The more I research the toxic effects of pesticides, food additives, GMOs and excitotoxins, the more I’m curious about the causes of some common ailments.

I began thinking about arthritis. Some people have it worse than others, some not at all. I had no idea there are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Most affect the joints, but some can affect the skin and internal organs.

Rheumatoid arthritis most often affects the hands, wrists, knees and feet. It is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system, the body’s own defense against disease, mistakenly attacks itself and causes the lining of the joints to become inflamed and painful.

I seem to be running across the word “inflammation” frequently. It’s the body’s natural response to injury or disease, and can result in swelling, pain and stiffness. These reactions remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants or pathogens.

The word “irritant” got my attention because we are constantly exposed to irritants of one kind or another. It might be the insecticide that was sprayed at a local public place, artificial food additives or other chemicals our bodies have never been exposed to before. There are chemicals in our food, water and air, they’re everywhere.

Since the 1970s, I’ve heard the arguments for their safety, that such a small amount is used it will not cause problems in people. Unfortunately, they didn’t do any testing for synergism, the result of many chemicals mixing together, as they do in our bodies. No wonder our insides are inflamed. No wonder more and more people are getting cancer.

Fortunately, there are some steps we can take to lessen the effects of inflammation. Diet is most important, including healthy fats like those found in coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts, pumpkin seeds and flax. Ginger, garlic, tumeric and oregano all fight inflammation, as well as green tea, four cups a day.

There’s an ongoing controversy about nightshade vegetables being an irritant to arthritis inflammation. They include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and bell peppers.

Find out for yourself. Eliminate them for a few weeks and see if you have less inflammation. Also avoid sugar, blackened or barbecued foods, fried food, trans-fats and processed foods.

Of course, it’s good to include some exercise of some kind. Find something that suits you, and stick with it. You’ll feel better.

Kristina Baker