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The Great Physician's Rx for Arthritis
By Jordan Rubin Joseph Brasco
Thomas Nelson Copyright © 2007 Jordan Rubin
All right reserved.
Chapter One Key #1
Eat to Live
One of the great stories in Scripture happened when Moses, perched on a nearby hill, watched Joshua lead the nation of Israel against the Amalekites in battle. The Bible records that as long as Moses held up a rod in his hands, Israel was winning the battle. When he rested his arms at his sides, the soldiers of Amalek were winning.
Here's how Exodus 17:12-13 (NLT) describes what happened next:
Moses' arms finally became too tired to hold up the staff any longer. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side, holding up his hands until sunset. As a result, Joshua and his troops were able to crush the army of Amalek.
Centuries later, it's fun to speculate that God's chosen leader couldn't hold up the heavy bar because his shoulders suffered from osteoarthritis pain. Perhaps he should have asked Aaron to run down to the corner drugstore to pick up a tube of Bengay to ensure Joshua and his troops' glorious victory.
I'm teasing, of course, because the Old Testament informs us that when Moses died at the age of 120, his eyesight was perfect and he was strong as a young man (Deut. 34:7). Moses and the millions who followed him into the wilderness weren't racked by arthritic knees, crooked backs, and sore hands during the time of the Exodus. The psalmist declared that there wasn't one "feeble among His tribes" (Ps. 105:37 NKJV).
I'm reasonably confident that Moses and the Hebrews were in excellent shape from their natural and healthy diet as well as their physical labors, so they didn't have excess pounds increasing stress on their weight-bearing joints. Their lean bodies subsisted on a nutritious diet comprised of a wondrous array of natural fruits and vegetables and grass-fed beef and lamb. Scripture also tells us what the Israelites didn't eat, which was unclean and "detestable" meats such as pork, shellfish, and certain birds like vultures. While I'm not prepared to say that Moses and the Hebrews were arthritis-free since they ate so healthily, the following question is relevant today: Can the foods you eat cause arthritis?
The Arthritis Foundation states that this is one of the most common questions asked by people with arthritis. People naturally wonder if their chronic joint pain is the result of eating something they shouldn't have since the symptoms of arthritis often change from one day to the next. Those having a "bad day" question whether their arthritis pain was caused by something they chewed and swallowed hours earlier.
I believe arthritis can be affected by what you've dined on lately, but it's more likely caused by the cumulative effect of your lifelong diet. Just ask Doris Bailey. This fifty-six-year-old mother of two heard me speak at Calvary Temple Worship Center in Modesto, California, where I had been invited to share a message during the Sunday morning services about presenting our bodies as living sacrifices.
I challenged those in the congregation that morning: "Can you say, 'This is the best I have, and I'm giving it to the Lord'? Are you an example of God's best? Can others see your vitality? Wouldn't it be awesome if God's people were so full of good health, so vibrant, that others would notice us from ten or twenty feet away?"
Doris didn't want to be noticed because of her weight. At 330 pounds, she knew her health was far from vibrant. Decades of trolling country buffets and feasting on fried foods, jelly-filled doughnuts, and half gallons of ice cream in one sitting had taken their toll. Her knees were shot from osteoarthritis: the only way she could walk was with the assistance of a cane or walker.
After hearing me speak, Doris jumped on the Great Physician's bandwagon-well, jumped might not be the operative word since her arthritic knees weren't up to the challenge, but she wholeheartedly climbed aboard and completely changed her diet and lifestyle. She said she started feeling much better a month or two after following God's plan for healthy eating, which makes sense to me. I'm confident that anyone with osteoarthritis can benefit from eating whole, natural, and organic foods that are part of the Great Physician's prescription.
A nutritional approach to arthritis will go a long way toward controlling this disease. A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine study suggested that those with osteoarthritis can reduce the inevitable pain and restricted movement by altering their diets. This North Carolina study reported that beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and lycopene, which are dietary carotenoids common in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, appeared to reduce the odds of osteoarthritis of the knee by 30 to 40 percent, while diets heavy in soybean and other oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids as much as doubled the risk of knee problems.
"Dietary practices have a major impact on arthritis," agree the authors of Arthritis: An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide. "In fact, if you eat the typical American diet, it could be making your arthritis worse. Among the offenders are white flour and sugar, conventionally raised red meat, chemical additives, yeast, and conventional pasteurized and homogenized milk and dairy products. These foods can increase inflammation, invoke allergies, and interfere with hormone production, cellular integrity, and the function and mobility of the joints."
My view of the relationship between osteoarthritis and diet prompts me to make three points:
1. Diet can be extremely important for keeping inflammation down.
2. Eliminating processed foods and replacing them with healthy whole and organic foods will improve your overall health, which will improve your arthritic condition.
3. Following the Great Physician's prescription, as Pat McCleave and Doris Bailey discovered, often results in significant weight loss, which will reduce undue strain on the joints. A great deal of evidence shows that being overweight increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis, especially in the knees.
Changing your diet, as well as drinking a lot more water, will work wonders for those aches and pains you may feel when you get out of bed in the morning. For those reasons, The Great Physician's Rx for Arthritis relies heavily on my first key, "Eat to Live." You can change the way you eat by doing two things:
1. Eat what God created for food.
2. Eat food in a form that is healthy for the body.
Following these two vital concepts will give you a great shot to beat arthritis and put you on the road toward living a healthy, vibrant life.
Back to the Source
Do you have to think hard to remember the last time you bit into a fresh apple, scooped up a handful of raisins, or supped on lentil soup? These foods are nutritional gold mines and contain no refined or processed carbohydrates, no additives or preservatives, and no artificial sweeteners. Since God has given us a bountiful harvest of natural foods to eat, it would take several pages to describe all the fantastic fruits and vibrant vegetables available from His garden. A diet based on whole and natural foods fits within the bull's-eye of eating foods that God created in a form healthy for the body.
I believe God gave us physiologies that crave these foods in their natural state because our bodies are genetically set for certain nutritional requirements by our Creator. Our taste buds, however, have been manipulated by major food conglomerates, restaurant chains, and fast-food eateries that sweeten meats with secret sauces and top everything in sight with melted cheese and bacon. The strategy has worked: we've become a country that loves inexpensive, deep-fried, greasy food that is high in calories, high in fat, high in sugar, and-in most people's minds-high in taste.
Pat McCleave's story is all too common these days: every weekday morning he sat down before a tray of McDonald's bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits and a side of fried hash browns. For him, taste trumped health, no matter how many calories or grams of trans-fatty acids the fast-food breakfast fare contained. This explains why drive-thru chains and sit-down restaurants are purveyors of cheese-and-egg sandwiches, monster burgers, buckets of fried chicken, and stuffed-crust pizza-foods not in a form that God created.
Having an awareness of what you eat is an important first step in dealing with arthritis. As we begin traveling down this road together, I want to help you understand that everything you eat is a protein, a fat, or a carbohydrate-nutrients that keep the body running as best it can. Each of these nutrients positively or negatively affects your weight and your health.
Let's take a closer look at these macronutrients.
The First Word on Protein
Proteins, one of the basic components of foods, are the essential building blocks of the body. All proteins are combinations of twenty-two amino acids, which build body organs, muscles, and nerves, to name a few important duties. Among other things, proteins provide for the transport of nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout the body and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body's cells, tissues, and organs.
Our bodies, however, cannot produce all twenty-two amino acids that we need to live a robust life. Scientists have discovered that eight essential amino acids are missing, meaning that they must come from other sources outside the body. It just so happens that animal protein-chicken, beef, lamb, dairy, eggs, and so on-is the only complete protein source providing the Big Eight amino acids.
Yet the conventional wisdom among traditional and alternative medicine is that animal protein contains large quantities of fat, which raise levels of inflammatory compounds in the body and increase arthritic symptoms. Trimming red meat from the diet is often promoted as a strong first step to getting osteoarthritis under control. Some folks in the alternative medicine world counsel patients not to eat any animal protein at all, saying that eating meat only worsens inflammation in the joints.
I'm not in favor of a vegetarian diet, however. While plant foods are extremely beneficial for us, they do not contain all the essential amino acids found in animal proteins, which play an important part in retaining muscle strength and keeping the immune system healthy. At the same time, I believe arthritis is a condition where cutting back on commercially produced meat consumption could work in your favor. The authors of Arthritis: An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide point out that commercially produced, corn-fed meat is high in arachidonic acid, which is converted by the body into powerful pro-inflammatory compounds. Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid found primarily in meat, poultry, and dairy products, and when your diet is tilted too heavily toward these foods, arachidonic acids are stored in cell membranes that instigate inflammation.
I'm confident that those battling arthritis have been eating the wrong kinds of meat for many years, as well as too much of it. For instance, hamburger is a high-fat meat found in every main dish from backyard burgers to spaghetti and meatballs. But in this country, the vast majority of hamburger is comprised of ground chuck with added fat from hormone-injected cattle eating pesticide-sprayed feed laced with antibiotics.
You would be much better eating hamburger-as well as other cuts of beef-produced from range-fed and pasture-fed cows. Natural beef is much healthier for you than assembly-line "production" cuts filling our nation's supermarket meat cases. The best and most healthy sources of meat come from organically raised cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, and venison. Grass-fed beef is leaner and lower in calories than grain-fed beef, and the flavor is tremendous. Organic beef is higher in heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids and important vitamins like [B.sub.12] and E. When they are eaten in moderation, I don't believe lean red meats will exacerbate arthritic conditions.
For those seeking to reduce their consumption of red meat, an excellent replacement is fish, which provide nutrients that can benefit arthritis conditions. Salmon and other cold-water fish contain high levels of beneficial essential fatty acids such as omega-3s. When you eat a fresh filet of fish, omega-3 fatty acids are converted into prostaglandins, which are hormone-like fatty acids that bring on a multitude of biochemical reactions, including the reduction of inflammation in the joints.
You should shop for fish with scales and fins caught in the wild from oceans and rivers rather than "feedlot salmon" raised on fish farms, which don't compare to their cold-water cousins in terms of taste or nutritional value. While it's great to see more people eating the tender pink meat of farm-raised Atlantic salmon, it's never going to nutritionally match what comes from the wild. The salmon from fish farms spend several years lazily circling concrete tanks, fattening up on pellets of salmon chow, not streaking through the ocean eating small marine life as they're supposed to.
The better alternative is to purchase fresh salmon and other fish from your local fish market or health food store. Look for the label "Alaskan" or wild-caught. Wild-caught fish is an absolutely incredible food and should be consumed liberally. Supermarkets and health food stores are stocking these types of foods in greater quantities these days, and, of course, they are found in natural food stores, fish markets, and specialty stores.
The Skinny on Fats
Since many people who suffer from osteoarthritis and gout are overweight, they look to a low-fat, reduced-fat, or fat-free diet as a panacea to lose weight and reduce the strain on their tender joints.
I don't blame anyone for thinking this way. For the last decade or so, the mainstream media has been filled with stories about how bad fat is for you. The underlying message of these news features is if you want to lose weight, then eliminate foods with fat. Best-selling books such as The Pritikin Principle by Nathan Pritikin and The Ornish Diet by Dean Ornish, M.D., have preached the gospel of low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets. About five years ago, we began seeing supermarket shelves filled with convenience foods displaying the magic words fat-free or reduced fat on the packaging.
Young girls nagged their mothers to buy these low-fat foods, believing they would be as thin as a Parisian supermodel if they dipped low-fat cookies into no-fat (or skim) milk. Funny how that didn't work.
What happened is that consuming low-fat blueberry muffins and reduced-fat ice cream didn't help anyone lose weight, and the case can be argued that the opposite happened because, statistically speaking, we've become fatter as a nation since the mid-1990s. The problem with snacking on reduced-fat potato chips and fat-free yogurt is more than their poor taste: it turns out that these convenience foods have nearly the same amount of calories as the full-fat versions. Since people thought they were consuming low-fat, healthy food, they ate with abandon, which caused many to gain weight.
Generally speaking, low-fat diets have several things working against them. First of all, most people cannot stay on a low-fat regimen for any length of time. "Those who possessed enough will power to remain fat-free for any length of time develop a variety of health problems including low energy, difficulty in concentration, depression, weight gain, and mineral deficiencies," wrote Mary Enig, Ph.D., and Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions.
In my view, low-fat diets fail to distinguish between the so-called good fats in food (including olive and flaxseed oils, tropical oils such as coconut oil, and fish oils) and bad fats (hydrogenated oils found in margarine and most packaged goods). We need certain fats in our diet to provide a concentrated source of energy and source material for cell membranes and various hormones. Fats also provide satiety; without them, we would be hungry within minutes of finishing a meal.
The so-called bad fats we don't need are mainly hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats found in processed foods, which fill cupboards and refrigerators in homes from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon. I'm talking about frosted flakes for breakfast, a glazed doughnut at break time, fried corn chips and chocolate chip cookies for lunch, and breaded fried chicken nuggets for dinner.
These types of fats aren't good if you're dealing with arthritis. "The wrong kind of fats can increase inflammation in joints, while the 'good' fats will keep inflammation in check," say the authors of Arthritis: An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide.
Excerpted from The Great Physician's Rx for Arthritis by Jordan Rubin Joseph Brasco Copyright © 2007 by Jordan Rubin. Excerpted by permission.
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