Dale Gordon, ND
Unhappy joints can be a pain—reducing your range of motion, limiting your activity, and making you wince with any sudden movement. Learn how to naturally maintain joint health, by using supplements that support proper lubrication and reduce inflammation, while avoiding food sensitivities that can aggravate joint tissue.
If you feel like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz and wish that someone would come along with an oil can, you are not alone. The good news is that nutritional supplements can help. Your joints are a marvel of engineering, designed to maintain their lubrication with synovial fluid (the thick colorless liquid that surrounds joints). When you move your joints, these fluids splash over the parts of the joint not reached by blood vessels that supply nutrition and lubrication, allowing the bones to glide over each other. Glucosamine sulphate nourishes the cells of both the synovial membrane and fluid. These cells require first a sugar (glucose) and second, a protein (amino) for cell metabolism. In 1980, a German study underlined the importance of a sufficient supply of glucosamine for the joints. The study also noted that "non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and cortico- steroids inhibit this synthesis." (You will notice that glucosamine rebuilds cell lubricants, not just tissue.) Another 1998 study explained that while glucosamine benefits the synthesis of cartilage, there is the "additional possibility that glucosamine stimulates synovial production of hyaluronic acid (HA), which is primarily responsible for the lubricating and shock-absorbing properties of the synovial fluid." This fluid is decreased in those with osteoarthritis. The second method of improving joint lubrication is to control inflammation by using natural anti-inflammatories such as essential fatty acids (EFAs) and antioxidants. You may have heard that fish oil can lubricate your joints; this notion does have scientific merit. A new study at Cardiff University in Britain concluded that supplementation with omega-3 oils, essential fatty acids found in fish oils, "modulate the expression and activity of degradative and inflammatory factors that cause cartilage destruction during arthritis," thus alleviating "physiological parameters that cause and propagate arthritic disease." Researchers also noted that other oils did not bring the same results. Oils from salmon and tuna contain a key omega-3 EFA called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which inhibits a type of prostaglandin hormone. This hormone both increases inflammatory substances, while at the same time increases prostaglandins that inhibit inflammation. Salmon oil, which contains 18 percent EPA, is amazing in reducing inflammation and pain and increasing joint flexibility. Grape seed extract may have better antioxidant activity than other free radical scavengers, according to a 1998 study by D Bagchi. The active ingredient that brings these good results is called proanthocyanadin (sometimes called leucanthocyanadin), which destroys damaging oxygen molecules and turns off the body’s inflammation response. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis often have disturbances in iron metabolism. Large numbers of fereitin molecules were observed in the synovial lining cells in recent research. Interestingly, another study established that grape seed extract has the ability to chelate excess iron, even from heart tissue, thereby minimizing damage. Since food sensitivities can make joint tissue react in a similar way, the anti-inflammatory effect of grape seed extract can minimize allergies and autoimmune responses affecting the joints. Bilberry increases blood flow in very small arterioles. This may help deliver needed nutrition to deteriorating joints. Silica, found in horsetail herb or the colloidal silicea preparation, helps strengthen connective tissue and cartilage and helps the body and bones to absorb calcium. It is also believed to benefit joint fluid viscosity.
Methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM) is a natural form of organic sulphur and one of the most recent popular discoveries in managing arthritis. It is a critical component of cellular proteins. Hair, nails, skin and glutathione (one of the body's most important antiox-idants) can suffer if MSM is depleted. Combining MSM with glucosamine sulphate can make both treatments work better than either one taken alone. (The sulphur component produces most of the benefits.) The standard adult dose of six to 12 grams daily is most effective when combined with vitamin C (three to six grams daily).