Health & Fitness: The 49p spice that could help alleviate symptoms of chronic pain

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Osteoarthritis is described by the NHS as "the most common form of arthritis in the UK, affecting nearly nine million people"; the health service adds that while it's more common in older people, "it can occur at any age". The reason it can be caused at any age is because it can be caused by other joint related conditions or an injury which triggers the condition. Once osteoarthritis develops it is normally with someone for life and will come and go in flare-ups, or flares as they are also known. As diet is one of the best ways to reduce the likelihood of a flare, has been speaking to Matt Jones BSc MSc about how diet can play a role.

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Matt Jones is a qualified nutritionist who works on behalf of drinks brand B.fresh; he joined the company after working with sports bodies such as the Welsh Rugby Union and the Scottish FA.

Today, Matt's main focus is on athletes and his work includes multiple Olympians, working with sports teams such as West Ham FC and the Chelsea FC Women's team; Matt has also worked with Special Forces soldiers in the Middle East.

Speaking to he said one of the best natural aids which can help patients with osteoarthritis is turmeric; this is because it contains within it a special compound known as curcumin.

It is this curcumin, says Matt, which is the key. He said "The most important thing to take note of with turmeric supplements is the dosage - it is actually curcumin, found within turmeric, that is considered the star of the show. Recent evidence suggests that regular consumption of curcumin can reduce markers of inflammation and increase antioxidant protection within the body."

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Two people cooking and an elderly woman in pain. © Getty Images Two people cooking and an elderly woman in pain.

Furthermore, Matt added that curcumin dosages "between 1000 - 1500mg per day can be used to alleviate conditions such as chronic pain, while also helping athletes recover faster and feel less sore after intense exercise".

It is this ability to help muscles recover that plays a role in curcumin's, and thus turmeric's, ability to alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Matt explained further: "In 2016 there was a review and meta-analysis paper published to support the use of turmeric extract in osteoarthritis and this has more recently been confirmed up by the British Medical Journal. "These studies suggest that turmeric may be as effective as regular non-steroidal anti-inflammatories in the treatment of osteoarthritis. This is due to the potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of curcumin, found naturally within turmeric."

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The paper published in the British Medical Journal in 2020 concluded: "Compared with placebo, there appears to be a benefit of turmeric on knee osteoarthritis pain and function. Based on a small number of studies the effects are similar to that of NSAIDs. Variables such as optimal dosing, frequency and formulation remain unclear at this time."

It is the dosage which Matt said is key: "Likewise due to its anti-inflammatory properties, there is research that suggests that curcumin (and therefore turmeric) is useful in the treatment of chronic pain."

Does this mean turmeric can help treat osteoarthritis?

While the studies and existing data suggest that turmeric can help alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis, this does not mean to say it can act as a cure for the condition. Nevertheless, the evidence base is strong enough for experts such as

Matt to suggest it can have some benefits for patients.

What are the main symptoms of osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis isn't just about painful joints, it can cause a range of other sensations around these areas too, such as:

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• Joint tenderness

• Increased pain and stiffness when the joints have not bee moved for a while

• Joints appearing slightly larger than usual

• A grating or crackling sound or sensation in the joints

• Limited range of joint movement

• Weakness and muscle wasting.

The most common affected areas of the body are the hands, hips, and small joints in the hands; however, osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body.

Someone with a sore knee. © Getty Images Someone with a sore knee.

How does diet play a role in treatment?

The NHS does not specifically recommend dietary changes as a treatment for osteoarthritis, but they do suggest losing weight, a process which can be helped by an improved diet.

They said: "Being overweight or obese often makes osteoarthritis worse, as it places extra strain on some of your joints. If you're overweight or obese, try to lose weight by doing more physical activity and eating a healthier diet."

With regard to the consumption of goods, they added: "A number of nutritional supplements have been used to treat osteoarthritis in the past, including chondroitin and glucosamine.

"GPs no longer prescribe chondroitin and glucosamine on the NHS because there's no strong evidence that they are effective as a treatment. Generally, supplements can be expensive, and NICE recommends that they should not routinely be offered on the NHS."

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Facts about two types of arthritis. © Daily Express Facts about two types of arthritis.

Why don't they list dietary changes?

By virtue of being an official government health body, the NHS has to be extremely cautious about recommendations it makes and the content it puts on its website.

As a result, despite academic papers saying one thing, it will not put an option which has not met its rigorous standards or passed trials which would enable it to be recommended by the service.

However, this does not stop the research being carried out and nutritionists such as Matt Jones investigating ways to help patients. Not everyone can afford medication and often elements of the natural world can help with common conditions e.g., vitamin C found in oranges can help boost the immune system.

The end goal is to help patients; should further studies get published which show a conclusive link between turmeric and the alleviation of osteoarthritis symptoms then official government and thus NHS guidance may change.

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