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Diabetes Complications

Arthritis and Diabetes

Like most people with diabetes, I have osteoarthritis. I know that I suffered from it two or three years ago. I can’t say that it’s cured now, but at least I don’t have any arthritis pain any more. When I saw a doctor in October 2005 about the pain in my left knee that kept me from hiking, he sent me to the local hospital for an x-ray. A few days later he called to give me the report. My knee problem is arthritis, he said at the time, according to the notes that I made then. “Will not go away. Normally take ibuprofen, but bad for the liver. Only thing to do is to lose weight.”

He had a point about losing weight. The professional literature does say that weight loss helps with arthritis, and at the time I weighed 312 pounds.

So I asked him to prescribe Byetta, a diabetes medication that has the fortunate and unusual side effect of promoting weight loss. Ironically, he refused, as I wrote here

So, I did the only reasonable thing when my doctor wouldn’t prescribe Byetta. I fired him and quickly found another doctor who was glad to prescribe it.

Together with the very low-carb diet that I now follow, it worked. Not only did it bring down my A1C to its current 4.9 level, but my weight dropped to 156 today (for a BMI of 19.5). I am literally half the man that I used to be!

And the pain in my knee has been gone for at least a year. I am so happy to hike in the Rockies again.

Weight loss is indeed the only remedy (besides pain killers) that doctors generally recognize for dealing with the pain of arthritis. But that didn’t stop me from trying several unproven strategies.

One is to increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids and the proportion of omega-3 to omega-6. We have several excellent reasons to do this in addition to the possibility that this will relieve arthritis pain. Currently, I take my omega-3 as a krill oil supplement twice a day.

I even took glucosamine and chrondrotin, until I read Dr. Bausell’s book, Snake Oil Science, which I reviewed here. That book pointed out the definitive and damning report in a 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, “Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, and the Two in Combination for Painful Knee Osteoarthritis.”

That study concluded that “Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate alone or in combination did not reduce pain effectively in the overall group of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.” So that is probably not what helped me.

We do seem to have better evidence for a newer supplement that Dr. Bausell doesn’t mention in his book. This is ASU or avocado/soybean unsaponifiables. “Special extracts of avocado and soybeans called avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs) have been investigated as a treatment for osteoarthritis with very promising results in studies enrolling a total of several hundred people, according to “The Natural Pharmacist,” also known as “The Complementary Therapies Natural Health Encyclopedia.” I took ASU for a while too.

Those are just a few of the remedies promoted for treating arthritis. It’s no wonder that companies offer so many choices, considering how debilitating and frequent arthritis is — just like diabetes.

In fact, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than half of those of us diagnosed with diabetes have arthritis. And those of us who have diabetes are twice as likely to have arthritis as people who don’t have diabetes.

Arthritis can keep many of us from the exercise that we need. Almost 30 percent of people with diabetes and arthritis are likely to be physically inactive, compared with 21 percent of people with diabetes who do not have arthritis.

“Because arthritis affects the joints and is associated with pain, people with arthritis, when they begin to exercise, experience more pain,” Dr. John Klippel, the president of the Arthritis Foundation, says. “The other thing is there is a common misconception that exercise is bad for arthritis and it will damage joints.”

Many forms of exercise are in fact “joint-safe,” including walking, swimming, and biking, he says. “If people walked 30 minutes a day, it would have a profound effect on reducing their pain and improving their symptoms.”

You don’t have to let arthritis be a double bind preventing you from the exercise that you need to control your diabetes. You can still get the exercise you need now, and with weight loss you may well be able to reverse the symptoms of arthritis.

Need help becoming active again? Read David’s post “Overcoming Exercise Intertia” for tips on how to get back into the swing of things!

Or are you tired of the same old exercise routine? Learn how to make exercise fun. It’s not an oxymoron!

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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