toxins

Visiting a skilled Ayurvedic Practitioner and an Ayurvedic Wellness Center will significantly assist with reducing or eliminating symptoms of dysmenorrhea.

Yoga & Meditation

YogaYoga

Yoga is an incredible physical modality that reaches both body and mind when treating numerous conditions and may be especially useful for alleviating dysmenorrhea. A recent study of 113 female medical students with primary dysmenorrhea showed that after just 3 months of yoga postures, 88% reported complete pain relief and 12% reported mild pain,15 supporting this holistic modality as a viable therapy for painful menses.

Women who experience dysmenorrhea may wish to consider a regular, gentle yoga practice to bring stability, calm and comfort to an otherwise stressful life. More specifically, when treating anxiety throughout the month prior to menses, practice yoga poses (asanas) that enhance digestion and elimination, stretch abdominal, hip and back muscles, stimulate the kidney and reduce stress.

Other yogic therapy for anxiety and stress includes restorative poses. Restorative poses are fixed postures that are held for several minutes while adding yogic breath. They are beneficial for reducing stress and pain because they activate the parasympathetic nervous system and relaxing the body while passively stretching tight muscles and facia. These and other yogic asanas also provide significant relief from excess lymphatic fluid/edema in the body’s detoxification system from hormonal fluctuations and menstrual-related swelling.

According to Certified Yoga Teacher Laura Waite 16, the following poses may be used to reduce dysmenorrhea and associated menstrual symptoms:

  • Janu Sirsasana (Head-To-Knee Forward Bend) – Stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings and groin; calms the brain; reduces anxiety, fatigue, headache and menstrual discomfort
  • Ustrasana (Camel Pose) – Stretches the torso, ankles, thighs, deep hip flexors, back and groin; relieves fatigue, anxiety and menstrual discomfort; stimulates the kidneys
  • Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose) -Stretches the hips, thighs, hamstrings, groin and calves; strengthens knees; relieves back pain, sciatica and menstrual discomfort

In addition to these asanas, Spinal Twists such as Marichyasana III, improve digestion, reduce abdominal gas and bloat and stimulate new blood flow to the principal abdominal organs. Yogic poses that elongate and stretch the spine such as Marjaryasana (Cat Pose), rotate the pelvis and may also alleviate dysmenorrhea cramps. Virasana (Hero Pose) uses the heels of the feet to stimulate two marma points near the sacrum and relieves menstrual cramps.

Leading up to and during menstruation, women may also choose to practice restorative asanas. Restorative yoga postures such as Supta Badha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) 17 assist with freeing energy from the pelvic area and stretch the inner thigh and groin areas.

Meditation
Yoga Meditation

One of the most powerful natural methods shown to reduce pain from dysmenorrhea is the practice of meditation18  Centering the mind and aligning it with the body’s needs is thought to create a bridge whereby calming signals can be sent to throughout the nervous system to reduce pain. Several forms of meditation are available to try and include Yogic breathing meditation (pranayama), guided meditation and the Chinese energy meditative practices of Tai Chi and Chi Gong.

Pranayama- Yogic breath meditation focuses on controlling the breath while activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This activation results in a “calm and relax” process that has been shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure, increase respiration and reduce pain. 19 20 21

Two types of pranayama are particularly useful for reducing pain and symptoms associated with dysmenorrhea, Brahmari (Bee Buzzing Breath) and Nadis Shodona (Alternate Nostril Breath).

  • Brahmari 22 can be performed to reduce anxiety, treat headaches and quiet the mind
  • Nadis Shodona 23 is amazing for balancing the left and right sides of the brain, engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress and increasing the flow of energy

Guided Meditation

Many women may benefit from following a relaxation sequence offered by guided meditation. This form of relaxation uses a voice, often accompanied by music or nature sounds, to walk the woman through a stress-reducing process. A popular guided meditation is the Body Scan method, which consciously identifies certain parts of they body and sends a message for it to relax.

Several meditation phone apps are available to help reduce stress and painful menses such as:

  • Simply Being from Meditation Oasis
  • The Mindfulness App
  • Get Some Head Space
  • Meditate (Tibetan Bells)
  • Mindfulness Meditation
  • Calm
  • Breath2Relax
  • Omvana

Tai ChiChinese Energy Practices

  • Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that has evolved into a modern practice of gracefully balancing and promoting the flow of energy known as “Chi.” According to the Mayo Clinic, this gentler form of tai chi is safe for all ages; pregnant women should consult a physician prior to practice. 24  Tai Chi has been shown to relieve back pain in conditions like fibromyalgia and may be beneficial for back pain associated with dysmenorrhea. 25
  • Qi Gong translates to “cultivating vital energy” and can be classified as a martial art, medical therapy or spiritual modality. The gentler forms of Qi Gong practice rhythmic movements that reduce stress, enhance immunity and increase vitality. Qi Gong has also been shown to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions and according to several independent case studies, may be beneficial for alleviating dysmenorrhea. 26 27 

Aromatherapy
aromatherapy

Aromatherapy harnesses the medicinal properties of essential oils extracted from plants and herbs. Many essential oils are available to treat the symptoms of dysmenorrhea and can be applied using various methods such as direct or steam inhalation, oil or lotion massage, shower or baths and aromatic spritzers.* Research has shown that essential oils are effective in reducing dysmenorrhea. 28  The following oils have been known to relieve dysmenorrhea or associated symptoms and are classified according to their therapeutic properties.

Antispasmodic Essential Oils – Relieve smooth muscle menstrual cramps and lower back pain from the uterus during dysmenorrhea 29

  • Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
  • Clary sage (Salvia sclarea)
  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce)
  • Geranium (Pelargonium x asperum syn. graveolens)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Nerve Tonic Essential Oils – Relieves anxiety, stress, anger and fear that precedes dysmenorrhea 29

  • Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
  • Patchouli (Pogostemom cablin)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Geranium (Pelargonium x asperum syn. graveolens)
  • Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
  • Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)
  • Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum)

Stimulating & Uplifting Essential Oils – Treats headaches, fogginess, sluggishness and mood 29

  • Lemon (Citrus limon)
  • Grapefruit (Citrus Paradisi)
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
  • Spearmint oil (Mentha spicata)

Digestive Aid Essential Oils – Treats constipation, gas, bloat and diarrhea 29

  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce)
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  • Tangerine Citrus reticulata var tangerine) – Constipation
  • Lemon (Citrus limon)
  • Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)

Application of essential oils requires knowledge of appropriate dilutions in a base lotion or carrier oil such as almond, sunflower, grape seed or jojoba. Oils may also be directly inhaled via adding a few drops to a tissue, bath or shower and breathing the aroma. For safe application of these oils to treat dysmenorrhea, consult an aromatherapist and/or a physician.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
TENS Unit

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, known as TENS, uses low voltage electric current to relieve pain. A TENS device is thought to work by either the gate control theory of pain whereby stimulating nerves closes a “gate” mechanism in the spinal cord to reduce the sensation of pain and/or by stimulating the production of endorphins that block pain.

TENS units have been used extensively to treat back pain and may work well for women with menstrual cramps and lower back pain. The unit is easy to use, portable, and functions with a small battery-operated device that can be hooked to a belt. Two electrodes that extend from the device attach to the skin and deliver the low voltage electrical current.

TENS treatment may be particularly effective for women suffering from severe dysmenorrhea and can be used alone or in combination with conventional or holistic therapies. A crossover study where women used the TENS unit alone or took ibuprofen for dysmenorrhea showed that the TENS unit itself significantly reduced menstrual pain and also delayed the need for supportive ibuprofen medication by an average of 5.9 hours. 30 To acquire a TENS unit, see a physician as they require a prescription and are contraindicated for women in their first trimester of those with a pacemaker. 31

Holistic Lifestyle Suggestions for Menstrual Cramps

Relaxation & Routine

Both conventional and holistic providers recognize that stress has a large impact on women and greatly contributes to painful menses. According to the Mayo Clinic, mental stress can temporarily alter the function of the hypothalamus, which controls hormones that regulate menses. 32 Moreover, a large study of 388 women examined the link between stress and dysmenorrhea and found that women who reported high stress had twice the risk for dysmenorrhea compared to those who reported low stress. 33 

When under continuous stress, women should take time for personal self-care and relief in their everyday lifestyle. Women are often play multiple roles in balancing home, work and family life and place others’ needs above their own. Whether finding time in the day to take a mentally clearing walk, read a book, workout at the gym, visit a spa, meditate or meet with friends and family, a daily stress outlet is paramount for balancing a women’s menstrual cycle.

In addition to a daily stress outlet, consistent morning and night routines and regular meal times are critical for providing stability. Irregular eating habits can disrupt hormone regulation.

Get Warm

Uterine, abdominal and back pain are all difficult conditions associated with dysmenorrhea. The application of heat to the abdomen has been shown to diminish this pain and provide relief and was equally effective as the conventional pain killer ibuprofen. 34 Women may choose to apply heat safely via a hot water bottle, heating pad or take a warm bath or shower.

Abdominal & Body Massage
 Massage

One of the most powerful holistic lifestyle additions includes regular massage. Massage is an excellent way to move stagnant lymphatic fluid throughout the body which eliminates toxins and inflammatory compounds responsible for pain and congestion.

Conventional, Chinese and Ayurvedic abdominal massage work the belly muscles while moving in the direction of the colon to assist with digestion. Beginning at the lower right quadrant of the abdomen, gently rub in circles upwards to the navel, across the abdomen and down the left side of the abdomen. Combining abdominal massage with heat and essential oils greatly assists in dysmenorrhea pain relief.

Full body massage of any form is a well-known technique for reducing stress and alleviating pain. Since the impact of dysmenorrhea extends beyond abdominal pain, with many women experiencing back and leg pain, headaches and eye tension and overall bloating, massage is an excellent holistic modality for relief.

Holistic Diet and Nutrition for Menstrual Cramps

Diet and nutrition play a significant role in managing dysmenorrhea. Eating healthily can reduce excess toxins stored in fat cells and may dramatically improve menstrual cycles. To balance hormonal changes and inflammatory prostaglandin release during menstruation, women can improve their diets prior to and during menses.

Alkaline Diet
Alkaline diet

The Alkaline diet suggests that when foods are digested, they have a specific effect on the pH of bodily fluids such as urine. Certain foods are classified as acidic and reduce this pH and others are alkaline and maintain or increase this pH. Acidic foods are considered inflammatory and minerals like calcium are often needed to buffer them. Calcium excreted in the urine as a result of digesting acidic foods is a concern since losing valuable minerals may deplete the body of its stores. Acid-forming foods may be particularly disruptive to a normal menses cycle and avoiding or greatly reducing them may alleviate dysmenorrhea pain.

Highly Acidic Foods to Reduce or Avoid for Dysmenorrhea 35

  • Alcohol, Tobacco
  • Artificial Sweeteners, White Sugar
  • Beef, Lamb, Pork, Veal
  • Breads, Biscuits, Crackers, Refined Cereals, Pasta, Flour, White Rice
  • Coffee, Soda, Juices
  • Pastries, Cookies, Cakes, Ice Cream, Jams, Jellies
  • Fermented Foods- pickles, white vinegar, miso
  • Processed Vegetable Oils, Salad Dressings, Margarine
  • Fatty, Fried Foods- French Fries, Burgers, Chips, Doughnuts, etc.

When dealing with hormone fluctuations and inflammation associated with uterine lining shedding, women may choose to adopt an alkaline diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes while reducing fatty and sugary foods. In addition, foods low in fat and rich in soluble and insoluble fiber have been shown to significantly reduce estrogen levels 36 and can help prevent digestive problems like constipation and diarrhea that often accompany menses.

Alkaline Foods to Increase for Dysmenorrhea 37

  • Fresh & Cooked Vegetables: Alfalfa Grass, Barley Grass, Artichokes, Asparagus, Bok Choy, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Celery, Cilantro, Cucumber, Dandelion, Jicama, Kale, Lamb’s Lettuce, Leeks, Mustard Greens, Peas, Sea Vegetables, Spinach, Zucchini, Broccoli, Beets, Carrots, Rutabaga, Sweet Potatoes, Squash Pumpkins, Turnips, Kohlrabi
  • All Fruit, Especially Avocados
  • Lima Beans, Green Beans
  • Lentils, Navy Beans
  • Buckwheat, Kamut, Spelt, Millet, Barley
  • Fennel Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Flax Seeds
  • Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Macadamia, Pine Nuts, Pistachios, Walnuts

Aggravating Foods & Allergens

Certain foods may increase mucous and congestion in the body that may cause sluggish digestion, bloating, fatigue and heavy periods. Others may induce inflammation or an allergic reaction in the gut or skin.

  • Fatty, fried foods are culprits for several medical conditions and are highly inflammatory. Damaging blood vessels, increasing cholesterol and regulating estrogen are just some of the ways these foods can result in painful menses. Avoid or significantly reduce these foods in the diet to help alleviate dysmenorrhea.
  • Refined sugar is another well-known inflammatory food that should be avoided on a daily basis and especially during menses. Women may wish to have natural sweeteners such as raw honey, unprocessed maple syrup or small amounts of unrefined sugar called sucanat to avoid exacerbation of menstrual symptoms.
  • Dairy is considered a congestive food and may worsen dysmenorrhea. Calcium, however is beneficial for reducing muscle cramps. Adding non-dairy sources of calcium such as fresh leafy greens like kale, collards and turnip greens, broccoli and cabbage like bok choy, legumes like white beans and black-eyed peas, nuts like almonds, seeds like sesame and ocean seaweed may greatly reduce dysmenorrhea and associated digestive problems such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
  • Red Meat and egg yolks are foods that may exacerbate dysmenorrhea. Both are high in an inflammatory compound called arachidonic acid (AA), activated by a decline of progesterone. 38 A diet low in AA and high in omega-3 foods may significantly reduce dysmenorrhea.

Natural SupplementsNatural Holistic Supplements 39 40

  • Magnesium is vital mineral that has been shown to reduce key cell compounds in the body’s inflammatory processes. Preliminary research with magnesium supplements has shown some efficacy in reducing dysmenorrhea by decreasing prostaglandin F 2 alpha. 41 Sufferers of dysmenorrhea may wish to speak with a physician about whether magnesium supplements are appropriate for them. *
  • Vitamin E. A study from 2005 using vitamin E supplementation for women with dysmenorrhea showed a reduction in severity and duration of pain and the amount of menstrual blood loss, making it a potential pain-relief treatment. 42
  • Omega-3s, commonly present in fish and flax seed oils, are anti-inflammatory compounds capable of reducing pain. Studies using omega-3 supplements to treat dysmenorrhea have shown a reduction in symptoms and the ability to decrease pain medication such as ibuprofen. 43
  • Calcium supplements are thought to help reduce menstrual pain. Early studies showed that calcium channel blockers helped free calcium and relieve uterine contractions, thus lessening menstrual pain. 44 According to the University of Maryland, more recent research indicates that calcium citrate supplements may work by helping to maintain muscle tone and may be more useful when consistently taken prior to menses.
  • Ginger Root has been used in TCM and Ayurveda for thousands of years for its anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory properties. Recent evidence showed that ginger root was as effective as mefenamic acid and ibuprofen on treating pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. 45
  • Chamomile or Mint Tea are both home remedies that have been used to reduce menstrual pain, but may become part of the mainstream treatment for dysmenorrhea. Peppermint contains antispasmodic compounds and its essential oil has proven effective in reducing spasms during colonoscopy and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy procedures. 46 And,recent research with chamomile reveals that drinking chamomile tea led to high levels of glycine, a chemical that relieves muscle spasms and may relax the uterus. 47
  • Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus) and Black haw (Viburnum prunifolium) are two well-known antispasmodic herbs that may be extremely useful for treating dysmenorrhea. The first is native to Europe and Asia and the latter is found in North America. Both have the ability to relax smooth muscle and are recommended by doulas like Dalene Barton to treat uterine menstrual cramps. 48

Products for Relieving Menstrual Cramps
TENS Unit

TENS Unit

 

Heating Pad

Heating Pad

 

Hot Water Bottle

Hot Water Bottle

 

Massagers

Back Massager

Community Resources

Updated: November 2014


 

  1. Hong Ju, Mark Jones, and Gita Mishra. The Prevalence and Risk Factors of Dysmenorrhea. Epidemiol Rev (2014) 36 (1): 104-113 first published online November 26, 2013 doi:10.1093/epirev/mxt009
  2. http://www.homeopathytoday.net/spip.php?article80
  3. http://www.integrativepractitioner.com/article_ektid9502.aspx
  4. http://vitalitymagazine.com/news-articles/sepia-homeopathys-wise-woman/
  5. http://www.tcmpage.com/hpdysmen.html
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18707853
  7. http://acupuncturetoday.com/herbcentral/corydalis.php
  8. http://www.yinyanghouse.com/conditions-treated/alternative-natural-options-for-dysmenorrhea-menstrual-paincramps
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4051855/pdf/pone.0099538.pdf
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3540764?dopt=Abstract
  11. http://www.reflexology-usa.net/history.htm
  12. http://www.reflexology-usa.net/history.htm
  13. Proctor M, Farquhar C. Diagnosis and Management of Dysmenorrhoea. BMJ. 2006; 332:1134-1138.
  14. Durain D. Primary dysmenorrhea: assessment and management update. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2004;49:520-528.
  15. http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jdms/papers/Vol4-issue1/P0416973.pdf
  16. http://www.active.com/yoga/articles/4-yoga-poses-to-ease-menstrual-cramps?page=4
  17. http://www.gaiamtv.com/pose/reclining-bound-angle-pose-supta-baddha-konasana
  18. http://www.scopemed.org/?jft=47&ft=47-1362735925
  19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19249921
  20. http://yogauonline.com/yogatherapy/yoga-for-back-pain/yoga-for-back-pain-practice/310030310-new-study%E2%80%94yogic-breathing-helps
  21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2936076/?report=printable
  22. http://www.yogajournal.com/news-articles/practice-section/buzz-away-the-buzzing-mind/
  23. http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/channel-cleaning-breath/
  24. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/tai-chi/art-20045184
  25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22609642
  26. http://www.qigong.org.nz/news-articles/treating-dysmenorrheaacupuncture-case-study
  27. http://www.taichiqigongseattle.com/2012/03/secrets-to-pms-energy-medicine-yi-ren-qigong-taichi/
  28. http://www.integrativehealthcare.org/mt/archives/2014/01/essential-oils-ease-menstrual-cramps.html
  29. http://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/about-aromatherapy/most-commonly-used-essential-oils/
  30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2179780?dopt=Abstract
  31. Thomas M, Lunden T, Bjork J, Lundstrom- Lindsbedt V. Pain and discomfort in primary dysmenorrhea is reduced by pre-emptive acupuncture or low frequency TENS. Eur J Phys Med Rehabil 1995; 5: 71–6.
  32. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/amenorrhea/basics/causes/con-20031561.
  33. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1740691/pdf/v061p01021.pdf
  34. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11239634
  35. http://www.acidalkalinediet.com/Alkaline-Foods-Chart.htm
  36. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/54/3/520.full.pdf
  37. http://www.acidalkalinediet.com/Alkaline-Foods-Chart.htm
  38. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3935015/
  39. http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21602
  40. http://www.ghc.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-1206000
  41. Penland J, Johnson P, et al. Dietary calcium and manganese effects on menstrual cycle symptoms. Am J Obstet Gynecol . 1993;168:1417-1424.
  42. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15777446
  43. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22261128
  44. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/485222
  45. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19216660
  46. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1440-1746.2006.04307.x/abstract;jsessionid=34C30EF27E7DF487CF5A76FAA8D11155.f03t03
  47. http://www.webmd.com/women/news/20050107/chamomile-tea-may-fight-colds-menstrual-cramps
  48. http://natural-fertility-info.com/menstruation-cramps-benefits-of-cramp-bark-and-black-haw.html
Categories
Condition

Rheumatoid Arthritis Natural Treatments

Reviewed & edited by Dr. Jeffrey C. Lederman, DO, MPH and Julie A. Cerrato, PhD, AP, CYT, CAP

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a painful and chronic autoimmune disease that causes persistent inflammation of the joints in the body. For a variety of reasons found in individuals that suffer from RA, the immune system begins to attack the thin tissue lining that covers the joints, known as the synovium. Because of the immune system’s attack, white blood cells travel to the synovium and cause the recruitment of cell chemical signals, called cytokines and initiate a painful inflammatory response.

Whether Rheumatoid Arthritis impact joints locally or all over the body, it is a painful condition that most often progresses into a debilitating, chronic disease.

Overview

Rheumatoid Arthritis, KneeHow RA Feels

RA typically sets in after the age of 40, although it is not uncommon for teens and young adults like Maya to suffer from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA or JIA); historically impacts women more often than men. Common symptoms of RA include pain, swelling, morning stiffness, and limited movement of the affected joints. The severity of pain and longevity of symptoms can vary, as RA is a chronic condition, which means there is no true “cure” and symptoms come and go frequently. Symptoms of RA are most often experienced at joint extremities such as the fingers and toes, but can affect larger joints such as the wrist, elbows, knee, ankle and hips.1

While the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis appear to be strictly physical, RA has the potential to have a further reaching impact on the RA sufferer. Since RA is part of a collection of autoimmune inflammatory diseases, it shares symptoms with other inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis. Symptoms of these diseases expand to have an emotional and energetic effect whereby individuals with RA may experience anxiety or depression or become discouraged over the excruciating pain that seems to dictate their life.

How RA is Conventionally Treated

RA sufferers often visit with their primary care physician (PCP) when experiencing initial symptoms of arthritis, including joint pain, morning stiffness, redness, inflammation and fatigue. PCPs will often suggest a preliminary panel of labs to assess inflammatory markers associated with RA and refer individuals to a Rheumatologist for evaluation and treatment.

NSAIDsThe conventional course of RA treatment involves the use of prescription drugs. Popular first line medications include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but often the disease progresses, requiring the use of more powerful anti-inflammatory agents such as disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). DMARDs can slow the progression of RA via various mechanisms and help prevent joint damage. DMARDs typically prescribed by rheumatologists include methotrexate (Trexall), hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine) and leflunomide (Arava). Both DMARDs and NSAIDs have mild to moderate side effects, and NSAIDs are often not tolerated by individuals due to stomach irritation and kidney.2

Steroidal medications are often adjunct medications to DMARDS prescribed early on in the disease. Steroids may be used to temporarily to relieve extreme swelling and inflammation, but are not a permanent solution since they can cause significant liver damage.

Perhaps the most effective, yet potentially risky, anti-rheumatic drugs to date are the biologic DMARDs. Most common are the tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-α) inhibitors. These are injectable medications that specifically target the initial inflammatory cascade occurring in and around the synovium of RA patients. TNF-α inhibitors have greatly improved the quality of life of countless RA suffers, however because they suppress the immune system, individuals are at risk for serious infections like tuberculosis (TB) and, in rare cases, may develop cancer. Examples include adalimumab (Humira), etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade), certolizumab (Cimzia), and golimumab (Simponi). Additional drugs that target specific cells of the immune system to fight RA include rituxamab (Rituxan), tocilizumab (Actemra), abatacept (Orencia) an danakinra (Kineret).3

Rheumatoid Arthritis complicates daily life for individuals with this chronic disease. While traditional prescription drugs are effective in modulating the immune system to reduce inflammation and the symptoms and pain associated with RA, it is encouraging to know that there is an abundance of holistic treatments, dietary and lifestyle changes, and products and equipment that can help reduce and manage RA’s worst symptoms.

Holistic Healing for RA Sufferers

Rheumatoid Arthritis affects an estimated 1.5 million people nationwide, and 68% to 94% of RA patients use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies to treat their symptoms. As a malady of the immune system, RA can be treated through various holistic forms of healing. Rheumatoid arthritis natural treatments include the use of herbal supplements, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, yoga, and apitherapy.4

Herbal Supplements

Herbal supplements are natural sources of medication that can be derived from flowers, plants, and tree bark. Whether taken as a tea, daily capsule, or tincture, herbal supplements deliver natural pain relief, but some may interfere with medication. RA sufferers should consult with their physician first along with a certified herbal practitioner prior to using any herbal supplements.

Because of their great potential to reduce pain and combat inflammation, feverfew and willow bark are two wonderful herbal supplements that can aid in treating RA.

  • feverfew.jpgFeverfew5, also known as Tanacetum parthenium, has an anti-inflammatory effect that may ease joint inflammation associated with RA. Traditional treatment includes 1-2 supplements taken daily. As always, consult your physician before taking Feverfew or any other supplement.
  • Willow bark6 is the bark from several varieties of willow trees, and actually acts as a natural aspirin. Willow bark contains salicin, the active ingredient that delivers pain-relieving properties. Willow bark is available dried for herbal teas and decoctions, in capsules, or as a tincture. Willow bark is considered a natural blood thinner and may be unsafe for individuals already taking anticoagulants. As always, consult your physician before taking any supplements.7

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) follows the thousands’ of years old Chinese practice of striving for a balance to bring about good health. Where illness or sickness comes in, there is an imbalance in the Ying and Yang, the opposing yet complementary forces in the universe. TCM utilizes herbal medicines and mind-body practices such as acupuncture as its main source of treatment in bringing about a balance and harmony to the body.8 TCM practitioners create highly specialized formulas to treat RA with a combination of herbs that are unique to the individual’s condition.

Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese Medicine

TCM relies on herbal medicines to treat a variety of ailments. This holistic approach utilizes medicinal effects already found in natural sources such as trees, plants, roots, flowers, and bark to reduce painful inflammation. In TCM, a doctor prepares a specific herbal medicine based on symptom severity, duration, and location. These herbal medicines are specially formulated dependent on each individual RA sufferer. Before taking any herbal supplements, consult your physician.

  • According to TCM theory, arthritis is considered a disease of blood stagnation and many herbal treatments are focused on relieving energetic and blood blockages and increasing circulation. The popular, potent Chinese herb Tienchi Ginseng is often used to move and vitalize the blood for RA sufferers. Ginseng can be very heating to the body and should be balanced with additional herbs. Be sure to consult a certified TCM practitioner before taking herbal remedies.
  • Another TCM approach for RA includes the use of anti-inflammatory herbs. Thunder God Vine is derived from the root of a plant that is indigenous to Asia and can help reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Due to the highly poisonous nature of the plant’s leaves and flowers, only the skinned root can be used for medicinal purposes. When taken under the care of a TCM professional, Thunder God Vine helps to reduce RA pain and inflammation due to its effect on the immune system.9

Acupuncture
Acupuncture

The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture10 is the science and art of restoring the balance of natural energy to the body. Developed within Traditional Chinese Medicine, this form of therapy has proven useful in alleviating numerous conditions and disorders. Acupuncture uses very thin needles inserted into specific reflex points of the body to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissues associate with a host of disorders. This stimulation sends a signal to the brain, which works to produce endorphins. Acupuncture can help ease RA symptoms by its’ ability to release endorphins,the body’s natural pain medicine, and quell aches and pains.

A trained Acupuncturist may focus on specific points where chi (energy) is blocked or may use a broader systemic approach to meridian (energy channel) support. Arthritis conditions in TCM theory are often known as bi-syndromes and associated with disturbances in heat, wind and cold. Some acupuncture points uses to relieve inflammation and joint pain include:

Spleen 4          Small Intestine 3
Galbladder 40          Triple Warmer 5
Kidney 3          Stomach 34
Gallbladder 30          Large Intestine 11
Small Intestine 10           Central Vessel 6

Ayurveda
Natural Holistic Ayurvedic

The 5,000 year old system of medicine from India called Ayurveda offers significant holistic therapeutic options for RA sufferers. Ayurveda focuses on restoring the balance of physical, mental and spiritual energies, bodily humors known as doshas, with nature to heal disease. According to rheumatologist and national thought leader Dan Furst, the use of Ayurvedic medicine to treat RA involves “a holistic, multifaceted system of treatment which includes complex herbal mineral combinations, dietary and lifestyle modification, oil therapies, and detoxification routines.”11

Ayurveda provides both dietary and lifestyle modifications to help reduce inflammation associated with the autoimmune disease of RA. Eliminating nightshade vegetables and fruit such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, and goji berries is recommended, along with the reduction of spicy foods and the inclusion of cooling herbs such as fennel, mint, cilantro, and dill to the diet.12

Ayurveda also offers bodily detoxification therapies that use physical manipulation of the muscles and lymphatic system to remove inflammatory cells and toxins. Various massage oil therapies such as Abhyanga use heated herbal oils to draw out impurities from affected RA joints and muscles, thus reducing inflammation and promoting self-healing. This therapeutic practice Is followed by Svedana, the Ayurvedic practice of using a sweat box or warm shower in short intervals, to detoxify the system and relax muscles. This practice induces sweating from the neck down and is a useful form of heat therapy that can ease painful RA symptoms.13

Similar to TCM, certain Ayurvedic herbs and supplements have proven effective for reducing inflammation and detoxifiying RA affected joints and muscles.

  • The tree resin Boswellia known by its more familiar name frankincense, is extracted from the gum of Boswellia trees and used to treat rheumatic arthritis. Due to its anti-inflammatory action, Boswellia makes a great form of treatment for RA sufferers. The inclusion of daily Boswellia dosages or topical application can reduce pain and inflammation over time. As always, consult with your physician before beginning any supplements.14
  • Another powerful Ayurvedic supplement includes the use of a mineral pitch called guggulu. Often used with a combination of herbs in a collective formula, guggulu provides “strong detoxification and relieve from inflammatory toxins residing in the synovium,” according to Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, Julie A. Cerrato, PhD, AP, CYT, CAT.

Aromatherapy
aromatherapy

Painful RA inflammation can be reduced with the use of massage oils. There are many essential oils that can help reduce inflammation and pain due to RA. These oils include:

  • Rosemary (ie. Rosmarinus Officinalis)
    Rosemary essential oil is particularly powerful for relieving muscle stiffness, cramping, aches and pain associated with RA and by stimulating blood flow and tissue regeneration, may help eliminate toxins.
  • Lemon (Citrus Limomum)
    Lemon essential oil can be used to treat physical exhaustion, general fatigue, and depression that often accompanies RA.
  • Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)
    This essential oil provides a calming effect on the body and is used to treat insomnia, burns, colds, and muscle aches and pains.
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Globulus)
    This form ofEucalyptus essential oil is most commonly used because of its high eucalyptol content (70-85%) and anti-inflammatory compounds. It can be used as an expectorant, antibiotic, anti-fungal treatment, as well as providing relief from muscle pain.
  • Peppermint (Mentha Piperita)
    This invigorating essential oil is refreshing to the senses and nervous system. It can be used to treat headaches, cough and sinus congestion, muscle pains and motion sickness.

Each of the essential oils listed contain potent antioxidants that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.The essential oils can be inhaled via a diffuser or tissue, applied topically to the skin using a carrier oil or lotion, or added to a warm bath. It is always recommended to dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil or lotion before applying directly to the skin as sensitivity may occur.15

Yoga
Yoga

The mind-body practices of Restorative Yoga, or gentle Hatha yogic postures called asanas, can help to reduce pain, inflammation, and relax the muscles. Yoga works by holding and releasing different positions to focus on mind-body integration. While originally used for meditation purposes, yoga has become an increasingly popular way to manage stress and acquire physical activity.

The connection between yoga and a reduction in RA symptoms has been documented through eleven different studies. According to some research, “evidence was strongest for reduction in disease symptoms (tender/swollen joints, pain) and disability, as well as improved self-efficacy and mental health.”16

Yoga provides a wonderful physical outlet for RA sufferers to focus on flexibility, stretching, balance, and posture. By following a gentle yoga routine regularly, individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis may be able to better limit the length and severity of their RA symptoms. Poses to include in a yoga routine are designed to alleviate RA symptoms and strengthen supportive muscles.

Some asanas that are beneficial for RA sufferers include:

  • Virabhaddrasana I (Warrior 1) – Try this position facing a wall with palms reaching and touching the wall for support. Be gentle and hold for only a few breaths.
  • Virabhaddrasana II (Warrior ) – Try this position slowly, with lots of breath and hold for only a few seconds at a time.
  • Utkatasana (chair pose) – Try this position parallel to a wall so arms can reach the wall for balance and support; hold for a few seconds at at time.
  • Matsyendrasana (seated spinal twist) – Be sure to place a bolster or blanked under knees and/or hips if they are far off the ground to align the spine properly and take pressure off the knees.
  • Bhujangasana (cobra pose) – Keep a gentle bend in the knees when lifting the chest.
  • Balasana (child’s pose.17) – Use a blanked or bolster when leaning back into the pose to prevent knee strain.

In addition to performing these poses slowly and gently, restorative yogic poses may provide additional myofacial relief for RA sufferers and also alleviate stress experiences when living with the condition. As a more static form of yoga, restorative or Yin Yoga offers poses that use props to specifically position the body in a comfortable and supportive way to allow for muscle and mental relaxation. Often, the poses are held for a few minutes at a time to promote complete relaxation.

Apitherapy

Apitherapy, the medicinal use of products made by honeybees such as honey, bee venom, pollen, royal jelly, propolis and beeswax18 is another holistic form of treatment for RA.

Apitherapy has been recognized as a powerful way to treat a wide spectrum of disorders and diseases for hundreds of years. For example, bee venom therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis involves using targeted bee stings at localized sites of joint pain and inflammation to trigger the release of anti-inflammatory and pain-blocking agents present in the bee venom. According to Dr. Wong, MD of Grace Life Medical Center, at least 18 active components exist in bee venom and following a sting, the adrenal glands may be stimulated to release cortisol in the body.19 The release of several therapeutic components in the venom, including histamine and cortisol, help alleviate pain and inflammation associated with RA.20 However, Apitherapy does not only involve the use of venom. All aspects of hive products are involved in Apitherapy, from the medicinal use of honey to pollen to beeswax.

Preliminary research exists that examines the effects of apitherapy for RA patients. In a randomized trial of 100 RA patients, 50 of them treated with Apitherapy and 50 patients treated through traditional medication, the findings revealed that Apitherapy is indeed an effective and cost-friendly form of treatment with relatively low side effects. The results indicated that the 50 RA patients treated with Apitherapy experienced greater significant improvement in joint swelling, pain, and stiffness than the medically treated group. Additionally, the group treated with Apitherapy had a lower relapse rate (12% to 32%).21

Holistic Lifestyle Changes

Holistic lifestyle changes are simple, yet effective, daily decisions that can reduce and help manage the painful side effects of RA. While RA is a chronic condition without a true cure, there are several holistic lifestyle changes RA sufferers can make.

Balance of Sleep/Exercise
Sleep

A good balance of rest and exercise is vital for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing RA symptoms. A regular exercise routine will help increase blood flow, circulation, and improve overall health and mood. However, physical activity may be impossible during the height of RA pain and swelling. It is during times like this that rest becomes vital. A balance of resting when the RA symptoms are strongest and exercise for when they are more manageable will introduce a happy medium of physical activity and much-needed rest.22

Tai-Chi

Tai Chi is an ancient martial art form that has been heralded in China for its’ effective treatment of RA symptoms. Studies reveal that the regular practice of Tai Chi produces “statistically significant benefits on lower extremity range of motion, in particular ankle range of motion, for people with RA.”23 This low impact form of exercise helps to bring a sense of balance and strength while alleviating RA symptoms.

Meditation

Meditation and other mind-body practices provide a cost-effective way to control RA pain from the comfort of home. To follow meditative techniques for pain, find a quiet, dark space in which to sit. Focus on deep, slow breaths while clearing the mind. Mindfulness meditation practices can help to reduce sensations of pain, stress, and anxiety and increase activity levels24

Healing Breath Techniques
Pranayama

Pranayama, the practice of controlled breathing, helps to relieve chronic pain associated with RA. This yogic style of breathing focuses on the deep inhalation and slow release of each breath, which increases oxygen inhalation and delivery throughout the body. This type of breathing can be an especially important pain relieving technique for RA.

Nadi shodhona, also known as alternate nostril breathing, is a powerful, calming pranayama that has been shown to have a physiological effect on the parasympathetic nervous system and to lower stress and blood pressure. Nadi shodhona involves right and left isolated nostril breathing to activate distinct parts of the nervous system and provide soothing relief. This pranayama, and others, have been utilized for treating various chronic pain disorders and may prove very beneficial for relieving RA symptoms.

Holistic Diet & Nutrition

Diet and nutrition play a large role in virtually every health condition. Rheumatoid Arthritis can be treated by specific dietary changes and a holistic approach to nutrition. An anti-inflammatory diet, specific supplements, supplements, and foods can all help to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system.

Anti-inflammatory diet

You can greatly reduce the severity of your RA symptoms by following an anti-inflammatory diet that is rich in Omega -3’s and low in Omega-6’s. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the system and are in short supply in most of our modern day diets. Omega-3 food sources include flax seeds, walnuts, fish, grass fed meat and eggs, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and fish oil.

Reducing or eliminate inflammatory nightshades such as peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes and foods with high levels of arginine such as chocolate, nuts, red meat, seafood and eggs.25

Anti-inflammatory Foods

The addition of several foods to an anti-rheumatic diet have proven effective in reducing inflammation.

Cherries

Cherries contain significant anti-inflammatory properties. Eating just 12 cherries a day can be very helpful in reducing inflammation. According to a 2003 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, eating Bing cherries may help reduce inflammation associated with RA. The study showed that blood markers for inflammation were significantly reduced from consuming cherries.26

Ginger, Turmeric, Green Tea
Turmeric

Ginger, turmeric, and green tea are all delicious foods that contain natural anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric, is what gives the spice its yellow color and is a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Recent studies conducted by the CCAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines) have determined that ginger, turmeric, and green tea are all powerful anti-inflammatory agents that may be beneficial to those suffering with RA. These spices can be added to your favorite meals or taken as supplements. As always, consult your physician before taking any supplements.27

Alkaline Foods

RA sufferers frequently find that their digestive systems are out of balance and overly acidic. This is caused by a traditional modern diet of heavily processed, sugar-rich foods. The solution to changing gut health includes the adoption of a more alkaline diet. This includes the consumption of alkalinizing foods like many fruits and vegetables. Raisins, carrots, spinach, bananas, lemons, and apricots are a few examples of strongly alkalinizing foods.28

Joint Lubricating Foods

Fish oil is a wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids and can be obtained by eating fish or by taking supplements. A daily dose of fish oil can help to reduce inflammation in the body, and in turn, inflammation caused by RA.

Mediterranean dietAn additional dietary change that will have an important impact on your allergy symptoms is to reduce your Omega-6 intake. This kind of fatty acid is found inmost processed foods and will wreak havoc on inflammation levels. The intake of Omega-6 fats can be significantly reduced by cutting out processed foods and vegetable oils.

Eliminate Caffeine

The elimination of caffeine may play an active role in the reduction of RA symptoms. Painful RA inflammation can be caused by food allergens, and caffeine often is a culprit. Following an elimination diet is the only true way to determine what food source could be causing inflammation in the system. Removing caffeine as a potential allergen could mean significant reduction in the severity and duration of arthritis symptoms.29

Products & Equipment

There are a host of supportive devices to improve and assist with daily activities. Wrist splints, zipper pullers, and shoehorns are all available to aid with activities that may prove painful. There are a also some specialized splints available30 that keep fingers and toes in pain-free positions. Additionally, there are many products available that assist with movements such as getting in and out of bed easier.

Community Resources

Rehabilitation may be helpful when treating painful RA symptoms. A physical or occupational therapist will be able to address pain, increase mobility, and ensure there is no loss of daily functioning due to RA.

A physical therapist will provide helpful exercises, education, and instruction as to which assistive devices are best. Seeing a physical therapist to treat RA includes working to maintain a certain level of physical function and mobility. A physical therapist can also provide relief for RA symptoms through techniques such as hot/cold applications and ultrasound.

An occupational therapist is committed to assisting RA sufferers with maintaining their independence and ability to properly work, take care of their personal hygiene, and participates in meaningful activities. Occupational therapists will often assess a home/work environment and provide helpful tips, information, and resources that will work to accommodate RA symptoms.31

Updated: September 2019


References

  1. http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/Rheumatic_Disease/default.asp.
  2. http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/guide/understanding-rheumatoid-arthritis-treatment
  3. http://www.enbrel.com/prescribing-information.jspx
  4. Furst, Dan. “Double-Blind, Randomized, Controlled, Pilot Study Comparing Classic Ayuverdic Medicine, Methotrexate, and Their Combination in Rheumatoid Arthritis.” JCR: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology. June 2011. PDF File.
  5. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/feverfew
  6. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/willow-bark
  7. http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/guide/rheumatoid-arthritis-best-worst-supplements-herbs?page=2
  8. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/chinesemed.htm
  9. http://www.arthritistoday.org/arthritis-treatment/natural-and-alternative-treatments/supplements-and-herbs/supplement-guide/thunder-god-vine.php
  10. http://www.hss.edu/conditions_acupuncture-can-it-help-rheumatoid-arthritis.asp#.U4ignMdRGpI
  11. Furst, Dan. “Double-Blind, Randomized, Controlled, Pilot Study Comparing Classic Ayuverdic Medicine, Methotrexate, and Their Combination in Rheumatoid Arthritis.” JCR: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology. June 2011. PDF File.
  12. http://www.livestrong.com/news-articles/367949-list-of-nightshade-vegetables-fruits/
  13. http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/sm
  14. http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21617
  15. http://www.essentialoilspedia.com/arthritis/
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3026480/
  17. http://www.livestrong.com/news-articles/113281-yoga-rheumatoid-arthritis/
  18. http://www.apitherapy.org/about-apitherapy/what-is-apitherapy/
  19. http://www.gracelifemedical.com/Bee%20Venom%20Website%20Dr%20%20Wong.htm
  20. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=50602
  21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18807725
  22. http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/Rheumatic_Disease/default.asp
  23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15266544
  24. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/hypnosis-meditation-and-relaxation-for-pain-treatment?page=2
  25. http://regannaturopathic.com/2013/04/the-truth-about-arginine-lysine-and-herpes-simplex-virus/
  26. http://www.livestrong.com/news-articles/448466-tart-cherries-and-arthritis/
  27. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/RA/getthefacts.htm
  28. http://www.livestrong.com/news-articles/135533-acid-alkaline-balanced-diet/http://www.rheumatoidarthritisprogram.com/the-underlying-cause-of-ra/
  29. https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/rheumatoid-arthritis-natural-treatments
  30. http://www.3pointproducts.com/rheumatoid-arthritis
  31. http://rheumatoidarthritis.net/physical-therapy-and-occupational-therapy/

Categories
Condition

Seasonal Allergies Natural Treatments

Reviewed & edited by Julie A. Cerrato, PhD, AP, CYT, CAP

Seasonal allergies are the body’s immunological reaction to a foreign particle, known as an allergen, when exposed during different times of the year. Commonly referred to as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, the most common airborne allergens include pollen from trees, grass, plants, or mold spores.

For individuals who are sensitive to these allergens, this exposure causes an immune system response that is the culprit behind the unpleasant–sometimes life-altering–symptoms of seasonal allergies.

Seasonal allergies natural treatments are able to address the mind, body, and emotions.

Overview

It is unclear why millions of individuals suffer from seasonal allergies while others do not, but the causation is embedded in the immune system. Through a process referred to as sensitization, the immune system recognizes airborne particles, such as pollen, as harmful invaders and responds to the particles by producing antibodies against it. This means that every time the body is subsequently exposed to the allergens, the immune system automatically releases chemicals into the bloodstream that trigger an allergic response.[1]

sneezing womanHow Seasonal Allergies Feel

Seasonal allergy symptoms feel like a cold, but unlike a cold, are not caused by a virus. These cold-type symptoms are the immune system‘s allergic response to pollen and other allergens brought on by the change of seasons. Seasonal allergies can be experienced at different times throughout the year, as common outdoor allergens bloom in different seasons. Typically, the onset of spring and autumn bring on the worst bouts of seasonal allergies.[2]

Symptoms of seasonal allergies include sneezing, runny nose, itching of the nose, roof of the mouth, throat, and ears, itchy and/or water eyes, congestion, sinus pain and pressure, sore or scratchy throat, dry cough, fatigue, and wheezing. Allergy sufferers may experience all, or only some, of the symptoms.

How Seasonal Allergies are Conventionally Treated

There are a plethora of common over-the-counter medications available, but many individuals find themselves turning to prescription drugs to treat more severe cases of seasonal allergies. Prescription nasal sprays are frequently prescribed and among the most popular are Flonase, Nasonex, and Rhinocort. These nasal corticosteroids are used to treat inflammation in the nasal passages and carry rare but potential side effects of long-term steroid use.

Other commonly prescribed medications include antihistamines, which are histamine-blocking. Histamine, the chemical released into the blood stream during an allergic reaction, is the culprit behind sneezing, itchy eyes, and sinus pressure. It is important to be aware that antihistamines may cause drowsiness and should be used with caution before operating machinery or a vehicle. Physicians may also prescribe the use of a decongestant to alleviate congestion symptoms, or oral corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.

Although seasonal allergy symptoms may be challenging, keeping sufferers indoors while others enjoy the change of seasons, it is encouraging that there are a plethora of holistic treatments, precautions, and dietary and lifestyle changes that can help reduce and manage seasonal allergies year round.

Holistic Healing for Seasonal Allergy Sufferers

Season allergies affect the whole person, and natural forms of treatment are able to address the mind, body, and emotions. Seasonal allergies are an immune system response that can be attended to through various holistic forms of treatment. Natural allergy treatments include the use of herbal supplements, nasal irrigation, acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, and sublingual immunotherapy.

Herbal Supplements

Instead of turning to over-the-counter antihistamines that can cause drowsiness and other side effects, give quercetin a try. This bioflavonoid, found naturally in onions, apples, red wine, grapefruit, parsley, and leafy greens, is available in supplement form as a natural herbal compound that has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. Quercetin works by blocking substances involved with the release of histamine. For best results, begin taking a daily supplement 4-6 weeks prior to allergy season. As always, consult your physician before taking quercetin or any other supplement.[3]

Stinging nettleStinging nettle is a plant with a long medicinal history. Used for hundreds of years to treat a wide variety of ailments, recent studies have shown stinging nettle’s effectiveness in reducing histamine levels. Freeze dried nettle leaf capsules are often taken before the onset of allergy season to preemptively ward off the release of histamine into the body. Stinging nettle may alter the menstrual cycle and cause miscarriages, so pregnant women should avoid it. In addition, nettle may interact with several drugs including anti-platelets, anticoagulants, antihypertensives, diuretics, diabetes medication and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). As always, consult your physician before taking any supplements.[4]

Neti potNasal Irrigation

A very simple and effective method for treating seasonal allergies is the use of a Neti pot. Neti pots have been used for thousands of years and provide an inexpensive method of treatment to irrigate the nasal passages and alleviate allergy symptoms. To flush your sinuses with a Neti pot, fill the pot with a salt-water solution and lean over a sink with your head tiled to one side. Place the spout of the Neti pot in one nostril and gently pour until you feel the solution in your nose. Keep your head tilted and allow the solution to pour out of the other nostril. Blow your nose after the initial application and then repeat the process on the other side, this time tilting your head in the opposite direction.[5]

AcupunctureAcupuncture

Founded on the concept of removing blockages in mental, physical, and emotional life force and energy, acupuncture is the science and art of restoring the balance of natural energy to the body. Developed within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this form of therapy has proven useful in alleviating numerous conditions and disorders. By treating the whole person and working to balance an impaired immune system that is responsible for an allergic response, acupuncture provides a holistic approach to targeting and treating seasonal allergies.

A 2013 study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, examined the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments in patients with seasonal allergies. The findings are promising for using acupuncture in combination with other therapies to treat seasonal allergies. Of the study’s participants, those receiving acupuncture treatments in conjunction with their antihistamines experienced an improvement in their overall allergy symptoms and reduction in their antihistamine use than the other groups. Study author, Dr. Benno Brinkhaus, stated, “From my experience as a physician and acupuncturist, and as a researcher, I would recommend trying acupuncture if patients are not satisfied with conventional anti-allergic medication or treatment or they suffer from more or less serious side effects of the conventional medication. Also because acupuncture is a relative safe treatment.”[6]

AyurvedaAyurvedic Medicine

An Ayurvedic approach to treating seasonal allergies involves eliminating toxins held deep within bodily tissues and striking a balance among the body’s elements. According to Ayurvedic practitioner Dr. Julie Cerrato, PhD, AP, CYT, “an Ayurvedic approach to treating allergies targets detoxifying the liver, kidneys, and blood, along with eliminating “ama” or toxins from the gut. It focuses on processing undigested food, allergens, and toxins in the digestive system to reduce inflammatory allergic reactions. Panchakarma, known as “the 5 actions” is the optimal form of Ayurvedic detoxification and can extract allergens and ama from deep within the body’s tissues.”

Panchakarma (PK) is an Ayurvedic treatment that involves a series of massages, herbal saunas, colonic therapy, and nutritional changes to cleanse the body of “ama” and eliminate allergy responses. These enjoyable Ayurvedic series of treatments restore a sense of balance and well-being to the allergy sufferer. Panchakarma treatment sessions are available at local Ayurvedic therapy centers under the supervision of a trained Ayurvedic practitioner.

Sublingual Immunotherapy

Sublingual Immunotherapy (SILT) is a natural seasonal allergy treatment. Used widely through Europe, Australia, South America, and Asia, SILT involves exposing the individual to small doses of their allergen(s) repeatedly to build up an immunity. Most commonly given in the form of a liquid or tablet, the allergen is placed under the tongue and held there for 1-2 minutes, then swallowed. SILT’s effectiveness has been well-documented over the past 20 years, and it is a beneficial natural treatment option in treating rhinitis, asthma, and itchy eyes caused by allergies to grass and tree pollens.

Side effects of SILT are typically localized and mild and include mouth itching or stomach discomfort. It is highly recommended to seek Sublingual Immunotherapy through an allergist to ensure proper use and dosage.[7]

Holistic Lifestyle Changes

Holistic lifestyle changes are simple, yet effective, daily decisions that can reduce and even prevent the worst bouts of seasonal allergies. While allergy sufferers can’t hide indoors all season long, there are several holistic lifestyle changes that can be made. Additionally, there are many innovative and helpful products that can eliminate allergen triggers from your home environment.

 

allergies - shut windowsA few ways to avoid peak allergy season reactions include:

  • Remain inside with windows closed during peak pollen hours
  • Stay indoors on dry, windy days
  • Return outside after a spring rain (the rain helps to clear the air of allergens)
  • Avoid outdoor gardening and chores during early morning hours when the pollen count is highest
  • Wear a dust mask while performing outdoor activities
  • Run the air conditioning in your home and car can to help to clear the air of common allergens
  • Utilize a dehumidifier to reduce dryness from allergies
  • Use a vacuum with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filter
  • Wear tight wrap-around sunglasses when outdoors to create a barrier from the eyes

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to improve the air quality of a home and work environment is to use an air purifier. Several types of air purifiers are available including ionizers, ones with HEPA filters, and differing sizes dependent on the space for which it will be cycling air. It is easy to determine what size air purifier to purchase by looking at the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). The CADR reveals the speed and amount of airborne particles to be filtered. When choosing an air purifier for the home or office, be sure to purchase one that has a CADR rating equal to two-thirds of the room size. These air purifiers reduce airborne allergens that make their way into the home to create a clean air environment, which is especially important for seasonal allergy sufferers.

The use of products such as dehumidifiers and air purifiers will also assist in removing allergy triggers from the atmosphere. Be sure to use a vacuum that contains a HEPA filter to ensure that dust, pollen, and other allergens are removed from your home.

Holistic Diet & Nutrition

Diet and nutrition plays a large role in virtually every health condition. Seasonal allergies can be treated by specific dietary changes and a holistic approach to nutrition. Probiotics, an anti-inflammatory diet, specific spices proven to reduce allergic responses, and avoidance of dairy products can all go far in reducing congestion, boosting the immune system, and addressing the root causes behind seasonal allergies.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that exist in the stomach. By taking in probiotics through dietary means, an individual can vastly improve their “gut health” and help to boost the immune system.

Recent research has uncovered a link between the ingestion of probiotic drinks and the reduction in seasonal allergy symptoms. A 2013 study, published in PLOS ONE journal, revealed that regular intake of probiotics had a significant impact on gut health. In turn, this caused a systemic change in cells related to seasonal allergy symptoms,such as those lining the nasal cavity. Probiotics will ensure good gut health, which is vital to a healthy immune system and overall reduced allergic response.[8]

Balancing Omega-3 and Omega-6

You can greatly reduce the severity of your allergy symptoms by following an anti-inflammatory diet that is rich in Omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the system and are in short supply in most of our modern day diets. Omega-3 food sources include flax seeds, walnuts, fish, grass fed meat and eggs, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. An additional important dietary change that will have a positive impact on your allergy symptoms is to reduce your Omega-6 intake. This kind of fatty acid is found in most processed foods and will wreak havoc on your inflammation levels. The intake of Omega-6 fats can be significantly reduced by cutting out processed foods and vegetable oils.

TurmericAdd Some Spice

Another way to help combat congestion includes adding naturally spicy foods into your meals. Capsaicin in nightshades like peppers has been shown to reduce congestion. Hot peppers, horseradish, and spicy mustards will all work as natural (and delicious) decongestants on allergy symptoms.

Turmeric is also a wonderful spice to add to an ingredient list during allergy season. This spice, a relation of the ginger family, has a peppery flavor and contains curcumin, which acts as a natural decongestant.[9]

Take the Tea, Hold the Cream

Chamomile TeaIn addition to increasing your Omega-3’s, decreasing Omega-6’s, and including spicy foods into your diet, chamomile tea is another wonderful natural seasonal allergy remedy. Chamomile contains high levels of quercetin, the aforementioned anti-inflammatory antioxidant.

Additionally, eliminating sources of dairy and sugar can help cut down on mucus production, so avoiding adding milk to tea. Limiting or avoiding thick, heavy dairy products such as ice cream, yogurt, and sweets during allergy season can also help keep mucus buildup at bay.

Products & Equipment

Neti Pot ElephantNeti Pot

Neti Pots are an inexpensive product that help to flush irritating pollen and other allergens from the nasal cavities. The accompanying sterile saline solution can be made at home using salt and distilled water, or is available for purchase.

Air Purifier

An air purifier with a HEPA filter will work wonders in keeping your home allergen-free and cycling clean air back into the environment. You may also want to try adding a dehumidifier to your bedroom to keep the air as fresh as possible.

Aromatherapy

DiffuserAromatherapy diffusers can be used to bring additional seasonal allergy relief. There are many essential oils that help alleviate allergy symptoms, reduce inflammation, soothe sore throats, relieve sinus pain and pressure and improve nasal and chest congestion. Some oils include:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Peppermint
  • Lavender
  • Frankincense
  • Lemon

Apply a singe essential oil or an oil mixture to a diffuser and enjoy the allergy relief.

Community Resources

An allergist, or immunologist, is a specialized physician that is trained to diagnose and treat allergies, amongst other ailments. If you find yourself suffering from severe allergies at the turn of the seasons, you may benefit from an allergist who can help determine the best course of treatment.

Updated: April 2014


Written by Kristin Accorsi

Reviewed & edited by Julie Cerrato

  • 1. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hay-fever/basics/causes/con-20020827
  • 2. www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/outdoor-allergens.aspx
  • 3. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18187018
  • 4. umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/stinging-nettle
  • 5. www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/allergic-rhinitis/treatment.html
  • 6. www.cnn.com/2013/02/19/health/acpuncture-allergies/
  • 7. www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/treatment/pages/sublingual-immunotherapy-slit.aspx
  • 8. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131126102305.htm
  • 9. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21802026
  • photo credit: flickr.com/photos/chsia/8560999528/
Categories
Condition

Lactose Intolerance Natural Treatments

Typically our bodies produce the enzyme lactase in the small intestine. Lactase works to convert the lactose found in milk and other dairy products into the simpler sugars glucose and galactose which are then absorbed into the bloodstream.

People with lactose intolerance, however, lack enough lactase and are therefore unable to break down the lactose. This can result in uncomfortable digestive symptoms. The following is information on lactose intolerance natural treatments.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance?

Symptoms of lactose intolerance can range from mild to severe and are generally digestive related. They can include abdominal discomfort, gas, bloating, diarrhea and nausea. Most often symptoms occur anywhere from half an hour to two hours after eating foods containing lactose as the undigested enzyme moves into the colon and interacts negatively with the intestinal bacteria.

What Causes It?

There are several causes of lactose intolerance.

  • General Aging. As many people age the amount of lactase in their small intestine slowly decreases which can lead to lactose intolerance.
  • Specific Problem. Other times an issue with the small intestine such as an illness, injury or surgery can result in decreased amounts of lactase. In cases such as these treating the underlying illness such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease can sometimes help return lactase levels to normal.
  • Congenital Issue. Although rare, occasionally babies are born with no lactase. This is a hereditary disorder and is treated by giving the infant lactose-free infant formula.
  • Prematurity at Birth. Infants’ lactase levels rise in the third trimester so babies born prematurely may be lactose intolerant.

How Is It Diagnosed?

If lactose intolerance is suspected, one easy way to help determine a diagnosis is to eliminate dairy from the diet for several days and note if symptoms decrease or disappear. Keeping a food and symptom log can be helpful as milk and other foods are slowly re-introduced.

Tests are available as well.

  • Lactose Tolerance Test. In the lactose tolerance test an individual drinks something with high levels of lactose and then has blood drawn two hours later. In people with normal lactase levels there should be more glucose in the blood due to the lactose being broken down during digestion. If a glucose rise is not observed this can indicate lactose intolerance.
  • Hydrogen Breath Test. This is similar to the lactose tolerance test in that a liquid with high levels of lactose is drunk. Instead of a blood test, however, the person has their breath measured periodically for amounts of hydrogen. Normally there is not much hydrogen but in the absence of lactase the lactose ferments in the colon and results in hydrogen released during exhalation.
  • Stool Acidity Test. The stool acidity test can detect whether lactic acid and other acids caused by fermentation of lactose in the colon are present thereby indicating lactose intolerance. This is mainly used for babies and children unable to do the other tests.

How Is It Treated?

There is no cure for lactose intolerance. However, there are things that can be done to make life easier.

  • Cut back on dairy. Many people find the best result from decreasing the amount of dairy in their diets to reduce symptoms. If this is done, be sure to still get enough calcium and vitamin D from other sources. Also, watch out for hidden lactose in unexpected places like cereal, salad dressing, baking mixes and more. Ingredients such as whey, dry milk solids and milk byproducts should all be red flags.
  • Choose the dairy that is eaten carefully. Swiss and cheddar cheese, for example, have only small amounts of lactose while the bacteria in yogurt breaks down lactose and therefore may be easier to tolerate.
  • Re-think eating habits. Consume smaller servings of dairy to reduce the chance of problems. In addition, drinking milk at mealtime with other foods can lengthen the digestive process and might decrease symptoms.
  • Try substitutions. Instead of regular milk experiment with lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk and other products.
  • Give lactase tablets a try. Several brands of lactase-containing over-the-counter tablets are available. These can be taken right before eating dairy and may lessen discomfort.
  • Probiotics. Probiotics may help some people and can be found in certain yogurts and as supplements.

References

  • digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/lactoseintolerance/
  • mayoclinic.com/health/lactose-intolerance/DS00530

Written by Kristen Stewart
Kristen is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting and lifestyle topics. To learn more, visit her website at kristenestewart.com.

Categories
Condition

Wheat Allergy Natural Treatment

A wheat allergy is basically being allergic to wheat. It is one of the top eight most common food allergies (along with milk, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish) and can be difficult to manage due to the fact that about three-quarters of all grain products contain wheat flour. It is important to note that being allergic to wheat is different from celiac disease.

Wheat allergy natural treatment involves avoiding anything containing wheat.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Wheat Allergy?

An allergic reaction to wheat is similar to other types of food allergies. Symptoms can range from sneezing, congestion and/or asthma to hives, skin rashes or swelling to digestive issues like stomach ache, nausea, diarrhea and/or vomiting.

Life-threatening reactions known as anaphylaxis can also occur. In cases like this a person may experience symptoms such as difficulty breathing and/or swallowing, swelling of the throat, chest pain, dizziness, fainting and/or a fast heartbeat. Immediate medical intervention is critical with an Epi-Pen and call to 911.

What Causes It?

A wheat allergy occurs when the body mistakenly views the wheat protein as an invader out to cause harm. It typically begins in the baby or early toddler years and is often accompanied by other food allergies. In many cases children outgrow the allergy with about 65 percent being wheat allergy-free by the time they enter the teen years.

How Is It Diagnosed?

If a wheat allergy is suspected, a doctor will perform a physical exam along with a combination of tests depending on the situation. In a skin test tiny amounts of wheat proteins are pricked into the skin to see if there is a reaction. A blood test can screen for antibodies.

Often patients are asked to keep a food diary where they write down what they have eaten and any reactions afterward. An elimination diet is another possibility where certain foods are avoided and then slowly added back in while noting any symptoms. Finally, in food challenge testing small amounts of the food may be eaten under very close supervision to see if a reaction results.

How Is It Treated?

Avoidance of anything containing wheat is crucial to preventing a reaction. Reading labels is a must and meeting with a registered dietitian can be helpful.

What Should Be Avoided?

Education and diligence are important in working to avoid wheat. As expected it is often in breads, pasta, crackers and many desserts like cookies and cake. More surprisingly, however, are other foods like hot dogs, ketchup, soy sauce and ice cream which may also contain it. Beer, licorice, jelly beans and hard candy may be culprits as well. Even make-up and playdough may have wheat in them.

Labels should always be read very carefully to avoid accidental ingestion.

What If an Allergic Reaction Occurs?

The possibility of an allergic reaction should be discussed with a doctor and a plan put into place. Generally speaking someone with a wheat allergy may be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector (commonly known as an Epi-Pen) to use if he or she feels a reaction coming on. Antihistamines may help ease symptoms but should not be used in place of epinephrine which is the gold standard for treating life-threatening anaphylaxis. 911 should also be called in the event of a severe reaction.

Is a Wheat Allergy the Same Thing as Celiac Disease?

A wheat allergy is different than celiac disease. While people with a wheat allergy may be allergic to other foods there is also a chance they are not and wheat is the only food to be avoided.

Individuals with celiac disease, on the other hand, need to avoid all foods containing gluten (foods with wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut and some oat products among others).

The reactions also differ. For people with a wheat allergy reactions can be life threatening. Celiac disease also has serious consequences to eating gluten but the damage is over the long term with ailments like fatigue, malnutrition and anemia being possible.

Written by Kristen Stewart
Kristen is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting and lifestyle topics. To learn more, visit her website at kristenestewart.com.

  • acaai.org/allergist/allergies/Types/food-allergies/types/Pages/wheat-allergy.aspx
  • foodallergy.org/allergens/wheat-allergy
  • mayoclinic.com/health/wheat-allergy/DS01002
Categories
Condition

Celiac Sprue Natural Treatments

Reviewed by Sandy Cho, MD

Also known as celiac disease, celiac sprue is a condition that results in damage to the small intestine when people eat foods containing gluten. The intestine takes in nutrients through tiny villi but when individuals with celiac sprue eat foods with gluten, it triggers an immune reaction instead of healthy digestion. The resulting immune reaction can harm the villi which may lead to malabsorption of important vitamins and minerals.

The following is information on celiac sprue natural treatments.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Symptoms can vary by individual but often include a variety of gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, gas, indigestion, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting and/or unusual stools (floating, bloody or bad smelling).

Celiac sprue can also cause other health problems such as fatigue, malnutrition, anemia, joint pain, muscle cramps, mouth ulcers, osteoporosis, depression, irritability and/or unexplained weight loss.

What Causes It?

While the exact cause is not known, experts believe there is likely a genetic component. It is believed that about 1 in 100 people suffer from celiac sprue but that number climbs to 1 in 22 individuals who have a parent, child or sibling with it (and 1 in 39 who have an aunt, uncle or cousin with it). It is possible that environmental stress can contribute to activating the ailment.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is typically made by a gastroenterologist. Frequently, a blood test is ordered to detect the presence of certain antibodies (ie. antiendomysial and antigliadin antibodies). This may be followed up with the doctor viewing the small intestine with an endoscope and taking a tissue biopsy. One or both of these tests may be done again several months after treatment has begun to make sure improvement has occurred.

How Is It Treated?

Avoidance of gluten is the only treatment for celiac sprue. It is important to note damage to the intestine can occur even if there are no symptoms so education and vigilance are key.

Meeting with a registered dietitian who has a specialty in celiac sprue can be very helpful in learning how to shop and eat.

What Should Be Avoided?

Anything that contains gluten should not be eaten (or drunk in the case of beer). This includes foods that have wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut and some oat products as ingredients.

The list doesn’t stop there, however. Some processed foods can also have gluten and it may not be obvious (“modified food starch” for example). Certain vitamins and medicines can also be culprits and should be studied carefully before taken.

Cross-contamination is another concern. It can happen anywhere from the factory where machinery is shared among various products to the kitchen where gluten-free food may come in contact with non-gluten free crumbs from the toaster or cutting board.

What Can Be Eaten?

Plain meat, poultry and fish along with fruits, vegetables and rice are naturally gluten-free. Flours made from soy, rice, corn or potato are also generally safe as well as certain grains like buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa. (However, check the packaging carefully to make sure the labels say they have been manufactured in a gluten-free facility.)

Should Additional Vitamins & Supplements Be Taken?

Malnutrition can be a side effect of celiac sprue due to the malabsorption of nutrients. (This can be a particular concern in children who may experience a delay in growth and pregnant women who might have a greater chance of suffering a miscarriage or having a baby born with birth defects.)

Levels of calcium, iron, folic acid, vitamins D and B12 and others may be deficient in people with celiac sprue. Working with a healthcare professional can help determine if or when supplementation is needed.

References

  • celiac.org/celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/
  • umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/celiac-sprue-natural-treatments
  • csaceliacs.info

Written by Kristen Stewart

Categories
Condition

Bursitis Natural Treatments

Written by Sandy Cho, MD and reviewed by Julie A. Cerrato, PhD, AP, CYT, CAP

Bursitis is an inflammation of the body’s small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints called bursae. Bursitis is often caused by repetitive motion and use of a joint.

There are several natural treatments for bursitis including Herbal Medicine, Supplements, Homeopathy, and Exercise.

The following provides information on bursitis natural treatments.

Overview

What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is an inflammation of the body’s small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints called bursae. These bursae help to lubricate and cushion the joints. Bursae are most commonly affected at the shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee joints in the body. Bursitis is often caused by repetitive motion and use of a joint. Some examples include:

  • Throwing a baseball
  • Lifting an object over your head repeatedly
  • Prolonged kneeling on a hard surface
  • Leaning on your elbows for extended periods of time

Bursitis can also occur as a result of mild injury, infection of a joint, or arthritis.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Aching or stiffness of the joint that worsens with movement
  • Sharp or shooting pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Warm joint

What are conventional treatments?

The treatment of bursitis usually involves resting and elevating the affected joint and alternating between applying hot and cold packs to the affected area.
Medications: NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may be used to reduce inflammation and pain

  • Over –the-counter NSAIDs: include Advil, Aleve, and Motrin. These may cause gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Prescription NSAIDs: such as diclofenac (Voltaren) may also be used. Such medications may increase your risk of heart attack or stroke if used for a prolonged duration

Injections: an injection of corticosteroid into the bursa may reduce inflammation and pain.
Surgery: in a few, rare cases, surgical intervention may be warranted.

Herbs

Herbs can help reduce inflammation found in bursitis and have been used throughout time in all parts of the world.

To ensure safety and avoid drug interactions, consult your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Boswellia (Boswellia serrata): Extracts of Boswellia serrata have been clinically studied for osteoarthritis and joint function as well as in reducing pain and inflammation of the joints of the body. 150 mg three times a day has been shown to be effective. Boswellia gel may be used for topical application.
  • Turmeric: a well- known spice that has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both Chinese and Indian medicine. 375 mg three times a day for three months has been shown to be effective.
  • White willow (Salix alba): boil 2 grams (half teaspoon) of its bark in 8 ounces of water. Drink up to 5 cups per day. As white willow acts similarly to aspirin, please consult with your healthcare provider before taking if you are allergic to aspirin or salicylates. Children under 18 years of age should not be given white willow.

Supplements

Along with a diet high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish, while avoiding processed foods and foods in high in sugar and fat, supplements can help reduce inflammation in bursitis.

To ensure safety and avoid drug interactions, consult your doctor or pharmacist before using any of these supplements:

  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant. In terms of cellular health, because it is an electron donor, it helps to reduce oxidative stress and keep the cells in a reduced or natural state. Vitamin C can help to repair connective tissue such as cartilage found in joints.
    • The ester form of Vitamin C is better absorbed than other formulations
    • Vitamin C at a dose of 2000 mg a day is a good starting dose
  • Glucosamine sulfate: as effective as NSAIDS in treating pain, it may benefit those experiencing moderate to severe pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin can also reduce total body inflammation, including lowering C-reactive protein levels.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Supplementation with Omega 3 fish oil can decrease the inflammation and reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis and/or bursitis. In one study, the use of Omega 3 fish oil and glucosamine together markedly showed a decrease in stiffness and pain compared to those who just received glucosamine.
    • A good anti-inflammatory dose is at least 3-4 grams a day to start and slowly increase to a maximum of 7-8 grams
    • As this supplement can thin the blood, if you are on any blood thinners, you may wish to start at a lower dose and increase upwards

Homeopathy

Homeopathic medicine provides support and relief for those suffering from bursitis.

  • Arnica gel has been demonstrated for reducing inflammation of the joints. The application of Arnica topically to the hands or knees can be very effective in reducing pain and inflammation.

Bodywork

  • Chiropractic treatment is often used to treat people with bursitis, affording them decreased pain and increased range of motion. Chiropractic medicine involves adjustments or manipulations of the spine and joints to realign vertebra and joints. The treatment objectives consist of reducing inflammation of the joint, restoring proper posture and movement, and bringing the whole body back to its healthy state.
  • Acupuncture can help reduce swelling and inflammation as well as relieve pain in the joints from bursitis. Frequently used for pain relief, the Chinese philosophy believes by putting needles in certain locations, the body’s energy flow or qi can be rebalanced and provide relief. Many Westerners think the stimulation of certain nerves, muscles and connective tissues increases the body’s blood flow and release of endorphins which can lessen discomfort.

Fitness

  • Exercise provides a multitude of benefits. From a greater immune system, increased stamina to stronger muscles, exercise is highly recommended. In bursitis, exercising the muscles around the affected joint helps to reduce the pressure on the affected joint and bursa itself. Exercises such as yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi can help improve the strength of your muscles and ligaments while reducing muscle tension.

 

  • Hochber MC, Clegg DO. Potential effects of chondroitin sulfate on joint swelling: a GAIT report. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 2008;16 Suppl 3:S22-S24.
  • Kimmatkar N, Thawani V, Hingorani L, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee — a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2003;10:3-7.
  • Ross SM. “Osteoarthritis: a proprietary Arnica gel is found to be as effective as ibuprofen gel in osteoarthritis of the hands.” Holistic Nursing Practice. 2008 Jul-Aug;22(4):237-239.
  • Schmid B, Ludtke R, Selbmann HK, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of a standardized willow bark extract in patients with osteoarthritis: randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trial. Z Rheumatol. 2000;59:314-320.
  • Shakibaei M, John T et al. Suppression of NF-kappaB activation by curcumin leads to inhibition of expression of cyclo-oxygenase-2 and matrix metalloproteinase-9 in human articular chondrocytes: Implications for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Biochemical Pharmacology. 2007 May 1;73(9):1434-145.
  • Vas J, Perea-Milla E, Mendez C, Galante AH, Madrazo F, Medina I, et al. Acupuncture and rehabilitation of the painful shoulder: study protocol of an ongoing multicentre randomised controlled clinical trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2005 Oct 14;5:19.

Updated: October 2013