Louise H Connolly MD
Building it Back: What your Joint Needs
Integrative Medicine for Arthritis
First, does your body have enough basic building blocks to repair your joint? Maybe not. I'll go further, probably not!
What evidence do I have for that statement? A lot! But let's start with all the positive evidence for the old fashioned replacement standards for arthritis: Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM. They're the building blocks. These are sold under a wide variety of names and in different amounts and combinations: OsteoBiflex, Move Free, Triple Strength Joint Relief, Cosamin DS, or just glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM from hundreds of suppliers. You've heard of them, you've tried one or more. So just what are these? Here's the nitty gritty on exactly what they are.
Glucosamine is the crushed and processed shells of crustaceans. Its the basic amino acids which, when placed on a collagen matrix, make cartilage, glucose amino glycans or GAG's. In addition you get a little astazanthin, the master antioxidant carotenoid which gives the lobster, shrimp and krill their reddish color. OK, so far so good ! A real building block and an anti-inflammatory to boot.
Chondroitin actually is cartilage. From chicken breast bones or beef trachea. Hopefully it can arrive at the joint and be tethered into place. Studies suggest so. Cartilage is the most fragile and easily damaged part of the joint. Thus cartilage restoration and preservation is crucial to joint healing.
MSM supplies sulfur. Sulfur predominates in synovium and synovial fluid which lubricates the joint. Just like when you get a shot of hyaluronic acid into a joint, you are increasing the amount of synovial fluid with sulfur. (We'll talk about other sources of sulfur in a minute) MSM has only a few studies behind it, most having to do with muscle soreness. Well, great! If you have sore muscles, rub it on the spot, it penetrates the skin. Thus my favorite MSM containing formulation is a topical cream combining MSM and magnesium. Use it where your muscles hurt.. Just get more joint sulfur elsewhere. Start with sulfur containing foods, notably onions, garlic, cruciferous vegetables. They help the joint, and boost the production of the ultimate endogenous antioxidant molecule - glutathione.
Unfortunately, when I look at all of these Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM tablets, I have several reservations. First, the studies are so mixed! One study says it helps, another says it doesn't. Could we be missing some key ingredient? I think so. We need ALL the building blocks in place, not just some of them. . My other problem with these pills is their size and the number you need to take to get a result. Why take several large tablets twice a day if you can get a more complete set of building blocks from a food source?
Let's take a segway for a moment and look at why we are deficient in joint building blocks. It's what happened to our diet. Even those of us who eat nutrient dense organic whole foods can be deficient. Why? Because we have depleted our soils, which, in turn depletes our plants, then depletes our animals. Then when we eat fish or meat, we take out the bones, take off the skin, and eat only the muscle meat. Trim that steak, buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, de-bone that fish! Even if we DO get the bones, we don't relish them, clean them off, or make bone broth.
The glucosamine, chondroitin, collagen and more you comes from the parts of your meat and fish that you throw away. That's not a sustainable or a respectful practice nor is it a healthy one. Collagen is the missing ingredient.
Collagen is the scaffold upon which bone, ligament and cartilage is formed. Collagen actually includes your glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid and more. All in a convenient powder you can add to your coffee, your smoothie, anything you bake or make. Different sources give you different types of collagen. Beef collagen has more type 1 and 3 (hair, skin, nails) Chicken has more type 2. (joints) Egg shell membrane has type 10 (joints) Now, some of the collagen you consume breaks down into the basic amino acid building blocks universal to all bodily collagen. These amino acids can be reassembled where and how they are needed. Some of the collagen you consume actually is absorbed as intact collagen peptides. And collagen is very digestible and gut friendly, unlike many of your drugstore remedies.
I'd mix up the types of your collagen. The body thrives on diversity. Eat your protein sources correctly and with respect. Beef Collagen powder. Fish collagen powder. Chicken bone broth based Soup. ( Jewish penicillin) Fresh eggs shell grade AA. All organic, wild, grass fed and great for all your aches and pains.
If you truly want help for your joints, you just can't use feed lot beef as the basis for your collagen powder supplement. Too much lead, cadmium, recombinant bovine growth hormone, antibiotics. Bone and cartilage are repositories for many heavy metals and pollutants you don't want them.
Yes, I sell what I consider the best collagen powder. And I sell it for less than Amazon. And it's pure paleo.
Food first here! We're talking about onions, leeks, and garlic. But don't forget broccoli and other crucifers. Most sulfur provides two actions: turning the glucose-amino-glycans in joint fluid into hyaluronic acid. And also decreasing inflammation by increasing glutathione production, the body's major antioxidant. So lets talk about other sulfur donating supplements.
First of all, lets go back to glucosamine and chondroitin. That's really glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate. OMG, there's sulfur all over that joint! Is there sulfur in collagen? Of course! But you need more. So where else can we get it to help our arthritis?
We don't quite know how this works, but there is evidence that it stimulates cartilage synthesis and prolongs cartilage survival. The rub here is that most studies used high doses and non oral routes. Sam-E is also is directly involved in energy generation, methylation, glutathione production and more. There are clues in your blood work and problem list which would sway me to recommend this for you. Dosage is 800mg to 1600mg/day. That could cost you $100 plus a month. Start low (200mg), take in the morning. Ramp it up to a decent dose. Maintain that dose for at least 2 months. Then decide if it works. If you don't take enough, you won't get an effect. This one's proven.
This is a derivative of pineapple that breaks down proteins. I don't get exactly why this is supposed to work. It's a meat tenderizer! Buy the tough steak, marinade it in bromelain, and break down the muscle fibers. I don't know about you, but my muscles are broken down enough! Bromelain also helps people with low stomach acid that can't break down the protein they eat! But bromelain is very high in sulfur. The only studies showing that bromelain has an effect on osteoarthritis are in combination with other enzymes. (Wobenzyme)
I'd like to call this optimized sulfur. But really this is a supplement made out of broccoli sprouts. The research comes for Dr Jed Fahey at John's Hopkins. His lab is on a top floor of an old building in Baltimore. The other tenants complained of a terrible smell in the elevator when he initially hauled tons on broccoli up into his lab. (In case you don't know, sulfur can smell like rotten eggs.) Anyway, Dr Fahey was forced to move to broccoli sprouts. Fortunately the sprouts proved much more effective, just as sulfurous, not as heavy to haul, and less odiferous.
Here's how it works: Broccoli has glucoraphanin in it. This is released when you crush or chop the broccoli. It then mixes with myrosinase to form sulforaphane, an excellent anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory high sulfur supplement, For those of you with arthritis who hate broccoli, this would be a must. Just make sure your are getting the real thing- sulforaphane not just glucoraphanin. And be sure to thank Jed Fahey's landlord.
OK, We've got the anatomic building blocks with collagen powder or bone broth leading the list followed by sulfur, sulfur, and more sulfur. We've just made a ton of hyaluronic acid and synovial fluid, beefed up building blocks for tendons and ligaments, and then supplied, stimulated and preserved our precious cartilage That's like an injection of hyaluronic acid into the joint maintained through a simple daily regimen. And.........
I can't help it: I love broccoli! Down with all Elevator Smellers!