Bring Arthritis to its Knees with Nutritional Therapy
Inflammation is important: we require a front-line response to fight off invading pathogens and other foreign substances. It is key for our bodies to heal and without an inflammatory cascade, we would die! However, when inflammation becomes more of a chronic ‘pain’ than an acute response, it can exacerbate tissue damage and become debilitating. Research has demonstrated a low-grade inflammatory state to be involved in the development of many diseases prevalent amongst the western world today – particularly arthritis, Alzheimer’s, cancer and other metabolic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Conditions such as Arthritis cannot be reversed but rather managed by diet, supplementation and exercise.
There are over 100 different varieties of arthritis and related diseases with the most common type being Osteoarthritis (OA). This type of arthritis affects women more than men and is most common in people who over 60 years old. OA occurs as a result of wear and tear of the shock absorbing cartilage which surrounds the joints to prevent friction occouring. It can also develop through genetic factors, weight gain and the reduced ability to repair cartilage with age. It usually affects fingers, knees, hips, neck and spine. Those affected by joint pain and arthritis will know how demobilising and painful it is to say the least and although different variants of the condition can be responsible for different types of pain, nutritional treatments are becoming increasingly researched as an alternative method of pain relief and structural improvement of joints than the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) which are often prescribed in copious amounts to the general population.
Although NSAID’s do offer immediate pain relieving relief, there are undesired side-effects associated with regular intake and most importantly – they do not treat or slow the progression of the disease. Fortunately, nutritional therapy has demonstrated reductions in pain via targeting inflammation, without any nasty side-effects. To avoid causing more damage to your body than it’s worth, try altering a few things about your diet to start with and also introduce natural remedies to help combat the pain…
Helping to Manage Arthritis with Nutritional Therapy
Turmeric – The Golden Wonder
Some of you may be aware of the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric… and if you’re not, you ought to be! A chunk of research has gone into the anti-inflammatory role turmeric has, with over 200+ active compounds identified. But turmeric’s main anti-inflammatory constituent ‘curcumin’ has been at the forefront of the research for some time, building a relatively large evidence-base to support its effects.
At molecular level, the curcuminoids work at several stages of the inflammatory cascade, primarily blocking nuclear factor kappa-b (NfK-b) – a protein which is required in gene expression of inflammatory messengers. By controlling him, inflammation is better mediated. Current scientific evidence backs up the ‘once ayurvedic remedy native to India’ with an array of studies comparing the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin to pharmaceutical drugs with some evidence even suggesting curcumin’s comparative action.
Because there isn’t really an ‘in between’ supplement in terms of absorption capacity, bioavailability and efficiency, what you pay for turmeric is generally what you get. Here at Hanoverhealth, we stock a few turmeric supplements:
Solgar’s ‘Full Spectrum Curcumin’ – Unlike many curcumin supplements, Solgar has transformed poorly absorbed curcumin, from a fat-soluble to a water-soluble phytonutrient making it immediately body-ready, faster absorbed and more active. Each soft gel contains 40mg of curcumin – the equivalent of 75 (100 mg) capsules of standardised curcumin extract. This supplement is 185x more bioavailable and was shown to be longer lasting with an ability to stay in the body for a full 24 hours in a recent study.
Lamberts have also developed a few turmeric-based supplements including the ‘High potency Turmeric (10,000mg) – a turmeric extract standardised to provide 95% curcumins – and ‘Curcumin Ultra’ a technically advanced turmeric extract that has been specially prepared to greatly increase its absorption from the digestive system. One established problem with curcumin is that it does not easily dissolve in water and it is this feature of the compound that is believed to significantly limit the amount that can be absorbed from our digestive systems. The molecular dispersion process that the turmeric has underwent enhances the bioavailability of poorly absorbed nutrients and increases water dispersibility of fat soluble ingredients such as curcumin.
Pukka Herbs have a few turmeric supplements which are slightly broader spectrum. Being of the highest organic quality, sustainably cultivated and fairly traded, these products retain not only the curcuminoids but also the essential oils of the turmeric. This means that mostly all of the 200+ bioactive components are harnessed in these supplements rather than just curcuminoids. There has been evidence to suggest that turmeric in its true form is beneficial in combatting inflammation due to the impact of the other active compounds. Pukka also incorporate a range of herbs including long pepper into their turmeric supplements due to piperine’s ability to enhance the absorption of the sturdy stuff.
Following on from this, the most economical way to ingest turmeric is in its true spice form… 1 teaspoon per person per day mixed into some coconut oil along with some cracked black pepper (get that piperine in there!) may be all that is required to see benefits.
The Omega 3 Health Halo
You’ve probably heard of omega-3 fatty acids… but maybe don’t really realise just how important they are!
In a healthy immune system, the normal inflammatory process repairs damage and protects the body from infections. But in inflammatory types of arthritis and related diseases, an overactive immune response leads to tissue destruction. Research has shown that the same pathway that signals the start of inflammation also includes an ‘off’ switch. Omega-3s convert into these more powerful compounds, putting the brakes on this active process and causing it to screech to a halt and thus help reduce inflammation throughout the body…But how much omega-3s are needed to optimise the body’s conversion from omega-3s into inflammatory resolvins?
The answer to this is still ambiguous. But what we do know is that when there is a constant supply of n-3 fatty acids in the body at a level of at least 1000mg (but preferably more!) these oils begin to offer an analgesic (pain relieving) effect due to their anti-inflammatory action.
There are few major types of omega-3 fatty acids in our diets. One type is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and the other types are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The body partially converts ALA to EPA and DHA however these polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential (PUFA’s) and must be consumed through the diet or via supplementation. Fish oil is thought to be one of the best sources of omega 3. With the conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA already carried out for you (thanks fishies!), these EFA’s are actively absorbed and can be metabolised efficiently by the liver. For the adult population 2-4 portions1 of preferably wild oily fish should be consumed every week. The types of fish which are deemed as ‘oily’ include:
- Alaskan Pollock (mostly found in supplementation form)
- Rainbow trout
- Fresh tuna
1 (1 portion=140g)
What about fish oil supplements? In all honesty, it can seem slightly daunting when you’re stood in front of several fish oils supplements deciding on which one to go for, but a general rule of thumb is to ensure the total quantity of total omega 3 PUFA per serving is around 2-3g (2000-3000mg). This level of omega 3 helps to maintain a ratio of n-3 to n-6 FA of about 2:1 which is important due to omega 6’s ability to become pro-inflammatory if there is a consistent intake of it in comparison to omega 3 – thus contributing to arthritis and the like. To put it into perspective, generally as a population our n-6 to n-3 ratio is 15-20:1 – we’ve got it the completely wrong way around! However, making minor adjustments to the types of foods you consume can make a big difference to not only your health but your mood as well… so there’s some food for thought!
For the veggies and vegans out there don’t worry there are alternative ways of getting these EFA’s and incorporating flax/linseed into your diet is a great place to start. Particularly in their ground form, these are a great source of ALA. YES your body needs to do a teeny weeny bit of work to convert ALA to DHA/EPA, but with a daily intake of ALA over time, the body actually becomes more efficient at initiating and maintaining this conversion. ALA is also found in abundance in chia and walnuts and in trace amounts in soybeans and tofu.
There are also a range of cold-pressed seed oils which are a great way of supplementing these fatty acids. Generally, 2-3 tablespoons of oils such as flax/linseed or hemp seed daily will support meeting the recommended amount of ALA. Because they are in liquid form, they can be added into smoothies or drizzled over some crunchy salad as part of a tasty dressing. Alternatively, you can opt for a capsule form of flaxseed oil, however it is important to remember that one capsule does not equate to 1tbsp and therefore you generally require 4-6 capsules throughout each day to meet a daily minimum of 2g ALA – depending on the brand and quality of the oil of course.
The above information can also be applied to other chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
There are several other forms of supplementation including the likes of glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM to silica and bone support complexes. So if you’ve not yet tried alternative medicine to manage an inflammatory condition, pop in for some advice from us at Hanover Healthfoods next time you’re passing and we can advise you on the best supplement for you.