A New Way to Treat Arthritis
Written By: Rob Kress, RPh
“Itis” means inflammation, thus any disease with an “itis” at the end, has an inflammatory component. “Autoimmune disorder” essentially means that the body begins to attack itself. As far as arthritis is concerned, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and others have been designated as autoimmune, where osteoarthritis has been recognized as general wear and tear, void of an autoimmune component. It is becoming more apparent that all inflammatory arthritis conditions have some sort of immune element related to it, including osteoarthritis.
The immune system reaction is a perception; it perceives what it believes to be a foreign object and attacks it by sending pro-inflammatory components as well as toxic chemicals to destroy. Such “foreign objects” can include foods, proteins, pathogens, and the body’s own tissue “perceived” as foreign.
Arthritis conditions are cascading, they might begin small, but continually grow, and here you will see why using the breakdown of cartilage as an example.
Cartilage lines joints, provides protection, lubricates, cushions and preserves joints. Collagen is the protein that is in cartilage and reduces friction from movement and keeps joints healthy and mobile.
Whether due to injury, or general wear and tear, collagen can be exposed through breakdown of the cartilage and the synovial lining. When this happens, the body perceives it as foreign, and then mobilizes what are known as Killer T Cells to attack the “foreign invader.” Cytokines are also released which are pro-inflammatory. This creates the cycle of inflammation > more attack > oxidative stress > and accelerated joint breakdown. Over time the cartilage and local tissue is further eroded and destroyed.
Conventional anti-inflammatories help with palliative support (although come with digestive issues, nutrient depletions, and immune challenges.) Immune suppressers such as corticosteroids can provide tremendous relief, although over the long term can lead to weight gain, further immune suppression, gastric ulcers, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar, and an increased risk of bone fractures.
In lab animal studies, when researchers want to induce inflammation or arthritis, they inject collage into the blood stream; the collagen is recognized as foreign, which then incites inflammatory chemicals such as killer T Cells and cytokines to mobilize. Thus when collagen is in the blood it leads to and triggers autoimmune attack.
The exposed collagen is then believed to be the chief cause of the inflammation, leading to the immune cells to mistakenly identify it as an invasive, foreign molecule.
So this leads to the question?
“Is there a way to change the body’s response to exposed collagen, thus putting a damper on the auto-immune attack, while providing complementary support for the health of the tissue, cartilage and joints?
In steps induced oral tolerance and desensitization of the immune system. Let me explain what this is about.
Back in 2000, the University of Nebraska noticed in a study that people with osteoarthritis, who consumed chicken soup, experienced a decrease in the mobilization of immune cells to the inflammatory sites. It turns out that the collagen from the chicken bones was responsible for this anti-inflammatory effect.
This led to researchers to begin working with what is known as un-denatured collagen, also known as UC-II. Regular collagen that is found in many hair, skin and nail products, is denatured, does not have the same 3-D structure, and does not provide the desensitization of the immune system that the un-denatured collagen does.
UC-II has been found to activate a pathway known as “induced oral tolerance”, which trains the immune system to correctly recognize exposed cartilage proteins as its own tissue, not a foreign body, thus this is how it helps regulate the immune system in auto-immune inflammatory disorders, such as arthritis.
UC-II is believed to “work its magic” in the lower end of the small intestine in the Peyer’s Patches. Peyer’s Patches are forms of immune tissue, which act as training centers for the Killer T Cells. This is believed to influence and desensitize the immune system to develop a natural tolerance to new foods, and proteins (i.e. – collagen) with the end result being that Killer T Cells are not mobilized.
There have been numerous studies on animals and people which have shown benefits of utilizing UC-II including; a significant decrease in number of swollen and painful joints in patients with osteoarthritis and juvenile arthritis, significant enhancement of daily activity and quality of life, a significant reduction in measurable pain in horses, and moderately arthritic dogs are able to place more weight on sore limbs and use limbs more naturally.
Comparing UC-II with other supplements for joint pain and discomfort, UC-II at a once daily dose of 40 mg has shown to be twice as effective in promoting joint health compared to 1500 mg glucosamine and 1200 mg of chondroitin daily.
Complementary Treatments To Arthritis and Inflammatory Disorders
I like to say, “food first.” As far as diet is concerned, one can undergo food allergy and intolerance testing to find which foods they might “react” to, thus promoting the inflammatory process. Although, given the wide range of intolerances to both dairy and gluten, the backbone of an anti-inflammatory diet would start here. While there are countless foods that someone can be intolerant to, some of the most common food allergens/intolerances which can fuel an inflammatory response include: processed foods, refined sugar, soy, wheat, corn, food additives, pesticide residue, and genetically engineered foods.
In addition to UC-II, some popular natural supplements for supporting inflammatory conditions include; boswellia, turmeric and curcumin, and vitamin D.
Boswellia has shown to supports structural integrity, motility and comfort of joint cartilage, inhibits cartilage degrading enzyme MMP (matrix metalloproteinase activity), while also providing support for the immune system.
Where vitamin D has a wide range of benefits for bone health such as aiding in the absorption of calcium and stimulating bone cell mineralization, it also provides immune, pain and inflammatory support.
Inflammatory conditions such as arthritis are proving to be an excellent area for complementary and natural support. Natural medicines such as the ones mentioned above can provide a reduction or elimination for the need of chemical drugs which can lead to digestive disorders, impaired immunity, and nutrient depletions; while the induced oral tolerance and desensitization by UC-II provides an approach that’s greater than only treating symptoms.