Joints- your TMJ is a joint

  • In order to move more easily, joints must be lubricated. Synovial fluid is produced by cells in the body, for this function and the quality (consistency) and quantity of this fluid will be a determining factor in the ease of joint mobility. If the cells producing this lubricating fluid are inadequately nourished or if they are damaged by, for example chemical pollutants, heavy metals, then the amount and quality of synovial fluid will be reduced, resulting in poor joint lubrication. Chronic degenerative joint problems are a major health problem today – the incidence of osteo and rheumatoid arthritis has never been so high.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis involves swelling and pain in the joints, the inflammation usually starts in the synovial membrane (which provides the lubrication) and spreads. The most recent nutritional studies suggest a number of possible causes
  1. Food allergy can be one culprit. Allergies can form immune complexes in the body, which circulate causing an inflammatory reaction in the joints. The most common foods that can produce these reactions in susceptible people include dairy products, wheat and the nightshade family (potato, tomato, eggplant, peppers and tobacco). Many people have found dramatic relief from their symptoms merely by eliminating the offending food from their diet.
  2. Free radical damage to the cartilage. Chemicals present in our food and environment such as pesticides, air pollutants and heavy metals can all produce oxidation processes in the body resulting in the formation of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable compounds that can cause damage to the cell membrane and the cell’s contents. They can set up a chronic inflammatory process. Antioxidants such as Vitamin E, C, garlic (contains selenium) can all be helpful if this is the cause.
  3. Prostaglandin imbalance. Prostaglandins are essential body regulators being involved in may diverse body reactions. Some prostaglandins (PGE2) are involved with inflammatory reactions, other (PGE1) have an anti-inflammatory action. As with many things it is the balance that is important and it is thought that an excess of the inflammatory PG’s can cause chronic inflammation such as in rheumatoid arthritis. Many factors can cause this imbalance eg: free radicals are thought to evaluate the levels of inflammatory PG’s. Certain nutritional factors can help shift this balance towards anti-inflammatory PG production eg: Evening Primrose Oil, Vitamin C.
  • Osteoarthritis involves hardening and thickening of the tendons and ligaments – usually due to calcium deposition. This causes stiffness, soreness and sometimes the appearance of spurs or nodules on the joint. Excluding the possibility of general wear and tear the other possible causes are –
  1. Nutritional imbalances – due to an inadequate diet over the years.
  2. Food allergy.
  3. Free radical damage.
  4. Poor circulation to the joints.
  • The following nutrients have been shown to have a role to play in improving joint function.

a) Vitamin B3 – (niacinamide form) has been shown in some cases of osteoarthritis to improve joint mobility and pain.

b) Vitamin B5 – has been used for both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. Many arthritics have been shown to have lower levels of this vitamin. It is interesting that many arthritics end up on cortisone therapy which is naturally produced in the body by the adrenal glands – B5 stimulates these glands. A deficiency of B5 has been associated with retarded bone formation and excess calcification??? in the joints, so it is possible that adequate levels of B5 can also prevent osteoarthritis.
c) Vitamin B6 – aid in the formation of the lubricating synovial fluid. It is specifically used in the treatment of post menopausal arthritis. In ‘Vitamin B6 – The Doctors Report’ it is suggested that the need for extra B6 in some people is indicated if any of the 16 joints (the 2 outer joints of each of the 4 fingers on each hand) cannot be flexed completely and without pain (this is usually done in the morning).
d) Vitamin C – improves the quality of synovial fluid, and is essential for collagen formation which is found in connective tissues cartilage etc. It is interesting that one of the symptoms of scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency disease) is painful joints. Vitamin C is a detoxifier and antioxidant so helps reduce free radical damage, and remove heavy metals and often body pollutants. It also enhances the formation of anti-inflammatory PGE1.
e) Vitamin E – is also an antioxidant, so helps protect the cells from damage by free radicals.
f) Calcium – as we age it has been shown that when calcium is lost from the bones, it may be deposited in the joints causing osteoarthritis. The ironical part is that many people think that because calcium is depositing in the joints there is a calcium excess, but it is low calcium levels that is more often the factor that precipitates this problem. In women, after the menopause oestrogen levels fall. Oestrogen has a protective action on the skeleton, reducing bone loss so as levels of fall, calcium can start to leach from the bones resulting in osteoarthritis.
g) Zinc – is involved in collagen synthesis and also has been shone to break down fibrous tissue build up associated with chronic joint disease. Zinc, like Vitamin C can also help remove toxic metals in the body. In some studies it was shown to improve rheumatoid arthritis in regard to stiffness, pain and swelling. It is important to remember that the ratio of zinc/copper in the body must be looked at, as some arthritics benefit more from a copper boost than zinc.
h) Manganese – plays an important role in the productions of chondroitin sulfate, a mucopolysaccaride present in cartilage. Very often the painful knees of sportsmen or ‘growing pains’ of children are due to a need for extra manganese. Manganese is found in appreciable amounts in wheat, rice and oat bran, walnuts, cloves, cardamom, ginger, tropical fruits.
i) Magnesium – is needed to balance calcium in the body to help prevent calcification in the joints.

  • Other dietary supplements that have been used to improve arthritis include – Mussell Extract and the herb Devils Claw. Both of these have been used with success.
  1. Bromelain (an enzyme derived from pineapple) has been shown to help increase the levels of anti-inflammatory PGE1.
  2. Silica – is used mainly to help breakdown in calcium spurs on the joints. It is present in large amounts in the herb horsetail. Various other herbs (eg: comfrey, rue, berberis, nettle) have been used to improve the arthritic condition – these should be prescribed by a qualified health practitioner.
  • So where do you start?

First get rid of the junk in your diet – sugar, refined carbohydrates, etc, review your intake of red meat (as excessive protein intake may cause calcium loss) and include lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, chicken.

Many people have found dramatic relief of symptoms by going on a raw vegetable diet or juice fast (this should be done under supervision). You may need to seek advice from a nutritionist or naturopath also in regard to possible Vitamin / Mineral imbalances or food allergies, a simple hair mineral analysis (correctly interpreted) should be able to reveal possible mineral imbalances and the presence of any toxic heavy metals.

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