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The Health Benefits of Onions


According to Arthritis Today onions have components or flavonoids that fight inflammation in the joints of arthritis sufferers. One in particular, quercetin, “inhibits inflammation causing leukotriens, prostaglandins and histamines in Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis”. In English, quercetin can reduce inflammation. A few extra benefits of quercetin include: lowering bad cholesterol, reducing heart disease and help slow the progression of cancer. 

For arthritis sufferers bone loss is of major concern. Onions have a flavonoid that acts much like Fosamax, a bone strengthener, known as GPCS (gamma-L-glutamyl-trans-S-1-propenyl-L-cystein sulfoxide).  Fosamax is a very successful drug “however, the beneficial effects gradually disappear when the drug is discontinued”. Unless you want to spend the rest of your life using this drug, it is not a viable solution to maintaining bone density. One must also consider the side effects of such a drug.  One contradicting side effect of the drug is that is may cause bone and joint pain. Arthritis sufferers have enough pain to deal with, why use a drug which could continue or increase it? Like most prescribed medications, the lists of side effects are not pleasant; ulcers, nausea, rashes and acid backup are just a few.


Those subjected to routine cortisone injections may also experience a reversal in bone loss and damage with regular meals that include onions. Knowing this, taking a few minutes to slice up an onion to add to your meal doesn’t sound like bad idea.


With low calories and very little fat, onions are a healthy addition to any meal or snack. They are equally healthful raw or cooked. One catch though, not all onions are created equal. A study conducted at the Cornell University in Ithaca showed that some onions have better disease fighting chemicals then others. For example, shallots and yellow or red onions are the most beneficial where as white and sweet onions scored lowest. 

Depending on personal taste onions can be added to most meals. Slice some raw onion for a sandwich or salad, or chop and cook them up!


Here is a more thorough explanation and recommendations:


According to the Slone Survey, a study of prescription and nonprescription drug use by Americans, 81% of American adults took medication at least on a weekly basis. Many Americans took more than one medication, and 7% took five or more. Among these medications, the top three drugs were all painkillers – acetaminophen (Tylenol and others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and others), and aspirin.

The majority of these Americans suffer from common and often chronic conditions such as headache, back pain, and arthritis, or musculoskeletal injuries. In 43% of American households, at least one family member suffers from a chronic pain syndrome. The cost of these conditions is staggering, including not only the medications, but also doctors’ visits, diagnostic tests, the cost of therapies such as physical therapy or chiropractic care, as well as the loss of time and productivity associated with chronic pain.

Side effects and complications from taking these medications are also substantial. Anti-inflammatory drug use results in more than 100,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 to 20,000 deaths in the United States each year. Twenty percent of long-term anti-inflammatory medication users develop stomach ulcers. The number one over-the-counter drug, acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra, Pandadol and others), is one of the chief causes of liver failure requiring liver transplant in Great Britain and the U.S. Newer prescription anti-inflammatories such as Celebrex and Vioxx have been associated with increased rates of high blood pressure and even heart attacks.

It seems that people suffering from chronic pain are caught in a bind; either live with the pain, or risk serious complications from taking medications. But new research is providing hope and effective alternatives to chronic medication use. This research is beginning to uncover the basic mechanisms of inflammation and pain in the body, and how we can change this process without medications.

The cycle of pain and inflammation in the body is related to many chemicals produced by our cells. These chemicals include certain enzymes and specific fatty acids. Enzymes are complex protein molecules that act as catalysts, or controllers of the chemical reactions in our bodies. Fatty acids come from fat; there are many different types of fatty acids in our bodies. The levels of different fatty acids in our bodies depend largely on our diet. Because fatty acids are directly related to pain and inflammation, our diet can play a substantial role in the amount of pain and inflammation we experience. There are also specific foods that affect the activity of enzymes involved in pain and inflammation.

The chief fatty acid responsible for inflammation is one called arachidonic acid. A diet rich in arachidonic acid contributes to the cycle of pain and inflammation. Foods that are rich in arachidonic acid include animal meats, egg yolks, and shellfish. One step in stopping inflammation is reducing dietary intake of these foods.

But arachidonic acid (AA) can also be synthesized or produced by our bodies. To reduce the production of AA in our bodies we can increase our intake of “anti-inflammatory fats” such as EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) from fish, and ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) from sources including flax, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and soybeans.

Research has also shown that certain foods and spices can block the enzymes that fuel the process of pain and inflammation. These anti-inflammatory foods and spices include ginger, cayenne, turmeric, garlic & onion, rosemary, and herbs such as Boswellia (an Ayurvedic herb), wintergreen, licorice root, and black willow. Additional nutrients including Vitamin E and Quercetin (a natural anti-inflammatory found in foods such as citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, tea, and red wine) also inhibit enzymes that trigger inflammation.

Just as anti-inflammatory foods can have a profound effect on the cycle of pain and inflammation, so does our immune system. Over one-third of our entire immune system is located in the gastrointestinal tract. Reducing inflammation throughout the body therefore requires a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis are also commonly associated with arthritis. We can support the health of our gastrointestinal tracts by eating a healthy diet with adequate fiber intake, avoiding unnecessary antibiotics that upset the balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, and avoiding foods we may be sensitive or allergic to.

Several studies have also suggested that wheat (or gluten, a chief protein in wheat) allergy has been associated with some forms of arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis, and that a gluten-free diet can improve arthritis symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Wheat allergy is one of the top 6 food allergies along with eggs, milk, nuts, soy, and shellfish.

There are many physical therapies that can help tremendously to relieve chronic pain. Studies have repeatedly shown that for chronic knee pain from arthritis, the most beneficial therapy is strengthening of the quadriceps (thigh) muscle. Acupuncture can provide substantial relief of pain from many causes. Regular massage, physical and neuromuscular therapy by trained therapists can also be extremely helpful in reducing chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Finally, there is also increasing evidence supporting the benefits of mind-body techniques such as meditation, biofeedback, hypnosis, guided imagery, yoga, relaxation therapy, Tai Chi and Chi Gong in the management of chronic pain. These techniques can be extremely helpful and are free of adverse side effects.

Here is a summary of recommendations to help improve pain without pills:

  • Eliminate or reduce your intake of red meats, egg yolks, and shellfish to reduce your arachidonic acid levels;
  • Supplement your diet with healthy sources of the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and ALA by increasing your intake of:
    • Fish and fish oils (eicosapentanoic acid)
    • Ground flax seeds or flax oil
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Walnuts
    • Soybeans
    • Hemp oil
  • Increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods and spices such as:
    • Turmeric (and it derivative, curcumin)
    • Ginger
    • Garlic & onions
    • Cayenne
    • Rosemary
    • Boswellia
    • Citrus fruits
    • Parsely
  • Increase your fiber intake from foods such as whole grains, fruits & vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes;
  • Exercise including aerobic and muscle strengthening;
  • Practice mind-body techniques:
    • Biofeedback
    • Meditation
    • Yoga
    • Hypnosis
    • Tai Chi and Chi Gong
  • Use helpful physical therapies:
    • Acupuncture
    • Neuromuscular therapy
    • Regular massage
    • Physical therapy
  • For those persons with persistent pain despite these measures, consider a trial of a food allergy elimination diet under the supervision of your physician or nutritionist.  

Here is a great book to deal with inflammation for heart disease:


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This book has to be the best book on disease prevention I have personally ever read. Richard Fleming MD is an incredible cardiologist that knows how to write so you and I can understand the workings of the heart and total disease prevention. You can check it out at your local library but you will want to own it once you read it.   I highly recommend it to all....left click on the picture of the book for a brief synopsis. On the navigation bar on the main page, you will see "Methyl Magic,"  it describes how methylation works which is one of the basis of this awesome book.  The Dr Symes audio link I provide on the home page explains how vitamin absorption is difficult if you consume dairy, gluten grains, soy and corn because of the adhesive nature that plug the villi in your duodenum. By eliminating those foods you are able to really get the benefit of the B complex absorption and the power it holds in inflammation.
More About Dr. Fleming

Dr. Richard Fleming is a Nuclear and Preventive Cardiologist and is a member of the National Training and Credentialing Committee for Nuclear Cardiology. He serves as the Director of Women's Research and Family Issues, Breast Cancer and Heart Disease of the not-for-profit foundation, Camelot Foundation, Inc. Dr. Fleming became involved in breast cancer research in February 1999 in an effort to improve the detection of breast cancer utilizing advanced imaging technologies. Dr. Fleming is a researcher, author and is currently an adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha.