Category: Chronic Inflammation

Turmeric Curcumin: A Potential Powerhouse for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Turmeric Curcumin: A Potential Powerhouse for Rheumatoid Arthritis

In conventional practices, NSAIDs and glucocorticoids are used the most frequently for RA treatment, but they also bring with them a host of side effects, especially in long-term use. Possible adverse effects include stomach and liver damage, allergic reactions, lowered immunity, increased blood pressure, lowered red blood cell activity (myelosuppression), and increased risk of osteoporosis.1,2 Worse yet, even though they help control pain and inflammation, they really only cover the problem for a while. Beyond stopping some of the inflammation, they still can’t stop the joint damage of RA, or lower attendant depression, or address other chronic conditions that can easily present alongside RA. So, aside from some temporary relief, they are essentially “one-note” forms of treatment.I think one of the most difficult things for any practitioner is treating chronic conditions that have left a patient feeling frustrated, helpless, and at the mercy of synthetic drugs that can bring a wake of terrible side effects. As an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) falls into a category of illness that is typically difficult to treat conventionally beyond symptom control and – if caught early enough – a slowdown in joint destruction.

The fact that these measures cannot actually stop RA is the difficult part. As any practitioner knows, RA doesn’t just make people feel bad. Left untreated, or improperly treated, it can destroy a life. In especially difficult cases, untreated RA patients may see permanent disability in as little as 3 years following a diagnosis.1,3

This presents a real challenge for natural practitioners, and I think we can do better. Timing is critical: according to a 2011 study published in Clinical Rheumatology,3 the earlier the intervention, the better; however, about 30% of those with the most severe forms of the disease don’t respond to conventional treatments at all.1

Exactly why the body tricks itself into fighting its own tissues in RA is still not proven, though there are strong indications that intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”) plays a powerful role in the development of this disease.4 In a healthy system, the body achieves a homeostasis with regards to the immune system; it runs at a pleasantly “lukewarm” temperature, so to speak. That’s as it should be – just enough to keep viruses and other threats at bay, but not to be on overdrive. Of course, that’s the very problem with RA. The balance is completely off, and the body’s own defenses spin out of control against itself.5

Fortunately, there is hope for healing without complications. It is a compound from an herbal source known to practitioners of traditional Indian and Chinese medicine for generations: curcumin from turmeric (Curcuma longa).

Without a doubt, curcumin is well known to practitioners here in the United States too. And certainly, I’m sure that more than a few reading this column have used it for fighting pain. But I believe that it could be a complete RA-fighting herbal powerhouse unto itself.

Consider this study, published in Phytotherapy Research. In this randomized 8-week study, 45 participants were randomized to 3 groups.1 All of them had been diagnosed with RA, functional class I or II. Group 1 received diclofenac sodium, 50 mg BID; group 2 received 500 mg BID of an enhanced-absorption curcumin that also contains turmerones from turmeric essential oil; and group 3 received both diclofenac sodium and the curcumin. In both curcumin groups, there were no drop-outs due to adverse effects; however, in the diclofenac sodium-only group, 14% withdrew due to adverse effects.1

Before and after participation, a full check of kidney and liver function, blood sugar, and a complete blood count were performed. There were no significant changes in these measurements, in general, in all of the groups. One laboratory analysis adverse event was reported in the drug (diclofenac sodium) group.1

In the Disease Activity Score-28 (DAS28) assessment, the curcumin-only group showed the best results for disease symptom reduction, followed by the combination therapy of curcumin with diclofenac sodium. Interestingly, the diclofenac sodium-only group scored in last place. So, was curcumin the heavy-lifter here? After all, it was more effective than diclofenac sodium at reducing joint pain and swelling. Taking the curcumin with the drug was no more effective than using the botanical alone, and taking the drug alone was the least effective.1

Aside from those direct symptom changes, the curcumin-only group also showed improvement over others in reducing C-reactive protein (CRP), a measure of chronic inflammation, as well as anti-streptococcal antibodies (ASO) titers, which correlate with severity of RA activity.1

Diclofenac is one of the most commonly prescribed conventional drugs on the planet. Diclofenac sodium is widely used for RA treatment,6 so it was an easy choice for comparison’s sake. And, to be certain, I’d love to see more clinical comparisons regarding curcumin, prescription drugs, and RA. But this is still very impressive.

Now, if the idea of recommending curcumin for RA was only about promoting safe pain relief and stopping joint destruction (as if that isn’t enough), this compound can also relieve one of the worst aspects of RA: depression.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), there is a “high prevalence of anxiety and depression… documented in several clinical populations of people with RA.”7 They also mention that the presence of anxiety and depression often means that people tend to not adhere to their prescribed course of treatments. The benefit of finding a natural therapy for RA and depression seems like a perfect fit for any practitioner. Here too, curcumin shows its versatility.

In a clinical study, patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) showed the greatest response using a combination of fluoxetine and high-absorption curcumin enhanced with turmeric essential oil – a 77.8% response rate, as measured by the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-17).8

What I find interesting is that the single-therapy groups’ scores were virtually identical: fluoxetine at 64.7%, and curcumin at 62.5%. Ie, curcumin essentially worked as well as the prescription drug, fluoxetine, in terms of the measurable changes in the HAMD-17 score from baseline to 6 weeks of treatment, but without side effects.8

In another placebo-controlled study, high-absorption curcumin enhanced with turmeric essential oil showed antidepressant effects in people with MDD 4-8 weeks after treatment.9 Related research found that 500 mg BID of curcumin influenced biomarkers that appear to be associated with depression, including leptin and endothelin-1, and reduced their effects over an 8-wk period.10

How can curcumin do so much to impact multiple conditions? The answer is that it works along many pathways, whereas synthetic drugs typically work along only 1. Instead of fighting on a narrow front (and incurring side effects along the way), curcumin works widely and deeply to:

Additionally, a Japanese cultured-cell study found that curcumin inhibits histone acetyltransferase, which ultimately helps lower the activity of interleukin (IL)-6, an inflammatory cytokine and causal factor in RA (IL-6 is seen in higher levels in the synovial fibroblasts of RA).11

So, curcumin has plenty of mechanisms of action to support its use. And, in an easily absorbable form, you won’t have to worry about side effects or dosage levels that are too challenging for patient compliance.

Curcumin also shows remarkable potential to relieve inflammatory bowel disease, making it a perfect agent for countering conditions leading to leaky gut syndrome. In a small clinical study, patients with ulcerative proctitis and Crohn’s disease received daily curcumin.12 The patients with ulcerative proctitis were also taking prescription medications; however, by the end of the 2-month study period, 2 participants were able to stop taking 1 of their prescriptions altogether (including prednisone), and 2 others reduced their dosages. Inflammation levels returned to normal as well. Patients with Crohn’s disease who completed the study (4 out of 5) showed significant improvement, including less frequent bowel movements, less pain and cramping, and better-formed stools.12

The curcumin used in the RA and depression studies was naturally enhanced with turmeric essential oils to boost absorption beyond that of standard 95% extracts, which can necessitate high dosages and cause gastric discomfort. This blending with turmeric oils seems to extend curcumin’s retention time in the plasma, and at significant levels.13 In practical terms, this means that whether recommending for RA or attendant depression, the dosage could be as little as 1000 mg daily in 2 divided doses – definitely an easy level for patient compliance.1,8,9,10

When people suffering from RA first come to my office, they feel frustrated and adrift because they feel powerless over the pain and soreness of the disease. Curcumin’s potential as part of a natural treatment plan for RA is astounding. Numbers from the CDC show that there are 1.5 million Americans with RA,8 so we have our work cut out for us. But having curcumin in our corner makes the fight much easier to win.

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Signs of Chronic Inflammation

Signs of Chronic Inflammation

If you hurt yourself by smashing your foot, and it starts to become tender and red and radiates heat, then you have signs of inflammation.  This form of inflammation is called acute inflammation and is good for your body because it is the healing process that will make your foot feel better in just a few short days.  Chronic inflammation is not good for the body because it is linked to a broad range of problems from hair loss to diabetes, and it is mostly undetectable.   There are some symptoms that you may experience that can be a good indication that you have chronic inflammation, and they are:

Depression

Depression is not always caused by inflammation, but inflammation can be a cause of disease.  Even minor increases in inflammation can increase depression risk.  Studies have shown that reducing inflammation with omega-3 fatty acids and exercise can be an effective treatment for depression.

Chronic Stomach Pain

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is caused by inflammation of the bowel, and the symptoms include cramps in the abdomen, pain, diarrhea and constipation that leads to a constant stomach ache.  Celiac disease can lead to intolerance of gluten and also irritable bowel syndrome that are symptoms of inflammation that is occurring inside of the body.

You Are Always Tired

You work full time, sleep very little and take care of kids, spouse, pets, so it’s no wonder that you are tired.  If you are exhausted all of the time, even on those days when you have had adequate sleep, then the inflammation may be the underlying cause.  Inflammation could be the key because it can negatively affect the entire central nervous system that is where your brain and spinal cord are located.

Many people who suffer from an inflammation disorder have no idea what they can do to eliminate it.    Doctors provide prescription drugs to address the symptoms, but that does not deal with the cause of the inflammation.  Inflammation starts with the gut and causes an autoimmune reaction that turns into inflammation.  To overcome a disease or to manage it, it needs to be addressed at every level.

Where did the Inflammation Start?

Your gut is comprised of an extensive semi-permeable lining, the surface area of which would cover two tennis courts if it were stretched out and flattened.  The degree to which it is permeable can fluctuate as it responds to a variety of chemical conditions.  If your cortisol is elevated from stress, then your intestinal lining could become more porous as a result.  If you eat at that point then the toxins, yeast, food and viruses can pass through your intestine into the bloodstream – Leaky Gut Syndrome.

If the lining of the intestine is repeatedly damaged from leaky gut syndrome, those damaged cells can no longer do their job properly.  They are no longer able to utilize nutrients and enzymes that are needed to digest food properly.  What occurs is the impairment of digestion, and then the nutrients are negatively affected.  As your body is further exposed, it attacks the foreign invaders and responds with further inflammation, allergies and symptoms of various diseases.

The result is that your immune system becomes overburdened, and the inflammation triggers start to affect nerves, connective tissues, organs, joints and muscles that lead to disease.  It is likely that if there were no inflammation many diseases would not exist.

It is important to analyze the lifestyle and make the necessary changes to reverse inflammation.

Here are the necessary steps:

  1. Remove adverse mechanisms including stress, poor sleep, and blood sugar dysregulation.
  2. Restore beneficial mechanisms including keeping a positive attitude, getting adequate sleep and restoring the balance of blood sugar.
  3. Add natural anti-inflammatory ingredients to your diet. Spices like turmeric and ginger are considered the best natural anti-inflammatories.

Improve the diet by removing food that causes autoimmune triggers and promoting the integrity of the intestine by ensuring there is proper flora.

5 Benefits of Ginger

5 Benefits of Ginger

The medicinal uses of ginger have been known for thousands of years throughout countless cultures. It has a long history of relieving digestive issues, such as nausea, motion sickness and morning sickness, as well as alleviating pain and inflammation. The most well known and medicinally dense part of the plant is the root that grows underground, known as the rhizome, which can be consumed fresh, powdered, dried or as an oil. The rhizome contains a large quantity of antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parisitic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, so it’s no wonder there are so many natural health benefits of consuming ginger. These 5 benefits of incorporating ginger into your diet are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to naming several of over 40 benefits.

Relieve Stomach Distress – Perhaps one of the best qualities about consuming ginger is it’s ability to alleviate nausea. While this applies to general stomach distress like motion sickness, it has also been known to calm the upset stomachs of surgery patients and cancer patients alike. In addition, studies have shown that anti-nausea compound in ginger to be most effective in pregnancy related queasiness. Although 1-1.5 grams of ginger per day is deemed safe when pregnant, always talk to your doctor before starting a new dietary regimen.

Inflammation – Ginger has been used for centuries as a natural anti-inflammatory. In fact, some even claim that it rivals over the counter medication, such as ibuprofen, in it’s ability to relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis and muscle soreness.

Weight Loss – Ginger is known for its ability to increase thermogenesis in the body, meaning that the body burns off up to 16% more fat stores than without consuming thermogenic ingredients. Consuming ginger also boosts your metabolism by up to 5%!

Fighting Chronic Disease – The bioactive compounds found in ginger have been shown to reduce the pain of chronic disease and prevent it in the first place. Antioxidants, along with the bioactive compounds, have also been shown to improve brain health and memory function by relieving inflammation in the brain, one of the key drivers for Alzheimers disease.

Lower Cholesterol – Studies have shown that eating 3 grams of ginger per day lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, even rivaling some cholesterol medications.

Ginger is a delicious way to spice up your favorite recipes, without the added sodium or calories. It’s health benefits alone are a great reason to incorporate this superfood into any meal. Do you use ginger? Have you noticed any changes in your health? Let us know in the comments below!