Nutrition & Wellness

Healthy Eating For Healthy Joints

“All Human illnesses and diseases can be traced to either nutrient deficiencies or excesses in the human body.” 
Dr. Victor G. Rocine 1930

“It is a laughable sight, to see those guilds of cobblers and tailors… when they march in procession, stopping, round shouldered, limping men, swaying from side to side. They look as though they had all been carefully selected for an exhibition of their infirmities.” 
Bermadino Ramazzo 1700

“We do not have to suffer as we do with arthritis. The scientific research has proven that a change in diet and lifestyle, coupled with the addition of some exercise and a basic supplementation program that includes Cod Liver Oil can reduce the symptoms of arthritis”.
Mark J. Occhipinti, M.S., Ph.D., N.D.  




Arthritis is not a genetic disease, nor is it an inevitable part of growing older! There are causes for these joint afflictions, and they lie in our environment, mainly in the food we eat. Many researchers believe that rheumatoid arthritis did not exist anywhere in the world before 1800. It is well documented that these forms of arthritis were once rare to non-existent in rural populations of Asia and Africa. As recently as 1957, no case of rheumatoid arthritis could be found in Africa. That was a time when people in Africa followed diets based on grains and vegetables.

These once unknown joint diseases have become common in people that live in wealthier nations or move to the big cities in their native countries. With these changes they abandoned their traditional diets of grains and vegetables for meat, dairy products, and highly processed foods.

Humankind’s Most Common Affliction is Becoming Much Worse

The very word Arthritis conjures the thought of someone hunched over, or of an individual with deformed hands and feet. Diseases of the muscles and bones are among the most common of all human afflictions, affecting all ages, but becoming more prevalent with years. Government surveys indicate in the United Kingdom approximately 15% [more than 9 million] of adults currently suffer from troublesome arthritis with symptoms of swelling, limitation of motion, or pain. Approximately half of all people over 65 years report having arthritis.

The spread of degenerative diseases has continued to expand both in its scope and reach during the past 50 years. Many researchers point to food, more precisely the way food is prepared and eaten and the relationship to degenerative disease. It is a widely accepted fact today that arthritis and diet are strongly related. The standard Western diet, better referred to as SAD [Standard American Diet] has 40 percent more of the calories being derived from animal fats and man-made fats, such as [Trans Fatty Acids-partially or completely hydrogenated vegetable oils].

Refined carbohydrates [white flour and white sugar] make up an additional 22 percent of the Western diet. Nearly two-thirds of the foods eaten every day in a typical Western diet are made of foods devoid of vitamins and minerals. These types of foods are commonly referrer to as “stressor foods”, and rob the body of vitamins/minerals and enzymes necessary to maintain health.

Arthritis; A Description

Arthritis is an autoimmune disease of the joints characterized by pain, swelling, and redness, heat and, sometimes, structural changes. This condition is more common in women than in men. Arthritis may result from another condition, be associated with another condition, or simply develop on its own.

The two most common forms of this disease are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease and the most common form of arthritis and joint disorders, is the gradual deterioration of cartilage, usually in the larger, weight-bearing joints such as the hips, knees, and spine. This wear and tear is a normal process predominantly found in people age 55 and older. Among those younger than 45, it occurs more often in men. After that age, women contract this disorder more often. By the eighth decade of life, approximately 90% of all people are affected by osteoarthritis.

Since this is a natural part of aging, beyond a certain age most people will almost certainly contract the disease, even if the symptoms are not detected. Although the joints are not always inflamed, the articular cartilage may begin to flake and crack, due to overuse or injury. In severe cases the underlying bone becomes thickened and distorted. Scar tissue may then replace damaged cartilage. If movement becomes painful and restricted, lessened use of the associated muscles will lead to their atrophy.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic joint disease affecting one or more joints; the synovium gradually becomes inflamed and swollen. Inflammation may occur in other parts of the joints as well. Gradual weakening of the bones comprising the joint occurs in persistent cases of rheumatoid arthritis. Tissue destruction occurs in the most severe cases. The most commonly affected joints are those of the hands and feet, particularly those of the knuckle and toe joints. The wrists, knees, ankles, and neck are also frequently affected.

Rheumatoid arthritis may occur as a single mild attack, or as several episodes, which can leave the victim increasingly disabled.
In extremely few persons, rheumatoid arthritis causes extensive deterioration of joint and bone tissues, producing deformities of the affected and surrounding areas. Damage to the lungs, heart, nerves and eyes can also occur, making it difficult to lead an active, normal life. This form of arthritis can affect people of any age, including juveniles, but predominantly affects those between the ages of 40 and 60. Slightly less than one-half of affected individuals have complete remission. Approximately one in ten individuals are severely disabled.

Management of Arthritis

Traditional Treatment

There are three primary objectives in the treatment of arthritis:

1. Reduction of inflammation and pain
2. Preservation of the joint’s function
3. Prevention of deformity

The standard treatment for many types of arthritis is to remove weight from the joints. This may entail using a cane, going on a weight reduction diet, sleeping on a bed, which properly conforms to the shape of the body, and getting frequent rest.

Regular exercise, both active and passive, will keep the affected muscles from weakening. The individual may benefit from a hydrotherapy program under trained supervision. Heat and cold applications to the joint may induce muscle relaxation and an analgesic effect.Side Effects of Traditional Treatments for Arthritis

Aspirin [part of the NSAID’s also known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs] is commonly used as a painkiller as well as other nonprescription pain relievers. Since the therapeutic dose required is relatively high [2-4 grams per day], toxicity often results.
Some side effects of aspirin include Tinnitus [ringing in the ears], and stomach irritation, including bleeding peptic ulcers.
Extensive research as demonstrated that at best this is a short term treatment, due to individual sensitivity to side effects (aspirin, for example, can cause gastrointestinal bleeding). Physician may try several drugs to determine which has the least deleterious effects. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Indomethacin; corticosteriods, ant-malaria’s drugs, gold salts, penicillamine, plus experimental cytotoxic drugs that all weaken the immune system and treat the symptoms, not the underlying of the disease.

There are two dangerous paradoxes’ in arthritis treatment. One is that the drugs most commonly used to treat arthritis are toxins to this intestinal barrier. All commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like Advil, Motrin, Naprosyn, etc.), apart from aspirin and nabumetone (Relafen) [cause damage to the stomach], are associated with increased intestinal permeability in the gut. While reversible in the short term, it may take months to improve the barrier following prolonged use.

The second dangerous paradox is that while it may decrease pain in the joints short-term, NSAID’s prevent cartilage repair by blocking collagen production, while accelerating cartilage destruction. The higher the dosage and longer the usage the faster the destruction.

Finally, surgical removal of badly inflamed joint synovium may be required. Common types of surgery are synovectomy (removal of the synovial membrane), arthroplasty (for realignment and reconstruction), repair of tendon rupture, arthrodesis (fusion of the joint). Some joints may be artificially replaced. All forms bring some type of temporary relief, but not long term results, as subsequent surgeries are many times required 5-7 years later for the same or similar conditions.

Alternatives to Traditional Treatment for Arthritis

Treating the Causes of Arthritis

Research has shown that the addition of EFA’s [essential fatty acids] help to ease and relieve the symptoms of arthritis.
These EFA’s can be found in cod water fish [oily fish from cold northern waters contain omega-3s: sardines, herring, mackerel, bluefish, salmon and, albacore tuna]. Certain plant foods [flaxseed and flax oil, pumpkinseeds, hemp, a canola and soy oil contains small amounts of omega-3 and type of green vegetables-Purslane] contain remarkable properties [omega-3 fatty acids], which have demonstrated the ability to ease the symptoms of arthritis in many individuals.

Omega-3 fatty acids are highly unsaturated fatty acids. In addition to helping to relieve pain and discomfort arthritis, essential fatty acids also promote normal blood clotting, lower triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol [the good cholesterol]. This, in turn, lowers cardiovascular heart-disease risk, guards against degenerative changes in tissues, cells and some cancers and reduces inflammatory responses that is associated with the many different forms of arthritis. Why Cod Liver Oil and Fish Oils in the Treatment of Arthritis?

For thousands of years humankind has suffered from Arthritis. It was described by Hippocrates in his early writings, and has subsequently been discussed through the centuries as one of the afflictions of humankind. During the past several hundred years researchers noticed when certain oils were added to the foods of animals that were lame the symptoms of lameness disappeared. An early pioneer of Cod Liver Oil treatment for arthritis was Dr. De Jong who had treated successfully the Queen of the Netherlands. There have been many great men and women who have pioneered the search for a treatment for those who have suffered from the symptoms of more than 100 types of arthritis. They include, but are not limited to: Dan Dale Alexander, Dr.Airola, Dr. De Jong, and others.

There is growing evidence increased consumption of fish may be beneficial to health. Recent studies have found an association between consumption of fish oil and reduced risk of cardio-vascular disease, as well as improvements in other health conditions, such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Current research on the benefits of consuming more fish is directed at the effects derived from omega-3 fatty acids in many fish species. Frankly though, human dietary preference reveal up to one-half of the population may not like to eat fish. Of those who do eat fish, many prefer fish only when it is deep-fried, [such as fish and chips] or consume non-fatty fish species, which are poorer sources of fish oil yet high in cholesterol [shellfish-shrimp, lobster, and crabs.
This is one reason Cod Liver oil in liquid form or Cod Liver oil capsules have become popular as an alternative source of fish oil.

Cod Liver Oil and fish oil supplements are the best and most readily available sources of omega-3 EPA and DHA [two very important components that reduce inflammation within the body, especially around the joints. The majority of trials have been conducted using either fish oil or cod live oil supplements and further evidence has come from studies of fish-eating populations such as the Japanese and Greenland Inuits.

Support for the use of Cod Liver oil capsules primarily comes from several well-known epidemiological studies from around the world. One study, conducted in the Netherlands, suggested ingestion of as little as 35 grams of fish per day (a single one-half pound meal of fish per week) might help prevent coronary heart disease, possibly significantly reducing mortality due to cardiovascular disease in a 20 year follow up. Further, it has been suggested a regular diet of fish may decrease levels of plasma triglycerides, plasma cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL), and very low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (VLDL), both considered very bad types of fat in the human body.

Cod Liver oil capsules supply concentrations of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The EPA-DHA rich Cod Liver Oil is generally sold in soft gelatin capsules or liquid. The gelatin provides an oxygen barrier which prevents the development of toxic fats [lipid peroxides]. Liquid, non-encapsulated formulations generally do not have this protection from oxidation of fats, unless the product contains Vitamin E.

Cod Liver Oil: How It Works

EPA and DHA, both found rich in Cod Liver Oil and fish oils has also been found to suppress production of inflammatory agents found in rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. The anti-inflammatory effect of the omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce production of interleukin-l and tumor necrosis factor, both principal causes of inflammation within the body that affect the joints and skin. In cases of psoriasis vulgaris, fish oils produce symptomatic improvement by effecting changes in levels of the inflammatory compounds that cause the skin lesions and ulcers.

Cod Liver oil and fish oils block the uptake and replace the fatty acid arachidonic acid [found in high concentrations in all animal products]. The EPA and DHA in fish oil “replaces” the arachidonic acids [found in highest concentrations in animal products] that when available are used by the body in the production of pro-inflammatory hormones known as prostaglandin 2, with healthy anti-inflammatory hormones-prostaglandin 1and 3.

Cod Liver Oil: A Therapeutic Approach

Most Cod Liver Oil capsules contain 300 or 500 milligrams of omega-3 oil per one-gram capsule. Thus, patients therapeutically using fish oil at the levels discussed in this section may require between 8-16 capsules/daily to achieve a therapeutic level. Cod Liver oil capsules are also available in extra strength or high strength form that contain 1,000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per capsule. This would allow a more reasonable intake of 4-8 capsules daily as part of the therapeutic therapy. Cod Liver oil can of course be taken as it has been for hundreds of years, by the spoon. One level teaspoon contains 4 grams of omeg-3 fatty acids. It is available flavored, as well as emulsified to mix better with juice [the “cocktail”, as I like to call it is mixed with a combination orange and cranberry or cherry juice]. Whatever choice to take Cod Liver oil you choose, it is important that vitamin E is included to protect the oils.

Fundamentally, many of cod liver oil’s secrets are related to vitamins. All liver extracts are naturally high in vitamins A and D, but especially the liver of the cod. Cod Liver oil has been used for years to enhance the immune systems and combat the effects of the common viral infections such as coughs, colds and flu. Remember receiving a spoonful of medicine [Cod Liver oil] each day as a child? I certainly do! Recently, research has shown cod liver oil to be a rich source of the Omega 3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Clinical trials have proven effective in the alleviation of the symptoms of joint and heart disease, relief of joint inflammation and in the treatment of a variety of skin diseases.

What is found in Cod Liver Oil?

Vitamin A: as known as “Retinol” is an extremely valuable nutrient and has an effect on a variety of bodily functions including the healthy growth and repair of the skin. Vitamin A also known as Retinol aids the healthy growth of hair and nails and is necessary for the visual process. Vitamin A was the earliest vitamin to be officially identified although records show that as long ago as 1500 BC.

Vitamin D : Also referred to as the sunshine’ vitamin, was first discovered in the 1920’s when it was found to prevent rickets. Vitamin D can be manufactured by the action of sunlight on the skin and is fat soluble vitamin, and can be stored in the body.Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D is essential for the healthy formation of bones and teeth and helps protect against bone density loss in as we age.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Essential polyunsaturated fatty acids are found almost exclusively in foods of marine origin. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help form cell membranes and control vital metabolic processes necessary for good health. Research reported in the Nutritional Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease, published by the Department of Health (1994 recognized that small amounts of these Omega 3 fatty acids – found in oily fish and fish oils – are essential in the diet of man. The report concluded that these fatty acids “have a powerful plasma triglyceride reducing action” as well as appearing to be “anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory effects in the body”.

How Much Is Enough?

For general good health, two fish meals a week or 150-200mg daily of omega-3 in cod liver oil supplements will maintain effective brain and body function.

To obtain relief from inflammatory conditions, higher doses still may be needed although requirements vary from individual to individual. In research, good results have been achieved with as little as 2.6-3.0g (2600-3000mg) per day, the standard dosage is typically around 8 grams daily [the amount of two teaspoons].

Cod Liver Oil contains Vitamin A and D, both fat-soluble vitamins that may be toxic to the liver and body at high doses greater than 100,000 IU’s daily [equivalent to ½ bottle of Cod Liver oil daily for months]. It would be prudent and safe to chose the “High Strength” or “Extra High Strength” cod liver oil products which provide increased levels of omega-3s without raising A and D content.

The Applications for Cod Liver Oil in the treatment of other Autoimmune Diseases

Good nutrition-eating the proper foods for healthy joints, according to certain dietary rules have proven to bring relief to millions of arthritis suffers worldwide. [British Journal of Medicine 1994, The Lancet 1998, British Journal of Rheumatology, 1993, Annals of Neurology 11/97]

Following an anti-arthritis diet boosts the immune system by avoiding certain foods, i.e., animal products; especially dairy products, which directly stimulate the pro-inflammatory hormones [prostaglandin 2, and negative energy foods, white flour, sugar, processed foods, are discussed in this latest edition of the New Arthritis and Common Sense, 1999.

The addition of fish oils [omega 3 fatty acids, especially cod liver oil] is being used successfully world-wide in the treatment and management of:

Arthritis: Rheumatoid, Osteo and nearly twenty other types of arthritis.

Asthma [low omega 3 blood levels are linked to asthma and allergic conditions]

Psoriasis: Doses of 3-4 grams daily [3-4,000 mgs] have proven effective in reducing redness, itching, and scaling.

Crohn’s Disease: Those suffering from this and other debilitating conditions of the colon have an option to drugs. Recent research has found that 72 percent of the Crohn’s disease patients taking fish oil supplements remained free of symptoms versus those taking placebo or medications.

Alzheimer’s Disease: The addition of fish oil/cod liver oil 1-2 days a week reduced the incidence of developing Alzheimer’s disease in a group of several thousand older men and women in Holland in a double-blind study.

Low levels of omega 3 fatty acids have been linked to depression, anti-social behavior and schizophrenia. Diet and Arthritis

From personal experience and exhaustive research it is a known fact that diet has a powerful influence on arthritis. Diet can make the symptoms much worse when foods are eaten that are high in saturated fat and animal fat or coupled together with refined foods [white flour and white sugar]. Correcting the diet with whole foods, including whole grains, vegetable, and fresh fruit can reverse many of the symptoms associated with arthritis. Eliminating certain foods from the diet have proven to be of benefit in some rheumatoid arthritic patients. A sample anti-arthritis diet includes going on a limited number of foods such as fish, pears, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, and mineral water and then reintroducing foods one at a time to provoke the symptoms.

Food Triggers Arthritis Symptoms

It is common to provoke the symptoms of arthritis by drinking milk or eating dairy products. Foods typically triggering allergic reactions that include inflammation and pain include, but are not limited to: cereal grains, dairy products, tea, coffee, red meats and citrus fruits. Gluten may cause immunologic reactions in the gut allowing for the absorption of immune complexes and other sensitizing antigens.
Therapy should be for at least three-six months. Infectious agents may also effect arthritic conditions. Disturbances in the small intestine due to antibiotic therapy may promote abnormal types of bacteria, which can irritate the small intestine wall leading to toxin release, and increased intestinal permeability [leaking of undigested foods directly into the blood stream-which causes a host of unwanted side effects in the body]. The possibility of candidiasis [yeast infection] in the intestines is debatable but he encourages further research in this area.

The Anti-Arthritis Way of Eating

Diet: The Only Real Hope For Arthritis

Research has shown a reduction in inflammation and pain when individuals reduce or eliminate animal products from their diet. Dietary fat has a toxic effect on the intestine of experimental animals, causing injury that increases the permeability of the small intestine, allowing more antigens [large undigested food particles] to enter the body. When diets high cholesterol were fed young animals there was a dramatic increases their “leaky gut” [ a medical term for damage to the small intestines that will allow the passage of large particles of undigested food to pass into the body]. In Vegan diets which have failed to help arthritis patients, it was found that there diet was high in vegetable oils [corn, sunflower, safflower] all known to damage intestinal integrity and increase inflammation.

Finding a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet allows the defense systems to work to its full capacity removing antigens that enter the system and removing immune-complexes from the blood. Components of the rich Western diet are known to impair its function. Vegetable oils, including those of the omega-3 variety are particularly strong suppressors of the immune system. This immune suppressing quality of oils (for example, Cod Liver Oil ) has been used to suppress the pain and inflammation of arthritis, but like too many drug therapies the ultimate outcome may not be best for the patient.

Low-fat diets have been shown to retard the development of autoimmune diseases, similar to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, in experimental.

A healthy diet also supplies antioxidants and other phytochemicals that keep the joints strong and repair damage. Animal studies have shown that the foods consumed on the rich Western diet fail to provide adequate antioxidants to destroy the damaging free radicals that form in the joint tissues.

Foods to Avoid and Foods to Increase in Your Diet

People will say to me “I knew there had to be a hitch”, “I knew there would be foods that I would have to avoid or give up”.
My answer is a simple. Yes! There will be if you want to get away from the pain, suffering and the side effects of drugs that are given to treat the symptom, not the underlying cause. Research has demonstrated that adding Cod Liver Oil to the diet provided relief of symptoms over the course of treatment [greater than one year], without any changes in the diet. {British Journal of Medicine, 1993] Imagine what would happen with a course of Cod Liver Oil and a change in diet in those suffering from arthritis? I recommend that the following foods be avoided if you are trying to become free of painful joints.

White Sugar, C White Flour Coffee, Alcohol, Meat and Dairy products, Chocolate, and Carbonated Beverages [soda, pop],

The following foods should be limited:

Wheat, Corn, and White Rice. Fruit juice [high sugar concentration]

The following foods should be increased in the diet:

Vegetables [green, yellow, red, orange], Beans and Legumes and peas, Seeds [Raw or dried by baking in your oven], Millet, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Soy products such as Tofu, cold water oily fish [Tuna, Salmon, Haddock, Sardines, Anchovies], Herb Teas [especially decaffeinated Green Tea], 100 percent whole grain flours [wheat, rye, flax] and fresh fruit [especially berries and melons]. A source of fish oils [Salmon, Sardines, Anchovies, fresh Tuna, Cod and Haddock].

Case study testimonials

Case Study 1: Aerobic Instructor with Sore Knees

Ellen, a 36-year-old aerobic instructor and mother of two small children had consulted with me after a routine visit to her doctor for knee pain. Blood work was done in addition to her check up and she was found to have blood cholesterol of 208 in November of 1998. Her knees had been bothering her; gradually becoming worse over time which is a real problem for someone that makes their living as an aerobics instructor. Ellen decided to try Cod Liver oil [4 grams daily- 1 tsp.] in December after reading the book,

“The New Arthritis and Common Sense”, and to make some gradual changes to her diet, i.e., more vegetables and grains. With a few weeks she noticed that her knees were no longer bothering her with the constant pain that she had been experiencing. At the end of January she returned to have blood work done again and was pleasantly surprised, as was her physician to find that her cholesterol had dropped [38 points] to 170. Ellen went away on a two-week vacation and decided to skip the daily Cod Liver oil until she returned home. By the end of the second week her knees began to bother her once again. That convinced her to renew her daily dose of Cod Liver oil. As of last word she and her knees are doing great as she continues to teach aerobics classes 3 days weekly.

Case Study 2: Elbow Pain in a Tennis Player

Barbara, an active 35 year old women consulted me for a very stiff left elbow that would really become painful a day after she would play 1-2 sets of tennis. Her treatment in the past had been an ice bag and some type of NSIAD, which would cause stomach upset. Barbara’s diet was very good, containing fruits, vegetables and grains. She did not use dairy products are except for the occasional chicken breast, ate mainly fish [3-4 times weekly]. In our conversation I mentioned that there had been extensive research on the use of Cod Liver oil in the treatment of joint pain, and especially arthritis. She decided to give Cod Liver oil a try [4 extra-strength capsules-1,000 mgs daily] After 4 weeks Barbara called me to say that her elbow pain did not occur after playing tennis twice during the past two weeks. She was delighted, and mentioned that she noticed that her skin’s complexion seemed to be nicer.

Check out our Delicious Green Smoothie Recipes: Many delicious choices for treating your sweet tooth in a healthy way.


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