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

Sep
07
2013

Preserve Your Muscles And Joints

Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, constantly on the go. They did not have to think too much about their muscle and joint health, they simply moved them. In our society this has changed a lot. At work we spend hours sitting at a desk, and then we use computers and watch television at home. Instead of walking to the neighborhood store, we use our car.

Here I will review what we can do to keep our joints and muscles in top shape until a ripe old age.

Brief intro regarding the anatomy of joints and muscles

Our joints are designed to give us full mobility. But the joints cannot do it alone. The muscles are designed to allow the joints to move in a full range. Without exercise the muscles will shrivel up (medical term “atrophy”) within only 2 to 3 weeks. So without regular exercise your joints won’t do you any good. Besides the joint capsules need regular stretching in full range exercises to produce the lubricating fluid (synovial fluid) that nourishes the joint surfaces and the menisci of the knees. Think of muscles and joints as being a functional unit designed to move you about.

Our joints have aerodynamic designs to do the most optimal job for our body. For instance the knees have more of a hinge design that includes menisci for shock absorption while the shoulders and hips have more of a ball and socket type construction.

Wear and tear with aging

It is usually thought that injuries and aging wear down the joints. But there are other factors such as the wide spread use of statins that can contribute to muscles weakness. Ironically statins are taken to protect the heart, but side effects can interfere with the ability to exercise your heart because of aching muscles and joints.

With optimal nutrition and avoidance of wheat and wheat products to prevent autoimmune arthritis (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, dermatomyositis) your joints can stay young for much longer (explained further below). But your joints and muscles need to move through a full range of motion regularly to keep the blood circulation and nutrition of their tissues in top shape.

What causes joint deterioration?

Aging, weight gain, diabetes, smoking and lack of exercise all are known to cause a worsening of arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, but also rheumatoid arthritis. The wrong diet with lots of sugar and starch and trans fats (hamburgers, pasta, sugar soda drinks) causes hyperinsulinemia (insulin overproduction, like in type 2 diabetes) and is almost guaranteed to make you sick with arthritis, obesity and diabetes.

There is also evidence that wheat causes inflammation and arthritis by stimulating your pancreas to produce too much insulin. This has been proven for dogs and for humans. A good diet book to follow is Dr. William Davis “Wheat Belly Cookbook” (Ref. 1) with 150 recipes. If you are overweight, these recipes will also help you to lose some weight effortlessly.

A caution to marathon runners: the constant pounding of prolonged jogging can cause osteoarthritis of hips and knees decades down the road. You may want to switch to different exercises before this happens.

Preserve Your Muscles And Joints

Preserve Your Muscles And Joints

What helps joints?

Molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acid helps to prevent inflammation of your joints. Vitamin D3 will help your bones to be strong to support the tendons and ligaments. Chicken cartilage can build up joint cartilage within a few weeks! So, if you feel pain in your joints use 3 capsules of omega-3 (the strong, molecularly distilled ones) twice per day. This will help your joint inflammation within 3 to 4 weeks. If this alone is not enough add chicken cartilage from the health food store, which will help to build up the hyaline cartilage within your joints. For those who are questioning the effect of chicken cartilage, here is a 1993 chicken cartilage Harvard study proving it.

Below are more general steps that will help your joints, ligaments and muscles.

Maintaining health of joints and muscles

a)    It starts with good nutrition.

Hamburgers and deep fried French fries will not do the trick. Muscles require protein from meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. If you are a vegetarian you need to become knowledgeable on what essential amino acids are and what combination of vegetables will give you the amino acid composition to build up a full protein.

Joints need ingredients from cartilage, which you find in chicken cartilage (available in health food stores as fikzol (type II cartilage). I you prefer, chicken soup would also give you the ingredients to build up cartilage, but it would require a lot of regular chicken soup consumption to achieve this.

Sugar and starchy foods, which are broken down within half an hour after a meal into sugar in your blood, cause an insulin response from your pancreas. This in turn can cause inflammation in your joints and tendons. It is interesting to note that type 2 diabetes and arthritis are associated. A ketogenic, low sugar/starch diet will prevent arthritis and diabetes as it reduces the insulin level in the blood, which in turn turns off inflammation in the joints.

b)   Supplements:

Omega-3 fatty acids will help control any inflammation including the inflammation from arthritis (you need 3 capsules of the concentrated, molecularly distilled fish oil twice per day to achieve this).  DMSO gel, available in health food stores in the US, can also be used to rub onto inflamed joints. It will penetrate tissues rapidly, is nontoxic and helps control inflammation along with the omega-3 fatty acids. Regular anti-inflammatory pain relievers (NSAIDs) are harsh on your kidneys and can irritate the gastric lining causing bleeding gastric erosions, so definitely not recommendable.

Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, or a combination of both is available in the health food store and has been shown to help with osteoarthritis. I contributes to building up hyaline cartilage.

c)   Watch your weight:

It has been shown that the rate of degenerative arthritis (=osteoarthritis) in obese people is much higher when compared to slim people.

d)   Exercise:

You need to move your joints, ligaments and muscles every day to maintain their strength and range of motion. A daily workout at home or in a gym is best. I recommend 30 minutes of a treadmill or equivalent (jogging, Stairmaster etc.) as aerobic exercises. Then you need 30 minutes of isometric exercises like a circuit on exercise machines in the gym or dumbbells and expanders (resistance bands) at home. I consider this as the basic fitness routine every day.

Ballroom dancing and Latin dancing or Zumba is also a good combination exercise, which I would recommend on top of the basic exercise. Dancing helps to maintain your balance as well, which is something the older population tends to lose. In addition dancing stimulates your brain cells and makes you less vulnerable to develop dementia in old age.

Other aerobic exercises that can be recommended are walking (brisk walk) and/or intermittent jogging. Swimming has the advantage particularly for arthritis sufferers that you are floating. It allows you to exercise your leg and arm muscles, even if you have some arthritis pains.

e)  Pain relief: What could you do for pain relief? I do not like NSAIDs as this will damage your kidneys on the long-term and cause gastric erosions that can bleed massively. Electro acupuncture is very useful for muscle and joint pains and has no side effects. Physiotherapy treatments are useful to recondition your muscles and build up the range of motion of your joints. Chiropractic treatments for back and neck pain will also help. Instead of narcotics, why not try low dose Naltrexone (LDN). It has been shown to help with the pain of fibromyalgia.

Conclusion

In this brief review I have attempted to show you that your body is not on a one-way street in the direction of disability and death. There is a lot we can actively do to prevent this from happening prematurely. Just eat right, supplement (if you have symptoms), exercise and be active. Soon you will no longer be aware of your previously achy joints or muscles, as the pain tends to melt away when you are reconditioned.

More information on fitness: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/fitness/

References:

1. William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly Cookbook. 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2012.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Jul
01
2007

Regular Exercise Will Delay Onset Of Alzheimer’s Or Dementia

Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia have become a disease that is dreaded by people approaching middle age. As the population ages it has made its way into the foreground not only for the ageing group but also for younger family members who will face difficult tasks as caregivers to their loved ones.

Research is dealing with a possibility of halting the disease progression, and there are encouraging signs, that more effective treatment will be available, as long as the condition is diagnosed and treated in its early stages.

It is also logical to look at preventative measures. Healthy lifestyle choices have been cited, and a closer look has been taken by Dr. Eric Larson, executive director of the Center for Health Studies of the Group Health Cooperative, Seattle. He reports that it does at this point not seem probable that Alzheimer’s dementia can always be prevented from happening, but the onset can be delayed. Four observational studies have shown with consistency, a 30% to 40% reduction in the incidence of Alzheimer’s when people get regular exercise.

In his own study Dr. Larson looked at 2581 individuals age 65 and over. They were tested for cognitive function and interviewed about their exercise habits every two years. It was found that those who followed an exercise regime 3 or four times per week had a 40 % reduction in the risk of developing dementia compared to those who exercised less than 3 times per week.

Regular Exercise Will Delay Onset Of Alzheimer’s Or Dementia

Regular Exercise Will Delay Onset Of Alzheimer’s Or Dementia

Exercise could consist of at least 15 minutes of hiking, aerobics, stretching, calisthenics, water aerobics, swimming, or weight training. It was also of interest to note that people with the lowest physical performance benefited most from the exercise. For people in the higher age bracket prevention of dementia (and other ills) does not have to be costly. A good pair of walking or running shoes (used more than 3 times per week) will pay a healthy dividend.

More information on prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia: https://www.askdrray.com/dementia-prevented-with-diet-and-exercise/

Reference regarding the work of Dr. Larson: http://www.news-medical.net/news/2006/05/23/18087.aspx

Last edited December 18, 2014