The single most common cause of pain in arthritis is inflammation – the redness and swelling that are the immune system’s way of responding to any kind of challenge, such as infection or an imbalance in the system. Arthritis is most often treated with drugs to bring down the inflammation.

But anti-inflammatory drugs don’t just mask the problem, they are also dangerous. NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which include aspirin and ibuprofen, are the most commonly used class of drug, yet are responsible for more deaths than any other. Then there are the more heavyweight drugs – corticosteroids such as prednisone which can be very dangerous over the long term. This is because they suppress the production of cortisol, the body’s natural anti-inflammatory hormone, which is reserved for emergencies and acts as an immediate painkiller following serious accidents.

There is no safe and effective painkilling drug, at least in the long term. Nutrients are an entirely different matter. Even glucosamine or omega-3 fats on their own show similar painkilling properties without the side effects. However, the combination of these, plus some of the powerful anti-inflammatory herbs, foods and supplements we’ve covered here, is a winning formula, without risks, for reducing pain and inflammation.

What Works

Eat your omega-3s – From oily fish (wild or organic salmon, mackerel, herring, kippers and sardines – tuna steak can also be allowed once a week), flax and pumpkin seeds, and go easy on meat and milk. Also take omega-3 supplements containing 1,000mg of combined EPA/DHA, which usually means two to three fish oil capsules a day.

Food allergies – check yourself for food allergies with a proper food allergy test

Glucosamine sulphate – supplement 1,500 to 4,000mg of glucosamine sulphate a day, or glucosamine hydrochloride, together with 1,000 to 2,000mg of MSM.

Include plenty of omega-3 rich eggs, red onions and garlic in your diet, all high in sulphur.

Eat olives, use olive oil and add turmeric to your food (traditional curries and Indian condiments make good use of it, and it is excellent in fish soups or blended with a little olive oil or melted butter and drizzled over cooked vegetables).

Herbal complexes – supplement herbal complexes containing hop extracts, turmeric (or curcumin), boswellia or ashwaghandha.

Multivitamin – take a good all round multivitamin with at least 1,000mg of vitamin C.

Antioxidants – supplement an all-round antioxidant formula if you don’t eat at least six servings of fruit and veg a day – but do aim to eat that much.

Dig deeper by reading Food is Better Medicine Than Drugs for all the evidence to support this approach, and its comparitive effectiveness and safety compared to the conventional treatment of arthritis. Also read Say No to Arthritis by Patrick Holford.

Working with Your Doctor

There’s plenty you can do yourself to reduce your pain and inflammation, and find out underlying causes such as an identified food allergy. Alternatively, consult a nutritional therapist who will work out your ideal nutritional regime.

If you are on prescribed painkillers or anti-inflammatories, it’s wise to let your doctor know that you’d like to use these as little as possible and are going to explore some alternatives. The chances are you take painkillers when you feel the pain, so you’ll be the first to know if your need becomes less. Let your doctor know what works for you. They should be delighted if your need for these drugs becomes less.