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Arthritis is not for sissies. Inflamed joints make it hard to climb stairs, play tennis or button shirts. But treatment also carries risks that often go unrecognized.

According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM, Dec. 26, 2002), anti-inflammatory arthritis drugs can cause serious problems: “In the United States, an estimated 107,000 patients are hospitalized and 16,500 die each year as a result of NSAID-related ulcer complications.”

A bleeding ulcer from aspirin or ibuprofen can sneak up without warning. Older people are especially vulnerable, but almost anyone taking such drugs regularly can suffer. Even new prescription pain relievers like Vioxx and Celebrex, which are supposed to be gentler on the digestive tract, come with a warning about “serious gastrointestinal toxicity.”

Stomach trouble isn’t the only complication from arthritis pain relievers. The NEJM study found that 20 percent of the patients taking Celebrex had evidence of kidney problems. Other research has shown that steady use of arthritis-strength acetaminophen or aspirin increases the risk of kidney damage. Ibuprofen may also reduce the heart-protective power of aspirin.

That’s why some folks turn to alternatives for their arthritis such as glucosamine or home remedies. One reader shared his story:

“I want to describe a home remedy that has made dramatic improvements in my osteoarthritis. I am now sixty years old and have had no cartilage in my right knee since 1967.

“I have led an active lifestyle: running (quit 15 years ago after running 34,582 miles, lifetime); basketball (half court basketball, twice weekly, for forty years); and walking (one to three miles daily). In the last several years my arthritis symptoms had worsened. The pain was continuous, and the swelling of the knee was significant. I was forced to use a leg brace and then a cane. I had trouble sleeping, and was considering a total knee replacement.

“Then a business associate mentioned that some friends had found relief from their osteoarthritis by using a home remedy: each morning swallow two teaspoons of liquid pectin in four to six ounces of grape juice. The pectin I use is for making fruit jams at home and carries the trade name Certo.

“Within eight hours my pain diminished to almost zero, the swelling was reduced significantly and I slept all night without interruption for the first time in years. I no longer need my brace or my cane.

“These positive results have continued every single day since starting the regimen. I made no other changes in medications, supplements, diet or activities and have continued the regimen faithfully every day.”

To help other readers who would like to know more about Certo and grape juice, we have summarized this method along with gin-soaked raisins and other approaches to managing arthritis in our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.

Alternative remedies are not risk free. Nonetheless, they may often be less costly and hazardous than many arthritis medications.

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  1. Neila Elbon
    AZ - Arizona

    I want to try this, however, my husband did the shopping and he got another brand of liquid pectin and I want to know if it will work as well as the Certo or if I need to return it to the store.

    I’m new to The People’s Pharmacy and am not sure how to go about finding the answers I need.

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