DEALING WITH OSTEO AND RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS




       Multiple Millions of Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, a painful condition largely caused by a deterioration of cartilage tissue.  Where bones meet other bones in the body, there is a cushion of tissue between these bones called cartilage. This cartilage tissue between bones allows for freedom of movement without irritation.  When this cushion of cartilage tissue becomes worn thin to the point that bone rubs on bone, we experience inflammation.  The word Osteo means of the bone. The word arthro means joint of the body.  The suffix “itis” means inflammation.  Osteoarthritis is inflammation of the joint where bone meets bone.  Cartilage tissue can be damaged through injury, carrying too much body weight, lack of proper nutrition to the joints and even defective DNA.  Aging also plays a role as our ability to repair cartilage tissue diminishes as we age. 

       Cartilage tissue that is found in the joints is called articular cartilage and is basically made up of water, collagen and proteoglycans.  Collagen is a protein that gives structure to the cartilage while proteoglycans are protein/sugar molecules that are woven around and through the collagen fibers creating dense netting inside the cartilage. Proteoglycans act like a sponge.  They rapidly absorb water when the joint is relaxed and squeeze water out again when pressure is applied.  In addition to collagen and proteoglycans, there are also specialized cells called chondrocytes that are found through the cartilage matrix and are responsible for the formation of new collagen and proteoglycan molecules.  Chondrocytes also release enzymes that break down aging collagen and proteoglycans that are no longer functional. 

       A nutritional substance called glucosamine is a major building block of proteoglycans and is needed to make glycosaminoglycans.  Glycosaminoglycans are proteins that bind water in the cartilage matrix and are responsible for the shock absorbing ability of cartilage tissue.  Another nutrient called chondroitin serves to draw water into the proteoglycans where hyaluronic acid acts as a major water holding molecule within the synovial fluid of joint tissue. This gives joint tissue a sponge like ability to supply nutrients to the cartilage as cartilage has no blood supply of its own to provide nourishment.


      The standard approach to relieving pain associated with osteoarthritis is to use Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin and ibuprofen.  NSAIDS appear to reduce inflammation by suppressing the formation of prostaglandins which are chemical compounds created in our bodies due to the activity of certain fatty acids.   While these drugs will lessen the pain of arthritis and thereby provide symptomatic relief, they have also been shown to speed up the degeneration of joint tissue and thus create more serious problems with continued usage.  NSAIDS have been shown to inhibit the repair of cartilage by preventing the synthesis of the collagen matrix essential to cartilage repair.  These drugs actually interfere with the formation of glycosaminoglycans.

       In addition to their negative impact on joint tissue, NSAIDS tend to cause irritation of the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract resulting in ulcer formation.  Other side effects of using NSAIDS include the creation of allergies, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), fluid retention, easy bruising and potential toxicity to the liver and kidneys.  Many thousands of people are admitted to hospitals each year as a result of complications due to the use of NSAIDS.

       Corticosteroids such as prednisone are sometimes used in addition to NSAIDS.  These types of drugs are great at reducing inflammation but the side effects make them downright dangerous.  These drugs are known to depress immunity, create high blood pressure, thin the bones and damage the liver. Depression and other mental disturbances, diabetes, peptic ulcers, insomnia and general weakness are also associated with corticosteroids.  An even more dangerous class of pain killing drugs are the Opioids such as OxyContin and Percocet.  These drugs can be highly addictive and overdoses can result in death.   


       If the goal is relief of symptoms only, you can continue using NSAIDS or corticosteroids and obtain temporary relief of pain.  The problem is you will be doing nothing to actually repair and restore joint tissue and you will put yourself at risk for the type of side effects described above.  Therefore, it is better to treat the cause of the problem and not just the effects. The cause of osteoarthritis is lack of sufficient cartilage tissue to cushion the joints.  By working to restore the integrity of joint tissue, you will be treating causes and not just effects.

       Diet is critical to the treatment of any health problem as all body tissue demands a wide range of nutrients provided on a daily basis.  Some studies indicate that 50 to 75 percent of those that suffer from arthritis are malnourished.  Like other tissues of the body, cartilage is constantly going through a cycle of breakdown and repair.  For repair to take place, a wide variety of nutrients are needed.  Eating a diet high in organically grown vegetables and fruit, whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds and high quality animal products should be the first step in establishing a sound nutritional foundation for dealing with osteoarthritis.  Avoiding processed and refined foods, fast foods, and packaged, boxed and canned foods is an important consideration in developing a nutrient-dense versus a calorie-dense diet.

       Vitamin C is an essential nutrient in the formation of collagen.  The B vitamin pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5) has been shown to reduce stiffness in the joints and is found to be deficient in those with arthritis.  Studies have shown that vitamin E has an ability to inhibit the breakdown of cartilage as well as stimulate the production of glycosaminoglycans.  A deficiency of the trace mineral boron has been shown to increase the risk for osteoarthritis.  The foregoing is just a small sample of the many nutrients that play a role in the health of joint tissue.  To insure that you are getting these nutrients on a daily basis, we recommend taking a high quality multiple vitamin/mineral supplement and a quality green food concentrate.  Such supplementation, along with a whole food diet, will provide a sound nutritional foundation for dealing with any health problem, including osteoarthritis.

       One supplement that is directly related to the treatment of osteoarthritis is glucosamine. Our bodies produce glucosamine which plays an important role in cartilage development as explained above.  As we age, we lose the ability to manufacture sufficient amounts of glucosamine.  The result is that cartilage tissue begins to lose some of its ability to hold water and act as a shock absorber.  This lack of water holding ability results in less cushion effect and greater wear and tear on cartilage tissue resulting in symptoms associated with osteoarthritis.  The good news is that you can take glucosamine as a supplement and thereby help your body to produce the cartilage components responsible for water retention and thus help protect your cartilage tissue from degeneration. Chondroitin can also be taken as a supplement and will improve the water retention of proteoglycans.

       MSM (methy-sulfonyl-methane) is a form of organic sulfur and has been found to be helpful in relieving pain associated with osteoarthritis. The mineral sulfur plays an important role in the repair and maintenance of muscle and joint tissue and in reducing inflammation.  Sulfur deficiencies have been noted in those that suffer from arthritis.  Foods such as garlic, onions, brussels sprouts and cabbage are all good sources of sulfur.  MSM is available as a supplement and is often found in combination with glucosamine and chondrotin preparations.

       Hyaluronic acid can also be taken as a supplement to help maintain fluid retention in joint tissue. As we age, our body’s production of hyaluronic acid decreases considerably.  This results in decreased water retention in all body tissue including our joint tissue.  Adding hyaluronic acid to your supplement program will help maintain lubrication of joint tissue and improve the texture of skin and all connective tissue.

       Supplemental collagen protein has been shown to be effective with some cases of osteoarthritis because it adds collagen protein to the body and thus facilitates repair of joint tissue. An excellent collagen supplement in capsule form is the product Genacol which supplies 1200 milligrams of bovine collagen in three capsules.  Collagen can also be added to the diet by consuming bone broth. Bone broth in powdered form and the product Genacol are available at Milk ‘N Honey.


      The herb Boswellia has been shown to inhibit mediators of inflammation, prevent decreased glycosaminoglycan synthesis and improve blood flow to the joint tissue.  Curcumin, the yellow pigment of the common cooking herb turmeric, is a potent natural anti-inflammatory on par with cortisone but without the side effects of cortisone based drugs. The supplement Curamin from the company EuroPharma provides a combination of curcumin, boswellia and several other nutrients that have proven to be very effective in reducing inflammation. The supplement Zyflamend from New Chapter Company also features curcumin in combination with other nutrients and has been shown to be effective in reducing inflammation without any side effects.  Bromelain, a group of enzymes found in pineapple, works to reduce inflammation by blocking the production of kinins which are compounds produced during inflammation.  The herb Feverfew has shown strong anti-inflammatory activity which appears to relate to a chemical compound found in feverfew called parthenolide.

       Cod liver oil has been shown to be effective in helping to lubricate the joint tissue and supply the body with important fatty acids that lead to the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins in the body.

       A supplement called SAM-e has been shown in studies to reduce inflammation and the indication is that this substance actually helps to restore damaged cartilage tissue.   SAM-e (S-adenosyl-methionine) is made in the body from the amino acid methionine. In the presence of vitamin B12 and folic acid, SAM-e gives up what is called a methyl group to neighboring tissues and organs.  This action supports a variety of processes such as the maintenance of cell membranes, the removal of toxic substances from body tissue and the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.  When SAM-e finishes its work as a methyl donor, it breaks down into sulfur groups which help support the maintenance of cartilage tissue.  It is in this capacity that it contributes to reduced inflammation of joint tissue.

       All the substances described above are available at Milk ‘N Honey as single supplements or in combination with other nutrients in formulas designed to provide the required nutrition to repair and restore joint tissue and offer relief from the pain of inflammation.


        Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory condition that specifically affects the synovial membranes of joint tissue.  With RA, the body’s immune system attacks the body’s own tissue. Symptoms are painful swelling of the joints.  There does appear to be a strong genetic factor in RA insomuch that 70% of those with RA have a specific genetic marker called histocompatiblity antigen HLA-DRw4.  This marker is found in only 28% of the general population.  RA occurs at four times the average rate in children whose parents have RA. 

       Those with RA have increased intestinal permeability which allows for undigested food molecules to leak into the general blood circulation.  The immune system responds to the presence of such molecules as though they are the enemy and creates antibodies to bind them.  Such binding of an antibody to what the immune system recognizes as a foreign agent results in the formation of what is called an immune complex.  The presence of an immune complex triggers the immune system to release chemical compounds that destroy the immune complex.  This works fine when the immune complex is formed as a result of the immune systems response to a true foreign agent such as bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, etc.  But when an immune complex is formed in response to food molecules, and that complex is deposited in joint tissue, the immune systems response is to destroy the complex along with surrounding joint tissue. This process creates inflammation in the joint tissue. Continuing inflammation leads to damaged tissue. 

       Physicians often monitor the progression of RA based on the amount of immune complexes present in the joint tissue.  When these complexes are high, the RA symptoms are more severe.  When the immune complex level is low, the symptoms are less severe.   As with osteoarthritis, RA is most often treated with NSAIDS and in many cases with corticosteroid drugs such as prednisone or even Opioids.  As covered above, these drugs provide only temporary relief and their many side effects create additional health problems. 


       As mentioned above, intestinal permeability appears to be a leading factor in the development of RA. Such permeability can develop as a result of candida yeast overgrowth which is a problem for many.  Yeast can mature into a fungal organism which then eats its way through the intestinal wall creating microscopic holes through which can pass molecules of undigested foods. Candida is a normal resident of our intestinal tract and is usually held in check by friendly bacteria such as acidophilus and bifidus.  Unfortunately, our friendly bacteria can be easily destroyed through the use of drugs such as antibiotics, birth control pills and a diet high in refined sugar. Candida lives on sugar. When our friendly bacteria get destroyed, the yeast organisms proliferate and can quickly become the dominant organisms in the intestinal tract.  Yeast can also get into the general blood circulation and travel to various tissues of the body. The task of eliminating yeast overgrowth involves elimination of virtually all simple carbohydrates from the diet while at the same time taking products such as grapefruit seed extract to kill off the yeast overgrowth and re-culture the intestinal tract with friendly bacteria.  Parasitic infestation can also be a culprit and lead to the same kind of intestinal permeability as can occur with a yeast problem.

       Incomplete digestion in the presence of intestinal permeability often leads to the type of immune response discussed above. It is critical for those with RA to insure that proper digestion of foods is taking place.  Many individuals with RA tend to be deficient in their production of hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach and lack sufficient pancreatic enzymes in the small intestine where the major part of digestion takes place.  If there is bloating, belching, flatulence or just generalized digestive discomfort after eating a meal, it may result from deficient secretion of HCL and/or pancreatic enzymes. Both HCL and pancreatic enzymes can be taken as a supplement. These products can be of great benefit in facilitating better digestion. At Milk ‘N Honey, we carry several highly quality, effective digestive aids. 

       Proteolytic (protein digesting) enzymes are especially important as they not only break down protein but also help to keep the small intestine free of parasites, yeasts and intestinal worms.  Research has demonstrated that proteases are effective in treating food allergies and in preventing tissue damage during inflammation.  An important benefit of proteases to those with RA is that they help prevent the disposition of immune complexes in joint tissue which, as explained above, is a major factor in RA. A proteolytic enzyme product called Wobenzyme is effective in destroying immune complexes.  We carry Wobenzyme at Milk ‘N Honey. 

       The role of what are called essential fatty acids (EFA’s) is very important to those who suffer with RA. Of all the fats you consume, it is the two essential fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic, that are most important to your health.  These fats must be obtained from the diet as your body does not make them.  When ingested, the EFA’s go through a number of conversions in the body which lead to the production of what are called prostaglandins.  These prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that play an important role in the mediation of inflammatory processes.  It is recommended you supplement your diet with flax oil and/or fish oil to insure you are getting the fatty acids necessary to produce the necessary prostaglandins. The EFA’s are also very important in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Be sure to use a high quality flax oil or fish oil. There are a number of substandard products in the marketplace that may not provide you with the benefits you should be getting from such products.  We recommend flax oil from Barlene's and Wholemega fish oil from New Chapter or the product Vectomega from EuroPharma.    

       Plant sterols and sterolins are chemical compounds found in a variety of foods and have been shown to activate macrophages, enhance the proliferation of T-cells and enhance natural killer cell activity while at the same time lowering pro-inflammatory agents in the body.  Because of their anti-inflammatory effect, these compounds have been shown to be very effective in reducing the symptoms of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.  A combination of sterols and sterolins can be obtained in supplemental form in a product called Moducare Sterinol which is available at Milk ‘N Honey. 


       Exercise is a key component in the treatment of both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis.  Exercise will increase muscle tone by increasing oxygen and nutrient flow into the muscle tissue. Exercise improves the flexibility and endurance of muscles, tendons and ligaments.  Aerobic exercise such as walking, running, biking, etc. will increase serotonin levels, enhance the production of human growth hormone and stimulate the production of endorphins.  Endorphins, which are released by the hypothalamus gland in the head, act as the body’s own morphine-like pain killers.   Greater release of human growth hormone leads to more rapid healing of damaged joint tissue and increases levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.  Serotonin helps you better tolerate pain associated with inflammation. 

       While exercise may not appear to be very appealing to someone suffering from pain associated with arthritis, it is a critical requirement in order to facilitate relief from pain and slow down the further degeneration of muscle and connective tissue.  Walking, running, biking, swimming and rebounding are the best forms of exercise for strengthening and toning the body as a whole.  Resistance exercise such as weight lifting, use of Xertubes, etc. are also helpful in maintaining overall conditioning.  With both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, simple stretching exercises can be very helpful in facilitating greater circulation to the joints and therefore more oxygen and nutrient fed to help restore worn tissue.  Massage and acupressure can also be helpful in facilitating repair of damaged tissue.


       Gout is an inflammatory problem that is caused by a higher than normal level of uric acid in the tissues of the body.  Uric acid is a breakdown product of a chemical substance called purine which is found primarily in organ meats but scattered pretty much throughout the food chain.  The average daily diet for an adult in the U.S. contains approximately 600-1,000 milligrams of purines. Uric acid has benefit in the body as it acts as an antioxidant to protect against free radical damage.

       However, uric acid levels in the blood and other parts of the body can become too high.  Since our kidneys are responsible for helping keep blood levels of uric acid balanced, kidney problems can lead to excessive accumulation of uric acid in various parts of the body. Some degree of kidney dysfunction occurs in nearly 90% of those that experience gout. High uric acid in the blood results in a higher risk for kidney stones.  When uric acid accumulates, uric acid crystals (called monosodium urate crystals) can become deposited in our tendons, joints, kidneys, and other organs.  Alcohol increases uric acid production and reduces uric acid excretion by the kidneys. Gout is characterized by intense pain in a joint, usually the first joint of the big toe.  If an attack of gout progresses, fever and chills will appear. 

       A low purine diet and the elimination of alcohol are necessary in order to reduce uric acid. Also avoid animal products and other high purine foods such as asparagus, spinach, cauliflower and most legumes.  Consuming 100% tart cherry juice and other berries, dark red in color, is an effective way to help reduce uric acid levels.  Their content of the flavonoids, anthrocyanidins and proanthocyandins appear to be the chemical compounds that are responsible for their uric acid lowering ability and their ability to reduce inflammation.  Do not use cherry juice where sugar and other juices have been added.  At Milk ‘N Honey we carry a 100% tart cherry juice concentrate that has proven to be very effective in reducing inflammation associated with gout, arthritis and other inflammatory problems.