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Arthritis and the Role of Natural Products
More than three million Canadians suffer from the debilitating symptoms of arthritis – pain and inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis includes more than 100 types of inflammatory disorders with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis being the most common. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition caused by wear and tear of connective tissue and cartilage. It usually occurs later in life and affects the weight-bearing joints – hips, knees and spine – causing joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can appear suddenly at any age and can fluctuate in severity. The immune system produces antibodies that damage the joints causing redness, pain, inflammation and deformity.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to reduce arthritis pain and inflammation, but their popularity is waning because of several serious and life-threatening side effects such as stomach ulcers and bleeding, increased intestinal permeability, water. Retention and kidney damage. Recently, one class of these drugs (COX-2 inhibitors) has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Ironically, long-term use of these drugs can worsen joint health by accelerating the breakdown of cartilage and destroying healthy cartilage tissue. With all these drawbacks, it’s no surprise that many are turning to natural approaches to managing arthritis. Below are my top supplement recommendations for arthritis relief:
Celadrin is a blend of fatty acids that reduce inflammation, lubricate joints and promote healing, thus providing benefits for both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients. A study of sixty-four individuals with knee osteoarthritis found celedrin to reduce pain and swelling and improve flexibility and range of motion compared to a placebo. (Heslink, 2002) Celedrin is sold in tablets, capsules and creams by various companies and has no side effects. The recommended dose is 1500 mg per day. The cream is applied twice a day.
Essential fatty acids
Both omega-3 (fish oil) and omega-6 (borage, primrose oil) help reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. These “good” fats work in part by boosting levels of prostaglandins—hormone-like substances that have anti-inflammatory activity. Omega 3 is also very beneficial for heart health. A typical dose of these oils is between 2 and 4 grams per day.
Glucosamine is a nutrient used by the body to produce cartilage. It stimulates the production of new cartilage, blocks enzymes that break down connective tissue, and reduces pain and inflammation. Glucosamine has been studied extensively for osteoarthritis and has been found to be comparable to NSAIDs, yet better tolerated. The recommended dose is 1500 mg per day.
SAMe is a nutrient produced in the body that is essential for the health and development of my tissues and organs. In the joint, SAMe is involved in cartilage formation and repair.
Supplementing with SAMe has been found to reduce the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis and stimulate cartilage formation in numerous studies. Recently, the US government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reviewed 10 studies on SAMe for osteoarthritis and found it to be as effective as NSAIDs. (Hardy et al, 2002) SAMe is very safe and well tolerated. The recommended dosage range is 400 to 1200 mg of natural (isoactive) equivalents per day.
All of these nutritional supplements are backed by solid clinical research and can provide great support to arthritis sufferers.
Inflammation is the process by which the body’s defense system or immune system (white blood cells and other chemicals) reacts to infection, contact with foreign substances, or injury. This happens when you stub your toe, get a viral infection, or come into contact with a harsh chemical. Your immune system increases protection by releasing various chemicals that increase blood flow to the area, causing some or all of the following symptoms: redness, swelling, warmth, and pain. Inflammation can also be associated with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, and aches.
Although inflammation is a natural process designed to help the body fight infection and help heal, in some cases the body’s immune system overreacts or reacts inappropriately. Such is the case with autoimmune diseases, where the body’s normally protective immune system damages its own tissues.
Lifestyle factors such as stress, poor diet and lack of sleep also contribute to inflammation. Chronic inflammation often has obvious signs, such as redness and swelling, but chronic inflammation caused by lifestyle factors can be more insidious. It can affect many body tissues, including blood vessels, organs, and nerves, with few or no obvious symptoms until serious health problems develop. Researchers have now identified inflammation as a factor in the development and progression of many chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer and multiple sclerosis. Thus it is important to be aware of the factors that lead to inflammation and the methods to control this process.
Inflammation and disease
There is no doubt that many of the chronic diseases we face today are related to inflammation. Below are some common and related health problems associated with inflammation.
Arthritis is a general term used to describe a variety of inflammatory conditions in the body. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome. These diseases include joint and musculoskeletal pain and are often the result of inflammation of the joint lining. Some types of arthritis are caused by autoimmune responses, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and other forms of arthritis (such as osteoarthritis) are caused by wear and tear that causes inflammation.
Chronic inflammation caused by bacterial infection or chemical exposure is known to be a risk factor for various types of cancer. For example, research has focused on human papilloma virus (HPV) and cervical cancer, Helicobacter pylori infection and gastric adenocarcinoma, hepatitis B virus and cirrhosis and hepato-cellular carcinoma, asbestos-induced inflammation and lung cancer, and smoke-induced inflammation and lung, bowel. and pancreatic cancer. These studies show that inflammation promotes tumor development.
Cancer and inflammation share another connection. It has been found that stress in the tumor environment causes chronic inflammation and this creates a protective shield against the immune system. In other words, inflammation protects the tumor from immune system attack. Researchers have found that the release of inflammatory compounds such as cytokines, leukocytes, lymphocytes, and macrophages contributes to progression and metastasis. Furthermore, this inflammatory response may compromise the response to chemotherapy.
A growing body of research is linking uncontrollably high levels of blood glucose to inflammation, which can lead to complications of diabetes such as neuropathy, retinopathy, and nephropathy. Researchers have found that high blood glucose levels cause glycation and oxidation of proteins, lipids, and nucleotides, resulting in the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are thought to trigger various inflammatory processes that can damage blood vessels throughout the body. Thus, controlling blood sugar is essential to prevent inflammation and diabetic complications.
Over the past decade, researchers have explored the link between inflammation and heart disease. Studies suggest that inflammation is important in the development of atherosclerosis, a process in which fatty deposits build up in the inner lining of blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Factors that promote atherosclerosis, including cigarette smoking, hypertension, atherogenic lipoproteins, and hyperglycemia, induce a variety of noxious stimuli that release chemicals and activate cells involved in the inflammatory process. These events not only contribute to the formation of plaque, but can also lead to the formation of blood clots.
C-reactive protein (CRP) is a substance that is produced in the liver during inflammation. Research has found that those with high CRP levels have an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, macular degeneration and type 2 diabetes. Your CRP level can be determined with a simple blood test ordered by your doctor.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the brain and spinal cord. Inflammation destroys the myelin, which leads to the loss of many areas of scar tissue (sclerosis). Individuals with MS develop progressive neurological disability and this is thought to be due to the degeneration of nerve cells. New research is finding antioxidants that may protect nerve cells and slow disease progression.
Lifestyle factors that promote inflammation
Improper diet – High glycemic (quick release) carbohydrates such as white bread and other refined foods raise blood glucose levels leading to the release of advanced glycation end products that increase inflammation. Eating saturated fat (animal products), overcooked (burnt foods), and overeating also cause inflammation in the body.
Lack of sleep – Adequate sleep is essential for the body and immune system to regenerate and repair. Researchers have found that lack of sleep leads to the production of inflammatory compounds (cytokines). If you build up these inflammatory markers on a chronic basis, they can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, and a shorter lifespan.
stress – During times of stress, the body releases various hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol helps the body in fight/flight situations by suppressing immune system function and reducing inflammation. If stress becomes severe and the body cannot produce enough stress hormones to shut down the immune system, autoimmune disease and inflammation can occur.
obesity – Fat cells secrete compounds such as cytokines, which cause inflammation and increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Excess weight puts stress on the joints, especially the hips and knees. Over time this pressure can wear down cartilage and cause bone to grind against bone, causing inflammation.
To control inflammation and its effects, consider the following lifestyle:
diet: Eat a plant-based diet with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains. Fish, nuts, seeds (hemp and flax) and olive oil contain essential fatty acids that help reduce inflammation. Green tea contains antioxidants that reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Lifestyle: Work to reduce your stress levels. Try yoga, tai chi, meditation and breathing exercises.
supplement: To reduce inflammation, consider the following:
· Aged Garlic Extract – Reduces many risk factors for heart disease. It helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduces LDL oxidation and plaque formation.
· Boswellia – Tree resin with anti-inflammatory properties. According to studies it is beneficial for arthritis.
· Celadrin – A blend of acetylated fatty acids that reduce inflammation and lubricate joints. Research supports its use for rheumatoid arthritis. Preliminary evidence shows that it may help those with psoriasis and other inflammatory conditions.
· Fish oils – rich in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce many risk factors for heart disease (blood pressure, cholesterol, homocysteine and clotting). Studies also support its use in reducing symptoms of arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, and other inflammatory conditions.
· Glucosamine – a substance produced naturally in the body; Involved in cartilage repair. Studies show that it can reduce pain and improve mobility in those with osteoarthritis.
do exercise: Aim for one hour of moderate-intensity activity each day, such as walking, cycling, swimming or doing lawn work.
sleep: Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. There’s no sleep bank, so you can’t catch up on lost hours over the weekend.
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