Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Joint Health: Putting Out The Fire

Do your fingers throb when you twist off a bottle cap? Do you feel a sharp twinge in your knees when you walk up the stairs? If so,you may be experiencing the early warning signs of arthritis.

Half of the 65-year-old population has some form of arthritis. Over age 75, virtually everyone has arthritis. Today, nearly forty million Americans have some form of arthritis. That's 15% of the population. No longer does arthritis have to be an inevitable consequence of aging. Early use of targeted nutrition and lifestyle factors have fostered remarkable results. Even the Arthritis Foundation, a very traditional organization, has recognized the importance of certain nutrients in supporting joint health!

Types of Arthritis
There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent by far; affecting 75% of adults in the United States by age 65, followed by rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease in which the cartilage in the joint deteriorates. Bone rubs against bone, causing pain and loss of movement. This disease usually begins after age 40 and develops slowly. It often affects the hands and fingers as well as the large weight-bearing joints as the knees, hips and spine.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic disease that affects the entire body. Scientists believe this results from a breakdown in the immune system. It begins with inflammation of the synovial joints, causing swelling and pain. Soon after the arthritic inflammation beings, the synovial tissue, the membrane that lines the joint, no longer secretes the lubricant, which allows bones to move together without pain. RA can cause cartilage damage and deform joints. RA usually begins between the ages of 25 and 50. It often develops suddenly. RA is characterized:

  • by swelling of the joints on both sides of the body, especially the hands and wrists
  • stiffness in the morning and after prolonged sitting
  • redness and warmth.

It often causes general fatigue, weight loss and anemia.

The Scoop On NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Conventional doctors frequently recommend NSAIDS to help ease the pain of arthritic sufferers. While they do provide temporary pain relief, they have been shown to increase the destruction of cartilage lining the ends of the bone.

NSAIDS also shut down all prostaglandins, powerful hormone-like substances. Keep in mind that there are two classes of prostaglandins, one that act as pro-inflammatories and others that act as anti-inflammatories. By shutting down the 'good' prostanglandins, they are interfering with your body's natural healing. And about 25% of people who take NSAIDs develop ulcers and other gastrointestinal complications.

In a Norwegian study of 186 patients, of which 58 participants took NSAIDs and 128 did not, those taking NSAIDs had more rapid hip deterioration than the group who took nothing.

Lifestyle Tips
The right diet, exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle can make a big difference in your joint health.

Lose weight.
Excess weight puts additional stress on the joints. It comes as no surprise that overweight people are at a greater risk of developing OA, and of the disease progressing. Research shows that if you are overweight, even a small weight loss can make a big difference. In a large Framingham Knee OA Cohort Study, a ten-pound weight loss cut the risk of OA of the knee in half. That's because it decreases the load-bearing stress on your joints.

Move your body
Besides helping to manage weight, exercise encourages the production and flow of joint fluid, increases range of motion, reduces pain and builds joint strength. It elevates mood and helps to provide a sense of well being. Swimming is a great exercise to help you keep joint mobility. It doesn't aggravate or jar your joints as running or walking does.

Relax your mind and body
Relaxation helps to reduce muscular tension, improves mood and reduces pain. Visualization, relaxation exercises or self-hypnosis have proved very beneficial.

Heat from a hot bath or shower, hot packs, heat lamps and other sources of heat may be especially helpful in the morning to loosen joints. Cold compresses can help numb an inflamed area and alleviate pain.

Eat Healthfully
Cut down on nightshades. The consumption of nightshade family plants might exacerbate your arthritis because of the alkaloid, particularly solanine, they contain. Try limiting potatoes, eggplants, peppers (except black pepper) and tomatoes.

Watch out for food allergies. Allergies trigger inflammation and can aggravate arthritic symptoms. To identify food allergies, give yourself a pulse test after eating. If your pulse increases by more than fifteen beats after eating a food, you are probably sensitive to it. Another approach is to go on an elimination diet, in which you avoid suspect foods for a week. If food allergies are a contributing factor, your arthritic symptoms will ease after five to seven days.

Get the right fats. Limit fats rich in saturated fat, hydrogenated fat and trans-fatty acid. They provide large quantities of the chemical building blocks of arachidonic acid, which the body uses to mount an inflammatory response. Too much omega 6 fatty acids, found in vegetable oils can also promote inflammation. Go for the fats rich in omega 3 fats as flax oil.

Up your intake of omega-3 rich fish. Omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation. Fish as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and anchovies are rich in omega-3s. Aim for two to three fish meals of these cold-water fish weekly.

Drink more water. Water forms the basis of the body's joint lubricant, synovial fluid. Dehydrated cells can increase the aches and pains associated with arthritis. Hydrated cells function much better.

Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs
are a broad spectrum of potent, safe and effective nutrients that have a long history of supporting the body's natural ability to reduce pain and inflammation of aching joints. These nutrients can be potent partners to enhancing your joint health:

This anti-arthritic herb, offers guaranteed potency from the gum resin of the Boswellia serrata tree. This unique plant is common to the dry, hilly regions of India. The therapeutic ingredient, boswellic acid, supports normal healthy joint function by suppressing inflammation and reducing joint swelling and morning stiffness. Boswellia has anti-inflammatory action, much like conventional NSAIDs. But unlike NSAIDs, long-term use of boswellia does not lead to irritation or ulceration of the stomach.

This digestive enzyme found in pineapple stems, cools inflammation and promotes healing of injured joint. It helps to relieve anti-inflammatory discomfort in arthritic sufferers by improving the absorption and effectiveness of glucosamine.

It also helps to decrease the formation of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (PG-2) and allows the healing prostaglandins (PG-1) to work more rapidly.

This natural ingredient found in cayenne peppers, works by depleting the amount of a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) called substance P, that is believed to conduct messages to the brain. Cayenne can be applied topically. After being applied three to four times a day over a 2 to 4 week period, the capsaicin begins to offer temporary relief from pain. Some people may experience an initial redness, burning or stinging sensation at the site where capsaicin is applied, but the irritation usually disappears with repeated applications. Those people sensitive to nightshade vegetables may find this product exacerbates their symptoms.

Chondroitin sulfate is a major component of cartilage. Like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate attracts water into the cartilage and stimulates the production of new cartilage. It also prevents enzymes from dissolving cartilage, reducing pain and increasing range of motion. It's active ingredient, glycosaminoglycans offers these therapeutic ingredients, helping the joint to reform cartilage.

Copper is an essential part of the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD), which protects cells from free radical damage. A deficiency of copper can cause excessive iron build-up. When there's an excess of iron, it's deposited in the joints, contributing to rheumatoid arthritis.

Devil's claw
This herb derived its name from its large claw-like fruit, native to Africa. Clinical investigations have demonstrated that the active ingredients, harpagosies and beta-sitosterol, exert a potent anti-inflammatory effect. The result? Reduced swelling, pain relief and improved mobility in the joints of subjects taking devil's claw.

Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO)
CMO is made from cetyl alcohol and a fat, myristoleic acid. This waxy compound helps to lubricate joints, offers a potent anti-inflammatory effect and decreases the body's autoimmune response that sparks RA.

Research, conducted in 1996, on more than 400 people with various types of arthritis, confirms the effectiveness of CMO. Arthritic sufferers using CMO benefited 63% of the time, compared to the untreated arthritic sufferers, who showed only 14% improvement.

Essential fatty acids (EFA's)
EFAs, particularly the omega-3 fatty acids high in EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), most commonly found in fish oil, work like NSAIDs, but only smarter. They help to dampen inflammation and the pain associated with it, without any side effects

Ginger is mostly known to us in the West as a spice and flavor. In China however, it's been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes, as combating nausea, a stomachache and rheumatism. Modern research has found ginger to be a powerful antioxidant and to have strong anti-inflammatory effects.

Glucosamine sulfate.
Among the natural therapies for osteoarthritis, glucosamine sulfate is often referred to as the granddaddy of supplements for joints. It is extensively used in Europe for osteoarthritis. Glucosamine sulfate is present naturally in healthy joint cartilage as an essential component of proteoglycans, a basic substance in joint cartilage and connective tissue. It provides the building blocks for new cartilage, the protective joint padding that prevents bones from scraping against each other as we move. It is also one of the primary building blocks of synovial fluid, the substance that lubricates the joints.

When glucosamine is in short supply, often as a result of aging or injury, severe joint deterioration results since the body can't produce cartilage, and your joints are not cushioned. Research reports glucosamine sulfate decreases osteoarthritic pain and increases joint mobility. It's approved in many European countries to treat osteoarthritis, and American veterinarians have been using it to treat animals with arthritis, especially dogs and horses, with real success.

This herb, rich in silica, has proven to be especially effective in treating arthritis and joint inflammation.

Manganese is a central component of glucosamine, a spongy substance that helps support joint health. Bone cartilage can't grow or repair itself without adequate manganese.

Methylsulfonylmethane is a sulfur-based compound that helps to maintain healthy joints and tendons. MSM provides us with sulfur, a mineral that should be one of the most prevalent in the body. This nutrient is needed for building healthy flexible cells and connective tissue and helps to restore any damaged connective tissue and joints. It helps to suppress inflammation and the pain associated with it.

Sea Cucumber
The Chinese have known the therapeutic value of this sea cucumber for thousand of years. Australia equivalent of the FDA designated sea cucumber an official arthritis treatment in 1992. Sea cucumber provides glycosaminoglycans, making it an alternative to chondroitin. This unique constituent of cartilage has been shown to ease inflammatory pain and helps the body to reform cartilage.

This herb has been a staple of India for thousands of years. Curcurnin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, is similar to aspirin and other nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs that eases inflammation. Other benefits-..turmeric may prevent the formation of free radicals-..is a very powerful scavenger of free radicals generated by arthritic inflammation.

Vitamin C
This water soluble vitamin is a powerful antioxidant that is needed to make collagen, the "glue" that strengthens many parts of the body as muscles and blood vessels. It helps to reduce inflammation and joint pain.

Vitamin E
Besides being a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin E has been shown to have a stabilizing effect on the membrane. It helps to inhibit the breakdown of cartilage and stimulate the formation of new cartilage components.

Willow Bark
Salicyclic acid, the basis of aspirin, is from willow bark. Salicylates inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandin's, hormone like substances. It also helps to decrease the ability of nerve endings in the skin to sense pain.

This mineral is a component of more than 300 enzymes that are need to synthesize protein, repair tissue and protect against free radical damage. Zinc is critical to the healthy functioning of every cell. People with inflammatory joint disease are generally depleted in zinc.

The forty million Americans with arthritis can breath a sigh of relief to know that these natural remedies not only reduce inflammation and the pain associated with it, but heal arthritic damage. No longer will you have to rely on aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which only suppress pain, but does nothing for cartilage repair, and may even inhibit it!


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