Do your knees hurt? Are stairs starting to be a misery? When you drop something and it rolls under the couch, do you dread kneeling to retrieve it? Do you avoid getting down on your hands and knees to play with the kids or grandkids? Our knees, hips and ankles are joints that take a beating in daily life, because they support our weight, act as shock absorbers, and allow us to run, jump, dance and dodge. And like movable parts in a machine, they are more prone to problems and they can wear out faster than the rest of our body.
Most people respond to knee and joint pain by taking over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. But those options take a tremendous toll on the stomach and liver, and have life-threatening adverse effects. They reduce pain, but at a price. In fact, there’s no truly safe over-the-counter option to pain relief and joint health, which is why you need to look for smarter – and more natural – approaches.
These joints can be saved. There is new research on natural ways to rebuild joints, and nutrient formulations that can reduce inflammation, strengthen bone around the joints, and increase the flexibility of your knees (and other joints as well), and they work much better than drug interventions. You do not have to sacrifice comfort for safety. In this week’s Terry Talks Nutrition, we are going to look at ways to rescue your knees and improve your other weight-bearing joints as well!
Keeping active means keeping your knees and joints healthy, and even the most moderate exercise becomes impossible if just walking around the block is a chore. Of course, overall joint health is incredibly important for all of those great physical activities like tennis, bike riding, cross-country skiing, swimming, and even simply planting or weeding your garden.
However, taking care of the pain is only half of the equation. You need nutrients that reduce the inflammation (which damages joint cartilage and other tissue) and nutrients that help build up the structure of the knees and other joints in order to restore healthier levels of functioning.
A natural approach to knee and joint health includes ingredients that have been part of traditional medicine systems or integrative practice, but have been improved by recent cutting-edge research. It’s also important to use these nutrients in combination, because – strong as they are – what they accomplish together is even more impressive than what they can do on their own.
First, let’s look at two of the strongest ingredients for relieving pain and inflammation available: curcumin and boswellia.
Curcumin, the active compound from turmeric (Curcuma longa), has long been used as a treatment for inflammatory diseases. One of its limiting factors, however, has been absorption.
The majority of curcumin products on the market are regular formulas, standardized to 95% curcumin. Unfortunately, this formulation of curcumin is poorly bioavailable, so it doesn’t pass easily from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream. And much of the curcumin that does reach the bloodstream quickly converts into other compounds.
None of this has gone unnoticed, and there have been many attempts to make curcumin more absorbable and have it remain in the bloodstream longer so it can be more beneficial. Some formulators have focused on adding piperine. But it’s important to avoid piperine because it interferes with a high percentage of prescription drugs, including anti-seizure, blood pressure, heart and cancer medications, and can have a negative impact on the liver. Other formulators have tried using lecithin, but on a mg to mg comparison, that showed only approximately a 5-fold increase in absorption over plain curcumin.
The form of curcumin I recommend is the most successful curcumin extract to date, combining micronized curcumin with natural turmeric essential oils. This formula has up to 10 times the bioavailability and greater blood retention time than standard 95% curcumin extracts and 6.3 times more than curcumin combined with lecithin and piperine, as shown in published human studies [Antony B. A pilot cross-over study to evaluate human oral bioavailability of BCM-95, a novel bioenhanced preparation of curcumin. Ind J Pharm Sci. 2008:445-450]. From all my research, I believe that curcumin is the most remarkable and wonderful healing agent that nature has to offer us. By combining this amazing herb with cutting edge science, it can reach its full potential, and give you life-changing results.
For example, in studies currently under review, this special high bioavailability curcumin has been considered a natural therapeutic intervention for rheumatoid arthritis and knee osteoarthritis. In one randomized study, individuals using diclofenac sodium (a prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for arthritis pain) took the curcumin extract, diclofenac, or a combination of the two. They were then followed for 8 weeks to see if those with active rheumatoid arthritis could make the transition from diclofenac to the curcumin complex and still control their symptoms. At the end of the 8 week period, 35% were able to discontinue the prescription drug altogether! Another 39% were able to cut the diclofenac dosage in half, and 26% continued with the drug dosage, but said that the pain relief was much better when taking the curcumin, too.
At the September 2011 Osteoarthritis Research Symposium Internationale (OARSI) annual meeting, a study was presented that compared this same bioavailable curcumin plus a unique boswellia extract against the prescription drug, celecoxib, (branded name Celebrex) in osteoarthritis of the knee. Individuals with knee osteoarthritis were randomized to receive either the prescription drug celecoxib 100 mg twice a day, or the bioavailable curcumin (350 mg) plus the special boswellia extract (150 mg) with at least 10% acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA) and less than 5% beta boswellic acid. The result showed that the natural approach was also the superior one on the pain parameters of the study. And, since celecoxib is known to have devastating side effects, including heart attacks, going with clinically studied natural botanical ingredients instead makes much more sense. [B. Antony, R. Kizhakkedath, M. Benny, B. Kuruvilla. Clinical Evaluation of an Herbal Formulation in the Management of Knee Osteoarthritis. Poster presentation. Presented at the Osteoarthritis Research Symposium Internationale (OARSI) Annual World Congress on Osteoarthritis, September 15-18, 2011.San Diego, CA.]
Boswellia, as mentioned in the knee osteoarthritis study, is another traditional herb that reduces inflammation and relieves pain. The majority of anti-inflammatory activity in boswellia is linked to the array of boswellic acids in the extract. Research studies show that it’s especially potent at reducing the joint pain associated with arthritis. It does this by inhibiting the inflammatory enzyme, 5-LOX. But, make sure you look for a form of boswellia that is screened for compounds that interfere with beneficial activity, (make sure it has less than 5% (or even free of) beta boswellic acid, which can potentially promote, rather than block, inflammatory compounds) and includes at least 10% AKBA (acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid). This greatly increases the strength of the extract. Standard boswellia extracts don’t. As a result, they’re not as effective.
Curcumin and boswellia form the two key players in the combination you want, because they reduce the activity of the two most significant pain pathways in the body – COX-2 and 5-LOX. Of course, it’s not just about relieving pain – it’s about relieving the tissue-damaging inflammation that causes pain. That’s why these two ingredients are so important. When you use them, you’re not just “covering up” the pain signals your body sends out; you’re helping your body to heal.
Two other ingredients that help reduce pain and keep the structure of the knees and other joints healthy are vitamin D and fructoborate.
You’ve probably already heard about vitamin D for bone building, immune strengthening, anti-inflammatory effects, and breast cell health. Of course, for years the recommended level of vitamin D intake was set far too low. We are just now starting to see conventional medical practice catch up with the idea that many people – perhaps most of us, especially in northern climates with long winters – are deficient in vitamin D.
There is some exciting new research that shows the relationship between arthritis, joint health, and vitamin D deficiency. In fact, vitamin D deficiency was noted in 69% of the patients with inflammatory joint diseases or connective tissue diseases, 77% with soft tissue rheumatism, 62% with osteoarthritis, 75% with back pain, and 71% with osteoporosis.
It’s common for older individuals to be deficient in vitamin D. Another recent study examined serum vitamin D levels in postmenopausal women. As it turned out, 53% percent of the women were actually clinically deficient in vitamin D, and only 17% had sufficient blood levels of the nutrient. Joint pain and joint swelling were also reported, (74% and 34%, respectively). Typically, those with the lowest levels of vitamin D showed a higher average joint pain score.
But beyond pain, vitamin D is associated with stronger knee cartilage – the cushioning “shock absorber” of our joints. Another recent study showed a correlation between sunlight exposure (which helps our bodies synthesize vitamin D on our own), serum levels of vitamin D, and the loss of knee cartilage. The authors of the study concluded that sufficient vitamin D levels might prevent — or at least slow down – osteoarthritis-related cartilage loss in the knees. One of the challenges they noted was that vitamin D intake levels and serum levels didn’t always correspond. This can be due to a lot of factors, including absorption and metabolic disorders. But despite that, I think that this also shows the importance of having supportive ingredients in combination; you can’t always rely on a single nutrient to do all of the heavy lifting.
This is where fructoborate comes in. In a pilot study with volunteers with vitamin D deficiency, fructoborate raised the serum vitamin D level by an average of 24% in just 60 days.
Fructoborate, a form of boron complexed with plant carbohydrates found naturally in fruits and vegetables, has been clinically shown to reduce joint pain in 79% of volunteers suffering from mild to moderate osteoarthritis. Additionally, it helps the body absorb and use Vitamin D3, which helps build bone – and much more. It also boosted levels of DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), a hormone that supports the adrenal glands and can boost energy levels and generally help you feel healthier.
Additionally, fructoborate reduced joint pain, stiffness and inflexibility in 59% of volunteers with severe osteoarthritis in just 8 weeks.
One of the most important effects with fructoborate supplementation is that it keeps bone and joint building activity proceeding normally. Generally speaking, boron supplementation isn’t always very beneficial, because boron just isn’t that selective about which molecules it combines within the body. It needs to be combined with another compound that helps the boron absorb to the tissues that need it most. Boron/carbohydrate complexes like fructoborate are just such a combination.
Staying active means you need to take care of your entire body and mind. It’s easy to think that pain relief is the only thing you have to worry about. No doubt pain relief is important, and I’d always recommend a combination of bioavailable curcumin, boswellia, DLPA, and nattokinase to stop that pain now before beginning a new exercise regimen. But remember that it’s only part of the picture. You need to have a regimen that provides your knees and joints with nutrients that help them heal and thrive. A formula with bioavailable curcumin, boswellia, vitamin D and fructoborate is the perfect recipe for better knees and joints.
|Terry recommends products with these ingredients. Look for them at your local health food store.|
|Vitamin D-3 (Cholecalciferol)||3,000 IU||750%|
Curcumin (Curcuma longa) Rhizome Extract (BCM-95®) with standardized curcuminoid complex (curcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin) phospholipids and turmeric essential oil, Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) Extract (BosPure®) standardized to contain >70% boswellic acids with AKBA >15%, with less than 5% beta-boswellic acids, Fructoborate