Given the right nutrients, your joints can repair themselves, which means less joint pain for you.
When your joints are stiff, aching and swollen first thing in the morning, either with age or overuse, you may have osteoarthritis, the most common form of joint damage. You are far from alone – an estimated 54 million people are told yearly they have some form of arthritis, and that number is expected to rise to 78 million by 2040. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease, caused by the breakdown of cartilage, leading to bone rubbing on bone and wearing down.
The cushion in your joints between the bones is cartilage, which is made up of a combination of proteins and sugars. When it’s healthy, it allows bones to glide over each other and absorbs the shock of any movement. When your joints are inflamed, misaligned, or worn from overuse, this cushion of cartilage thins out, breaks down, and can no longer do its job, causing joint pain and osteoarthritis as the result.
Cutting Edge Cartilage News
Until recently, doctors believed articular cartilage, the cushion in our hip, knee and ankle joints, could not be repaired once it was injured. The job of this protective covering over the ends of our bones is to cushion our joints from the pressure we exert on them. For example, the pressure on your knees when you are walking on level ground is 1.5 times your body weight. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, your knees carry the weight of 300 pounds of pressure with each step you take, and the pressure goes up as your speed goes up or you walk on an incline.
Thanks to the work of doctors at Stanford like Constance Chu, MD, we have discovered that articular cartilage slowly but surely repairs itself; given rest and the nutrients it needs it takes about a year, according to her MRI studies. That’s good news to the 27 million arthritis sufferers in the US alone. Joint replacement surgeries are on the rise, and Dr. Chu’s goal is to make the next generation of joint replacements biologic – with proteins and stem cells, not artificial joints.
Before your turn to joint replacements of any kind, start by avoiding the medications that inhibit healing, while feeding your joints the nutrients they need to heal.
The Damage from NSAIDs
There’s no doubt that NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen, aspirin, Mobic, and so many others provide temporary relief from the joint pain caused by joint damage. But, did you know these NSAIDs also restrict the normal increase in blood flow that bathes damaged tissues in oxygen? It’s true, and even the smallest dose prevents healing at the cellular level. But that’s not all – NSAIDs prevent collagen formation, the “glue” that holds our cells together and is necessary for healing bones, tendons, and joints.
Whenever possible, avoid NSAID medications and turn to supplements and foods to nourish the joint tissues and promote healing.
The Collagen Connection
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, holding together our tendons, muscles, bones, cartilage, joints, skin, and more. But, by the time we turn 21, our collagen production slows down and declines as we age, causing thinning and weakening of the cartilage in the joints, which leads to arthritis. The good news is daily weight-bearing exercise like walking enables cartilage to repair more easily and keeps collagen strong. This type of exercise is essential to rebuilding and repairing our joints as we age.
Though it’s often described as the “glue” which holds our tissues together, collagen is actually a fiber that’s stronger than steel. What makes it this strong are fibers that cross-link with sulfur. When these cross-links are missing, we make keratin instead, a somewhat strong protein normally present in hair, skin, and nails. Unfortunately this protein isn’t as strong as cartilage, and the result is scar tissue that’s easily damaged and re-injured. DMSO can be applied to the skin over a painful joint twice daily, and significant relief is usually the result, thanks to its high sulfur content and ability to penetrate into deep tissues. Alternatively, MSM is the oral form of this sulfur-rich supplement and can be taken in doses of 500 to 1,000mg 3 times daily with meals.
Beauty and the Broth
No conversation about collagen is complete without bone broth. All collagen comes from animal proteins, and is found in the “gristle,” the toughest, most difficult to eat cuts of meat that are available. When you cook these grass-fed beef bones, you cook the collagen, which creates gelatin. This gelatin is one of the main reasons bone broth is so nutritious. As you get your bone broth in daily, you will notice over time that the youthful glow to your skin will return, which is the “beauty” of having enough collagen.
The best bone broth is the one you make at home, with grass-fed beef bones, roasted and then cooked slowly for many hours on the stove or in the slow cooker. A good bone broth will become thick and jiggle once it’s chilled, indicating it has a high gelatin content.
My favorite brand to buy is Kettle & Fire, which was the only brand I tested that did not have high levels of heavy metals. All animals store environmental contaminants like fluoride, lead, arsenic and other heavy metals in their bones, so it’s essential to have a clean source for your broth. For this reason, I cannot recommend any of the bone broth powders on the market; they’ve all tested high in heavy metals and contaminants. Real, unadulterated bone broth is key to relieving your joint pain.
If collagen protein powder is a better fit for your lifestyle than pure bone broth, then Great Lakes Collagen is the only tried and true, clean brand I recommend. Great Lakes Gelatin is rich in glycine, the most abundant amino acid present in collagen, and can be used in cooking, baking, and even making healthy gummy snacks, which is a great way to supplement collagen in children.
The Protective Effects of Hyaluronic Acid
Your joints not only have cartilage as a cushion, but also a thick, viscous liquid lubricating them and protecting the cartilage from wearing down. Hyaluronic acid is the starchy substance in this fluid that thickens and creates the viscosity similar to grease or motor oil that is the hallmark of its joint protective effects. People with osteoarthritis have been found in studies to have low levels of hyaluronic acid in this fluid, which leads to the characteristic joint damage. While there are hyaluronic acid joint injections available for the knees, a good oral supplement like Baxyl has been shown to be effective in reducing joint pain within a month of taking it. These supplements also show an increase in hyaluronic acid in the joints over time. The studies done have cautioned against using too much, which is amounts of 200mg or more. The amounts present in Baxyl are well within the safe and effective range.
Anti-Inflammatory Healthy Fats for Healthy Joints
Omega 3 fats found in fish oil are superstars for joint health. Studies show there are benefits for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. In both cases, the Omega 3 fats reduce the amount of inflammation present in the thick fluid that bathes the joints. With the high prevalence of contaminants and heavy metals found in our waters, I only use UNI KEY Health’s Super-EPA because I trust their testing and quality.
As important as it is to get the right fats in to nourish your joints, it’s equally as important to avoid the wrong fats. The inflammatory Omega 6 vegetable oils like canola, corn, and soy need to be eliminated from our diets because the ratio between these inflammatory fats and Omega 3’s needs to be balanced to reduce the body’s overall inflammation levels.
Although it takes time, with rest and nourishment from bone broth, hyaluronic acid, and omega 3 fats our joints do repair and rebuild themselves without surgery or anti-inflammatory medications. A little care from the inside will help ensure you live your life in freedom from joint pain.