Arthritis: The Inflammation Connection
How many of you have had the experience of waking up in the morning with joint aches and pains? Well, you are not alone! Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, affecting 22% of all adults. The total cost of the disease is upward to $128 billion1 (yes, billion!) a year. So many of us have arthritis but do we really understand what it is? Why do our joints hurt? Could there be a connection between our diet, lifestyle and arthritis?
There are many forms of arthritis. The most common kind is called osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease. This is usually attributed to general “wear-and-tear” on the joints. Improper biomechanics lead to uneven degeneration of the cartilage that surrounds our joints. This type of arthritis usually affects the knees, hips and hands; however, it can occur in almost any joint in the body. Another common form is rheumatoid arthritis, or inflammatory arthritis. This is an autoimmune condition where our body’s immune system attacks the synovial membranes that are contained within our joints. Rheumatoid arthritis tends to be more systemic and will affect the joints symmetrically. There is a female predisposition and a genetic link in this type. There are hundreds of different conditions that affect the joints that we could talk about; however, let’s focus on the one common link between almost all of them— inflammation.
Inflammatory conditions are easy to pick out from all of the traditional medical jargon. If your doctor diagnoses you with anything that ends in—itis, you can identify that you have inflammation. For example, the word arthritis comes from the Greek term—arthro, meaning joint, and—itis, meaning inflammation. Hence, arthritis is a general term to describe pain and inflammation of the joints. Some common conditions that are related to inflammation include:
• Cardiovascular disease
• Gastritis, ulcers
• Chron’s Disease
• Celiac disease (gluten intolerance)
• Athletic injuries
• Much more….
You can think of inflammation like a wildfire. In nature, wildfires are necessary to maintain the integrity of the ecosystem. It is a natural process of pruning forests and providing new fertilizer to the system. However, we have all heard about wildfires growing out of control and the damage that can be done if they are not contained…inflammation is no different.
Inflammation over a short period of time, in a contained fashion, can be necessary for the body to break down damaged tissue to heal and regenerate. However, if that inflammatory “fire” is not contained, it can spread and do damage to healthy cells and tissue.
So, what situations within the body turn on that “fire” and shift
our metabolic pathways to a PROinflammatory state? Whether acute or chronic, the following are a sample of conditions that induce inflammation:
• Physical injuries
• Allergies and sensitivities
In an acute situation, the PROinflammatory response is appropriate. However, when left unresolved over a long period of time, that acute situation becomes chronic. For example, an untreated yeast infection can turn into Candida overgrowth and be a source for a chronic, low-grade infection. The body is shifted into a PRO-inflammatory state.
However, thankfully, that is not the end of the story! The key to almost every process within the body is BALANCE. There exists an ANTI-inflammatory system that maintains checks and balances within the body. How do we shift toward that system? By reducing stress and supplementing with the right nutrients, we can promote the ANTI-inflammatory pathways that keep our system in check.
It is important to note that there is a difference between the causes and the triggers of inflammation. The causes of inflammation, previously mentioned, turn on the PRO-inflammatory pathways. The triggers are what feed the fire of inflammation. If you had no fire to begin with, throwing lighter fluid on some logs is not going to start a fire. You need that spark or small inflammatory fire for the triggers to cause a response. By reducing your triggers and promoting ANTI-inflammatory pathways, your symptoms of joint pain can be reduced or eliminated.
Some of the most common triggers we encounter in our world are:
• Environmental pollutants
• Chemicals in our water
• Pesticides on our vegetables
• Growth hormones and antibiotics in our meat and dairy
• Chemicals in our cosmetics
• Preservatives in our food
The million-dollar-question…how do we avoid these triggers?
Unfortunately, in today’s world, you can’t. However, you can take steps to minimize them. By supplementing the body with the correct nutrients and making lifestyle changes to shift your body into an ANTI-inflammatory state, you can create an environment where the triggers are less severe and cannot “spark” a large, inflammatory fire.
Here are some easy steps you can take to reduce your inflammation and arthritis pain:
1. Eat Real Food: This is something you can start today. Fill your plate with REAL food! Anything that comes in a box or from a restaurant that has a “dollar menu” is not real food. Your taste buds are being tricked to enjoy the flavor of chemically enhanced food substitutes. All of the preservatives and flavor enhancers are pro inflammatory and contribute to the pain you feel in your joints.
2. Look for Colorful Food: An easy way to determine the nutrient content of food is to look at the color. Foods with rich, deep colors (think: blueberries, spinach, sweet potatoes) are high in phytonutrients and pack a mean punch for fighting inflammation. Enhance the flavor of these foods by cooking or drizzling them with good fats like olive oil and coconut oil, which also promote ANTIinflammatory biochemical pathways.
3. Avoid Food Sensitivities: Most of us have foods that our body does not process well. Over time, these foods cause an immune response every time we eat them. Most of us are unaware of these foods because they do not cause a full-blown anaphylactic allergy like hives or our throat closing. However, eating them contributes to that low level of inflammation within our body. Some signs that you might have a food sensitivity are: fatigue, headaches, eczema, chronic yeast, canker sores, feelings of depression, achy joints…and much more. If you suspect a food, take it out of your diet for 2 weeks and then reintroduce it. Note how you feel after you eat. If it is a food you are sensitive to, you will have a strong reaction to it. However, the surest way to check for food sensitivities is a food cytotoxic test. This is a blood test done at the Riordan Clinic that will give you an accurate picture of exactly what you are sensitive to and the degree of sensitivity.
4. Decrease Pro-Inflammatory Foods: There are some foods that universally shift your body into a pro-inflammatory state. Foods like sugar, trans-fatty acids, refined grains, and conventional dairy products can steal vital nutrients from your diet and push the body into a state of inflammation. So ditch the donuts and look for a sweet, healthy alternative!
5. Take Supplements: Give your body the right tools it needs to protect itself. Supplemental nutrients are needed in higher levels when the body is in a state of disease. Here are a few that specifically help with calming the inflammatory “fire” in your body and reducing your arthritis symptoms:
• Vitamin C—necessary for collagen production and a potent antioxidant
• Vitamin E—synergistic with Vitamin C and can help reduce osteoarthritic symptoms
• Vitamin D—needed for bone health and immune function
• VitaminB3—(Niacinamide)—studies have confirmed2 that use of daily Niacinamide helped arthritis patients reduce their anti-inflammatory medications, reduce joint swelling, and increase mobility.
• Glucosamine and Condroitin—stimulate production of new cartilage in injured joints
• Hyaluronic Acid—anti-inflammatory, tissue repair, and retention of lubricant in joints—showing to be even more promising that Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Note: The best way to determine vitamin deficiency and monitor vitamin levels is through regular bloodwork and under the care of a licensed health care provider.
6. Seek Chiropractic Care: Minor misalignments in your joints can have a significant impact if they are left uncorrected for a long period of time. Sports injuries, falls, and trauma can lead to uneven wearing of our joints. This will cause improper biomechanical movement and therefore the breakdown of cartilage faster in certain areas of the joint. Regular chiropractic care is important not only for spinal health, but also proper alignment of our knees, feet, shoulders, and hands. It is best utilized in a preventative fashion; however, it is never too late and can be extremely beneficial in stopping the degenerative process.
7. Have an Active Lifestyle: Keep moving!! It’s easier said than done, but one of the worst things you can do for your joints is to stop exercising. Your joints are avascular; meaning, there is no direct blood supply. Therefore the nutrients and oxygen your joints and the surrounding cartilage receive is by a process of diffusion. That diffusion process is facilitated by loading and unloading of the joint. If you stop moving, your joints
stop receiving proper nutrition, which perpetuates the degenerative process. It is best to exercise moderately about 30 minutes a day. Focus on low impact exercises such as water aerobics, cycling, tai chi, and yoga.
8. Utilize IV Nutient Therapy: Researchers at the Riordan Clinic have recently published a study in the journal Modern Research in Inflammation entitled, “Effect of high dose intravenous ascorbic acid on the level of inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.” Their preliminary results suggest that regular intravenous vitamin C (IVC) may reduce the levels of C-Reactive Protein (an important marker of inflammation, especially in rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease) as well as reducing levels of oxidative stress within the body. Research like this is extremely important for determining ways to naturally support the body’s shift away from a PRO-inflammatory state. Because inflammation plays a large role in many chronic diseases, this research is extremely promising and sets the stage for future studies. See page 7 for more information about this study.
Like most symptoms, arthritis pain exists because the body is trying to communicate something to us. It can be a warning that there is something more insidious happening behind the scenes in our bodies. The long-term solution does not lie in dulling the pain with NSAIDs, which work by blocking pain and interrupting important biochemical pathways within the body. Instead, let’s focus on ways to naturally shift the body into an ANTI-inflammatory state and create an environment for the body to heal. That process starts now and it starts with YOU!
Make a 30 minute consultation with Dr. Zauderer or Dr. Kaumeyer to discuss easy ways to improve your lifestyle. Call 316-682-3100 to schedule your appointment.
2. Jonas, W.B. et al. “The effect of niacinamide on osteoarthritis: a pilot study.” Inflamm. Res. 1996;45:330-331