Natural Joint Repair
A few weeks ago, I met with a new patient named Terry. She came to me, as many people do, because conventional medicine failed her. You see, four years ago at the age of 55, she started experiencing pain, soreness, and stiffness in her joints—especially in her knees and fingers.
All hallmark signs of osteoarthritis, her doctor suggested that she take over-the-counter pain relievers as needed. Of course they didn’t provide much relief at all, so she got a stronger, prescription-strength NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug).
It worked for a while and Terry returned to life as normal. But after a few years, another problem struck. She developed an ulcer. Not surprising at all, considering gastrointestinal issues (along with heart attack and stroke) are common side effects of long-term NSAID use.
She found herself back at her doctor’s office yet again, but this time, she received less-than-stellar service from him: “Well, you could try some supplements, but those probably won’t work. Other than that, there’s not much more I can do for you.”
Terry was at her wit’s end. She was upset with her doctor, who blew off her arthritis as just another “annoying problem” you have to live with as you get older. And because she stopped taking painkillers due to her ulcer, she was in a lot of discomfort.
I convinced Terry that her situation was not as hopeless as she thought. Contrary to what her doctor told her, supplements do work. Unlike pain meds, which simply cover up symptoms, targeted nutrients can actually repair joints. To understand how this happens, let me give you a quick anatomy lesson.
Cartilage is the rubbery tissue the covers the ends of your bones. It acts much like a shock absorber, preventing your bones from grinding against each other. Joint cartilage is made of mostly water and chondrocytes.
Chondrocytes are specialized cells that produce collagen and elastin fibers (which give cartilage its strength and structural integrity), and proteoglycans (proteins involved in keeping the joints lubricated and nourished).
As we age, our chondrocytes don’t function as efficiently. As a result, old or damaged cartilage breaks down faster than it can be replaced with fresh, new cartilage. (Injuries and excess weight also put a tremendous amount of stress on cartilage, causing quick deterioration as well.) With less of this spongy cushioning between the joints, bones press against each other and pain follows.
NSAIDs and other medications will never treat or cure arthritis. They simply relieve the aches and pains so that you can get through your day. (And as Terry can attest, the side effects can be terrible.)
But there are extremely safe and effective drug-free approaches to healing your aching joints.
Some nutritional supplements work by giving your body the raw materials it needs to rebuild cartilage. Others either stop its breakdown, or preserve the cartilage you already have. Either way, the long-term result is less pain and healthier joints.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin is the “gold standard” combination when it comes to joint repair. Glucosamine sulfate helps boost the production of complex carbohydrates called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), the building blocks of cartilage. Glucosamine also keeps collagen and elastin fibers moist and lubricated so that nutrients can be delivered to cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate works much the same way, but it has the added benefit of inhibiting the enzymes that degrade cartilage.
- Curcumin, the medicinal component in the herb turmeric, has been found to prevent the breakdown of cartilage. Additional research also has shown that curcumin provides potent pain relief without the gastrointestinal side effects.
- MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a naturally occurring sulfur compound and a component of connective tissue. Studies reveal that it can improve pain, mobility, and inflammation—with even stronger benefits if taken along with glucosamine.
- Vitamin D, believe it or not,plays a pretty big role in joint health. A deficiency has been linked to the progression of arthritis, especially of the knee.
- Boswellia (also known as Indian Frankincense) is an herbal extract that can alleviate inflammation related to arthritis. It also has been shown to improve pain and function within as little as five days of use.
Finally, a very recent study revealed that a powerful anti-inflammatory threesome—Devil’s claw, turmeric (whose active component is curcumin), and bromelain—can provide significant immediate and long-term relief from arthritis pain—with little to no worries about side effects. The authors even said that these nutrients “may be a valuable and safe alternative to NSAIDs in patients suffering from degenerative joint diseases.”
One of the cheapest and easiest ways to boost collagen around your joints is to make your own bone broth using animal bones and crustacean/egg shells. These dinner scraps happen to be some of the best sources of glucosamine, chondroitin, various amino acids, and hyaluronic acid—which acts as a joint cushion and lubricant.
Making homemade bone broth could not be any easier. Simply place the bones and shells in a pot and cover with water. Add one to two tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar of your choice for every quart of water. Simmer for up to 12 hours, then cool and strain the liquid.
An alternative to bone broth is a supplement called UC-II (undenatured type II collagen), which is derived from chicken bones. A solid body of research reveals that it can rebuild cartilage, relieve arthritic pain, improve mobility and extension, and enhance quality of life.
A final option is gelatin. I’m not talking about the sugar-laden, artificially flavored product you find in the dessert aisle of the grocery store. Rather, unflavored, unmodified gelatin is nothing more than collagen processed from animals’ bones, hides, and connective tissues. I highly recommend a brand called Great Lakes Gelatin, which you can find online.
If you’re a frustrated arthritis sufferer like Terry, please try these natural treatments. They’re your best options for long-lasting relief from pain and inflammation.
Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: February 25, 2015