Using Nutrition to Reduce Joint Inflammation
Joint and muscle pain or arthritis can develop when there is wear and tear on the joints such as in osteoarthritis or an out-of-control inflammatory condition such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or gout. Joint and muscle inflammation can also occur in fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue. Each of these is similar in that the joints or muscles can be painful, red and have loss of function. Also, the chemical pathways of the inflammatory cascade can be traced and will often help a natural doctor in customizing a treatment protocol for a patient.
Functional medicine practitioners utilize blood work markers, as well as pH testing to assess the amount of inflammation in a patient’s body. A change in diet may be customized, especially reducing the food allergies that could be burdening the patient. A diet high in olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts may also be recommended.
Other nutritional supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids have been investigated for decades, and it’s been shown that an increased intake of omega-3s supports the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response. A 2010 meta-analysis found that fish oil significantly decreased joint tenderness and stiffness in RA patients and reduced or eliminated nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (like Tylenol) use. Preliminary studies indicate it may have a similar effect on osteoarthritis.
A 2005 study of people with RA showed enhanced positive effects when fish oil supplements were used in combination with olive oil. Functional medicine practitioners may also utilize turmeric, ginger, boswellia and other specialized herbal combinations customized for the patient.
Turmeric has been studied most. In a study published in Phytotherapy Research, participants with mild-to-moderate knee osteoarthritis that took curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) saw significant improvements in pain and physical function after six weeks, compared to placebo. Other research has shown turmeric extract was as effective as ibuprofen for knee osteoarthritis pain with fewer GI effects. A recent analysis of research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food on turmeric extracts concluded that eight to 12 weeks of treatment with standardized turmeric extracts can reduce pain due to arthritis compared with a placebo.
With the population living longer and remaining active into their senior years, constant and continuous anti-inflammatory supplementation, as well as knowing food triggers that will flare up inflammation, is imperative. If the inflammation is reduced in the joints, not only will patients feel better on the outside, but the inflammation will also be reduced internally; the same patients with joint inflammation may suffer from heart, intestine, brain and gum inflammation, as well.
Danielle Marra, DC, is the owner of Panther Functional Medicine & Chiropractic, located in Murrysville and Greensburg. For more information, call 724-387-1014, email [email protected] or visit PittsburghHealthPro.com. See ad page xx