Nov
16
2013

You Can Fight Back Against Arthritis

Osteoarthritis affects about 4 to 5% of the population with women outnumbering men by 2 to 1. The age of onset typically is less than 50 years, but becomes more evident and more disabling beyond the age of 50. About 40 to 60% of osteoarthritis is genetically linked as twin studies in women have shown (Ref.1).

Synonyms for osteoarthritis are degenerative joint disease, osteoarthrosis and arthrosis.

Till recently arthritis was accepted as something that was inevitable: people were getting old, were getting stiff and sore, and had to “take it easy” as a result when they got older. Things are not as uncomplicated, as arthritis affects about 53 million Americans, and it has become the leading cause of disability in the US.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It is not a disease of “old age” but can affect people of every age group. The body reacts to components in joint tissue, and this immune reaction to collagen will produce inflammation, pain and ultimately disability.

So far osteoarthritis was believed to be the result of wear and tear affecting the aging population, but more recently it has been discovered that osteoarthritis is also accompanied by the same inflammatory immune factors that are involved in rheumatoid arthritis.

When the body attacks collagen, which is needed to keep the joints moving smoothly, microscopic particles of it wander into the blood stream. There they are perceived as foreign molecules, and the immune system produces inflammatory substances (cytokines). These are sending out an army of “killer T-cells” to combat the collagen, which is perceived as a foreign matter. They are bombarding the exposed cartilage with toxic substances. This means a chaotic combination of oxidative stress and more inflammation. Over time the cartilage that was meant to protect the joint in its function to move freely is eroded and destroyed. For the person suffering of this disordered reaction, it means that the joint is not only creaking but causing pain, which is made even worse by weight bearing (walking, standing). Any person suffering of osteoarthritis will complain that he or she feels stiff and sore especially after a period of inactivity.

Commercials for anti-inflammatory medication are plentiful, and many sufferers resort to the pain relief that is promised. The warnings are mentioned right after the commercial or on the medication package, if the patient reads the fine print. Most anti-inflammatory medications are causing irritation of the stomach, and the kidneys get damaged (nephropathy)with prolonged use from these pills despite the promises in commercials of a happy, active and pain free life.

You Can Fight Back Against Arthritis

Causes of arthritis

There are many varied causes that can all contribute to developing arthritis.

It is important to take a critical look at lifestyle choices. Excessive body weight puts an additional burden on the joints in the body. Increased body fat is not just sitting at the abdomen as an inert potbelly. Abdominal fat is a highly active metabolic organ that releases inflammatory substances into the blood stream, which distributes them throughout the body. It is known to damage blood vessels. Inflammation will damage the joints as well. The statistics show that 33.8 % of obese women have arthritis. The percentage for obese men shows that 25.2 % suffer of arthritis.

Smoking leads to circulatory problems, and lack of oxygenation in the body’s tissues. It is a mistake to believe that damage is done only to the lungs or the heart. The joints will be affected as well.

Mechanical stress with inadequate self-repair is one cause; misalignment of bones such as knock-knee (genu valgum) and bowleggedness (genu varum) will lead to premature osteoarthritis of the knees as can loss of muscle strength. Exercise without injury does not contribute the risk for developing osteoarthritis; it is actually part of the rehabilitation plan.

According to Ref. 2 there are other causative factors, such as increased age, female sex, race (black women have a twofold increase of arthritis over Caucasian women), estrogen deficiency, nutritional factors, genetics, metabolic and endocrine disorders, joint trauma, joint deformity, occupational factors and sports participation (accumulation of mini injuries).

One of the newer findings is that osteoarthritis is actually an inflammatory condition where numerous destructive processes occur within the affected joints leading to a breakdown of cartilage and supportive synovial fluid factors (proteoglycans). These findings lead to the possibility of new therapeutic approaches discussed below.

Diagnosis of osteoarthritis

According to Ref. 1 there are no blood tests and analysis of synovial fluid is non-diagnostic. Diagnosis of osteoarthritis is made by history, X-rays of the affected joints and clinical findings. There are joint tenderness and swelling of the affected joints. Heberden’s nodes (swelling of the distal interphalangeal joints or DIP joints) and Bouchard’s nodes (swelling of the proximal interphalangeal joints or PIP joints) are present. There can be a decreased range of motion and a grating sound of two ends of bones rubbing together (called “crepitus”).  X-rays show typical osteoarthritis details with a narrowing of the joint space of the affected joint, subchondral sclerosis (increased bone formation around the joint) and new bone formation at the joint margins, called “osteophytes”).

Integrative therapy of arthritis

Ref. 2 points out that integrative treatment of arthritis is aimed at reducing joint pain, increasing joint function and reducing further joint deterioration. Some measures are symptomatic only, others are disease modifying.

Nutrition

Dietary habits can promote good health or have disastrous consequences. The news has been out for some time that the typical North American diet with a high load of omega-6 fatty acids will stoke the fires of inflammation in the body and lead to arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Soybean oil, cottonseed oil and safflower oil contain the cheaper omega-6 oils that are widely used in food processing and bakery products. Refined carbohydrates contribute to unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels and wreak havoc in their own way paving the downward slope to insulin resistance, metabolic derailment, and diabetes. Take a hard look at your shopping wagon. Stay away from processed foods, shop the periphery of the supermarket, and choose organic meats, vegetables and fruit. Use heart healthy fat in the form of virgin olive oil. A Mediterranean type diet will be a good choice. Just bear in mind, that a heap of pasta like Fettuccine Alfredo does not constitute what a healthy Mediterranean diet is all about. An anti-inflammatory diet such as a Mediterranean diet also includes deep-water fish as a source of omega-3 fatty acids or molecularly distilled omega-3 capsules (you need 7 to 8 high potency, molecularly distilled fish oil, 1000mg per capsule) every day.

This approach has shown beneficial effects in beginning stages of osteoarthritis.

It is important to cut out sugar and starchy foods to reduce insulin resistance, which would otherwise maintain the inflammatory chronic condition causing arthritis and cardiovascular disease. For the same reason cutting out wheat and wheat products has been shown to be beneficial in reducing inflammation. Such an anti-arthritis diet prevents heart attacks and strokes at the same time.

Weight loss

Ref. 2 points out that one study showed that weight reduction of only 10% had a 28% improvement in joint function. When this is combined with an exercise program the improvements are even more striking.

Exercise

Exercise consists of aerobic training, resistance training and muscle strengthening. When patients with osteoarthritis were observed throughout controlled exercise programs, flexibility and range of motion of the affected joints were improving. A minimum of three days per week of exercise was required to show improvements, but the best effects were observed when patients exercised most of the days. Joints become less swollen, show improved circulation and less pain. Before an exercise program is done, those with increased cardiovascular risk should first undergo an exercise stress test to measure their cardiovascular reserve and establish that it is safe to start a program. Secondly, an acutely inflamed or swollen joint should first be treated before an exercise program is started. Lack of exercise will promote more disability. While a person with arthritis may be unable to run a brisk race due to joint discomfort, he or she will find water exercises and swimming much more manageable. Group programs for people with arthritis are available and you may enjoy the supportive company.

Heat and cold therapy

Ref. 2 points out that three weekly 30 minute sessions of microwave diathermy for 4 weeks showed a significant reduction of joint swelling in knee osteoarthritis with improved joint function and reduced pain. On the other hand cold packs for aching muscles after strenuous exercises can decrease muscle spasm and increase the pain threshold. Range of motion increased with cold application and joint swelling was reduced. Patients who have cold sensitivity (such as Raynaud disease) need to refrain from the latter treatment modality.

Acupuncture and electro acupuncture

These treatments were found by Ref.2 to be useful as an adjunct to anti-inflammatory medication with NSAIDS (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs); the advantage was that the dosage of NSAIDS could be reduced, which reduced the potential serious side effects of gastric bleeds and kidney damage. Note that people with pacemakers or CNS stimulators cannot use electro acupuncture.

Intraarticular steroid injections

When only a few joints are affected by osteoarthritis (or rheumatoid arthritis), a physician can inject a corticosteroid into the joint. However, there are limitations, as each joint should not be injected more than 3 to 4 times per year. Otherwise there can be damage to the joint cartilage, which would make the arthritis worse. However, I have seen surprisingly good results for a long period of time, which allowed the patients to exercise and stabilize the joints that way.

Complementary treatments

A number of supplements and herbs are effective in reducing inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are the precursors for anti-inflammatory prostaglandins in the body, which helps both patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. As indicated under nutrition above, higher doses are required for this effect and for safety (avoiding toxicity from mercury and PBC’s) molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acid supplements should only be used (yes, they are more expensive).

Curcumin, the active ingredient of the spice turmeric, has been used in India and Asia for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties for centuries. It helps not only arthritis, but also helps also against the illnesses that are often associated with it (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune conditions). Ref. 2 points out that curcumin neutralizes inflammatory agents circulating in the blood of patients with arthritis.

Standardized ginger extract was shown to reduce pain significantly in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Other common supplements for building up cartilage in the joint are glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin, both available at the health food store. They stimulate glycosaminoglycan formation, which in turn builds up hyaline cartilage, the enamel-like coating of the bone within the joint.

An oral desensitization to treat arthritis

Can joint health be helped in other ways? New answers have emerged. In the past, people who were suffering with colds or flus were consuming a steaming bowl of chicken soup. It should be mentioned that colds and flus are also an inflammatory reaction that occurs within the body.

While a lot of health professionals dismissed this home remedy as old-fashioned and useless, a team of scientist from the University of Nebraska decided to research the matter a bit closer. They discovered that it was not the vegetables, but a component in the chicken broth that showed anti-inflammatory activity. The chicken derived type II collagen functions to regulate the immune system, so it stops attacking proteins normally found in healthy joint cartilage. Results of a pilot study have shown remarkable results. A dose of 40 mg per day of un-denatured type II collagen (UC-II) showed a significant reduction in pain and swelling from arthritis. It also yielded good results in terms of relief from joint pain and stiffness due to exercise.

Animal studies on dogs and horses were also conducted demonstrating that both animal groups that frequently suffer from arthritis got significant relief. Human clinical trials with UC-II showed similar effectiveness.

A group of patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis were treated with the supplement for 90 days. 33% experienced a reduction in their osteoarthritis. The pain was reduced by 40%. Those patients who received the standard treatment without any supplement had 15.4% less pain. Joint function was improved by 20% in the group taking the supplement, while only 6% of improvement was seen in the patient group receiving standard care.

Healthy patients were also assessed who did not suffer of arthritis, but received the supplement to evaluate how they would fare with exercise-induced knee pain. They were treated with a daily dose of 40 mg of UC-II. After day 90 and 120 the group that was treated with the supplement could exercise for significantly longer periods before experiencing joint pain. They also recovered faster after joint pain. The placebo group who swallowed “fake pills” did not show these changes. When knee joint flexibility was examined, the supplement group had significant increases in their knee mobility, but no luck for the placebo group!

Numerous toxicological essays have evaluated the supplement. There is no oral toxicity. No mutations in bacterial genomes have been observed, which is a standard screen to ensure that a substance is non-carcinogenic.

The UC-II supplement works through a mechanism, where the immune system is desensitized by ways of oral administration. It reverses T-cell attacks on exposed cartilage. If our joints are healthy and intact, we normally do not react to our own cartilage. But the protective barrier between blood and cartilage diminishes as we age. Early treatment with UC-II may help induce immune tolerance even in healthy individuals and protect them from reactions of the immune system to their own cartilage.

Conclusion

The supplementation with UC-II offers a different approach to modify joint inflammation of arthritis. Standard treatment at this point consists mainly of symptomatic treatment. Side effects to the drugs can be serious, if they are used on a long-term basis. Few are tolerable to modify the course of the disease.

With the UC-II supplement the root of the disease (autoimmune disease) is being addressed, and relief can be achieved within a few weeks of starting it. With life style changes that were mentioned before and this supplement it is possible to fight back against arthritis!

More information on arthritis: http://nethealthbook.com/arthritis/

References

1. “Osteoarthritis. Basic information”. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2014, 1st ed., © 2013 Mosby

2.  Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed., 2012 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Aug
10
2013

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

In many previous blogs I have mentioned that bioidentical hormone replacement prolongs life. Here is a more detailed look at what such hormone replacement looks like for both women and men. Before I get into details I want to stress that I am talking about replacing what is missing and replacing only with natural hormones, not some artificial hormone derivative produced by a drug company. The reason this is immensely important is that hormone receptors in the body are distributed all over our vital organs including bones, blood vessels and the nervous system. If there is no lock and key fit (bio-identical hormone fitting the hormone receptor), there is trouble as the Women’s Health Initiative in 2002 has shown. Unfortunately they had used synthetic hormones for HRT that were not fitting the hormone receptors, and this caused many problems (heart attacks, strokes, osteoporosis, cancer).

Physiology of aging

As we age, we gradually produce fewer hormones in our hormone glands, but the various hormone glands deteriorate in their functions at different rates. Beyond the age of 30 we produce less melatonin and less growth hormone. As a result our sleep pattern may change, as melatonin is necessary for a deep sleep. The decreasing growth hormone production means that we are losing some of our muscle mass and accumulate more fat in the subcutaneous tissues. Our adrenal glands produce less DHEA at the age of 35 to 40, a hormone that is a precursor to our sex hormones in males and females. The gonads (testicles and ovaries) also produce fewer hormones, a process which already starts 5 years before menopause and about 5 years before andropause (the male menopause equivalent).

Typically a woman will get into menopause at the age of 45 to 55 at which time the periods stop and postmenopausal symptoms are interfering with her well-being.  Men get into andropause (the male equivalent of menopause) at the age of 55 to 65 at which time erectile dysfunction occurs and often the individual will become the “grumpy old man”.

Other hormones such as thyroid hormones are also affected by the slow down. Hypothyroidism is common in people above the age of 50.

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

Baseline laboratory tests

In order to know what is going on, the physician or naturopath needs to order a number of tests to assess whether there is inflammation, how your key hormone levels are; the cardiovascular system markers should also be checked, the liver enzymes and vitamin D3 level. Inflammatory markers are fasting insulin levels and C-reactive protein (CRP). Fasting cholesterol and subfractions (HDL, LDL, VDLP, small LDL) and fasting triglycerides are also measured. Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4, TSH) are measured to rule out over or under function. Typically hypothyroidism is found, which would have to be rectified by taking Armour (a mix of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones).

At this point I need to explain that long time ago the research by Dr. Lee has shown that progesterone hormone levels are notoriously unreliable when blood tests are done. All of the other sex hormones, and cortisol are also not that reliable with blood tests. For this reason the saliva hormone tests have been invented that conveniently report a panel of 5 hormones from one saliva sample: DHEAS (which is the storage form of DHEA), estradiol (the major estrogen in a woman), progesterone, testosterone and cortisol. The saliva hormone tests correlate very well with the actual tissue hormone levels. You can order the saliva tests through Dr. Lee’s website. Another longstanding lab in the US is Dr. David Zava’s lab. In Canada the Rocky Mountain Analytical Lab can process your saliva tests.

Women’s hormone replacement

Let us assume that a woman is getting postmenopausal symptoms and bioidentical hormone replacement is being discussed. The physician will want to first rule out that insulin resistance is not present by ordering a fasting insulin level. If this is normal and the other baseline tests are normal as well except for missing estrogen and progesterone, the physician will usually start to replace progesterone first using a bioidentical hormone cream to be applied once or twice per day. If estrogen levels were also low, the next step in 4 weeks or so is to add Bi-Est, a bioidentical estrogen replacement cream. After 8 weeks of hormone replacement the saliva hormone test is repeated to see whether the estrogen and progesterone levels have come up and also, whether the ratio of progesterone to estrogen is at least 200 or more. Dr. Lee has extensively researched this and found that women with a ratio of less than 200 to 1 (progesterone/estrogen ratio) were more prone to breast cancer. He also stated in this link that there are 3 basic rules with regard to bioidentical hormone replacement:

1. only replace hormones, when they were measured to be low.

2. use only bioidentical hormones (never synthetic hormones) and

3. only replace with low doses of bioidentical hormones to bring hormone levels to physiological levels (body levels that were experienced to be normal before).

Many women who are not replaced in menopause have estrogen dominance meaning that the progesterone/estrogen ratio is less than 200:1, which puts these women at risk of developing breast cancer. Women who are overweight or obese also are estrogen dominant (from estrogen produced in excess through aromatase in the fatty tissue, explained further below), which makes them more prone to breast cancer, uterine cancer and colon cancer. Without bioidentical hormone replacement inflammatory processes take place in the joints (causing arthritis), in the nervous system (causing Alzheimer’s and dementia) and in the blood vessels (causing heart attacks and strokes). Rebalancing your hormones to a youthful state by paying attention to the hormone levels and the hormone ratios mentioned will remove the inflammatory reactions and reduce the risk for cancer.

Men’s hormone replacement

Males enter andropause 10 to 15 years later than women are entering menopause. Typically testosterone production slows down leading to hair loss, erectile dysfunction, loss of muscle mass, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s/dementia. Blood tests (bioavailable testosterone) or saliva tests are both reliable in determining a deficiency. Replacement with bioidentical hormone creams once per day is the preferred method of treatment. Overweight and obese men produce significant amounts of estrogen through an enzyme localized in fatty tissue, called aromatase.

Aromatase converts testosterone and other male type hormones, called androgens, into estrogen. Estrogen causes breast growth, weakens muscles, and leads to abdominal fat accumulation, heart disease and strokes.

Similar to women, where the progesterone/estrogen ratio is important, there is another ratio for men, called testosterone/estrogen ratio. This should be in the 20 to 40 range for a man to feel good and energetic. Unfortunately many men above the age of 55 have testosterone/estrogen ratios much smaller than 20. This makes them more prone to heart disease and prostate cancer (Ref.1).

However, a male also does need a small amount of estrogen and normal thyroid hormones as well as all of the other hormones for his “hormonal symphony” (mentioned in Ref. 2) to function at his best.

Safety of hormone replacement

There are still otherwise reputable websites that state that bioidentical hormones are not safer than standard synthetic hormones. This confuses the consumer and does not serve the public well. I much prefer the text of the Wikipedia, which is a more thorough review regarding safety of hormone replacement and explains what the issues are.

In the US there is a collective experience of about 25 years on thousands of patients, but there have not been any randomized studies, as Big Pharma that would have the money to finance such studies is not interested in proving that bioidentical drugs would be safer than their distorted synthetic hormone copies that will not fit the body’s hormone receptors. There are some noble exceptions as Big Pharma is producing bioidentical insulin and human growth hormone that had toxicity studies done and showed safety. In Europe bioidentical hormones have been used since the 1960’s, on a larger scale since the 1970’s. So the European experience of safety of bioidentical hormones is presently about 40 to 50 years.

The FDA is contributing to the confusion of the public as can be seen from this publication. One example where the FDA is confusing the consumer, is the progesterone product Prometrium, a bioidentical micronized progesterone capsule that can be taken by mouth. By law the manufacturer had to put a warning label on the package identical to progestin, which is the synthetic, non-bioidentical hormone having been shown to have severe side effects. As is explained in this last publication Prometrium should not have been required to have a warning label in it ; the paper explains what I have already stated above, namely that bioidentical hormones are the safest form of hormone replacement and administered in the right ratios will actually prevent cancer and prevent premature cardiovascular and joint deterioration. In other words, bioidentical hormone replacement can add many years of useful life when started early enough before permanent organ damage sets in from the aging process (which would be due to missing hormones).

Why bother about hormone replacement?

Nature has a plan of “knocking us off” to make room for the next generation. The only way that you can change nature’s plan of killing us prematurely through cardiovascular disease, arthritis, dementia and loss of your sexual life is by bioidentical hormone replacement. Of course you also need the other ingredients of known life prolongers such as healthy (preferably organic) foods, exercise and detoxification. Many women are scared to treat the hormone deficiencies that cause their menopausal symptoms because of the Women’s health Initiative results with synthetic hormones. Men who would benefit from testosterone are often anxious that they may get prostate cancer, when in reality it is the exact opposite: testosterone prevents prostate cancer (Ref.3).

Conclusion

I wrote this blog about bioidentical hormone replacement in order to clarify this often-misunderstood topic. Don’t get confused by the FDA, by highbrow medical websites (such as the likes I mentioned). Big Pharma has a powerful lobby that attempts to keep the medical profession in the belief that their products are better than those that nature has provided (I call it “defend your patent rights”). We are still in a flux state where anybody who tells the truth about hormones gets much criticism. In another few decades it will be an accepted fact and people will wonder why the Women’s Health Initiative was done without a control with bioidentical hormones. With bioidentical hormone replacement you can add about 20 years of youthful life without disabilities to the normal life expectancy. Exercise, detoxification and organic food with avoidance of wheat, starch and sugar can add another 5 to 10 years to your life. The baby boomers are lucky that they have this new tool to prolong life. I wonder whether they will put it to good use.

More information about bioidentical hormone replacement: http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/anti-aging-medicine-women-men/

References:

1. John R. Lee: “Hormone Balance for Men – What your Doctor May Not Tell You About Prostate Health and Natural Hormone Supplementation”, © 2003 by Hormones Etc.

2. Suzanne Somers: “Breakthrough” Eight Steps to Wellness– Life-altering Secrets from Today’s Cutting-edge Doctors”, Crown Publishers, 2008

3. Abraham Morgentaler, MD “Testosterone for Life – Recharge your vitality, sex drive, muscle mass and overall health”, McGraw-Hill, 2008

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Jun
01
2008

You Are What You Sleep

Lack of sleep can lead to childhood obesity

Stressful lifestyles often contribute to physical disorders and psychological difficulties, but little has been known about the fact that unbalanced sleep patterns also dysbalance a healthy body weight. Jean-Philippe Chaput of Laval University, Quebec City presented some facts at the 16 th European Congress on Obesity in Geneva, that emphasizes the importance of a balanced sleep pattern. There can be not only too little sleep but also too much sleep, as Dr. Chaput found out by studying 276 adults. Those who had a pattern of short duration sleep (5 to 6 hours) and those individuals who slept 9 to 10 hours were 35% and 25% more likely, respectively to show weight gains of 5 kg compared to the group that slept for 7 to 8 hours. The most likely reason is an alteration of certain hormones: short sleepers had high leptin levels and low ghrelin levels. In a previous study on children it also became obvious that to little sleep increases the risk of overweight and obesity in children. It was also possible to establish the type of weight gain.

You Are What You Sleep

You Are What You Sleep

Short sleep duration in kids lead to abdominal fat rather than to overall body fat deposits. Too little sleep in children seems to have more health consequences than previously thought, as it is the most important risk factor for overweight in this group. The most important risk factor was sleep duration that is too short, followed by parental obesity, watching TV and lack of physical activity.

More information about sleep apnea: http://nethealthbook.com/ear-nose-and-throat-diseases-otolaryngology-ent/nose-problems/sleep-apnea/

Reference: From the 16th European Congress on Obesity, May 2008

Last edited November 3, 2014