Summaries of Recent Arthritis Research
P. Anthony Chapdelaine, Jr., MD, MSPH, Exec. Dir./Sec. (The National Fund for Alternative Medicine)
A new study estimates that around 90 million adult Americans have arthritis and one-third of these adults are between 18 and 64 years of age. More than half of adults with arthritis have the form known as “osteoarthritis” (so-called “wear-and-tear” of joint cartilage), while the remainder of adults with arthritis suffer from gout (one-quarter), psoriatic arthritis (one-sixth), and rheumatoid arthritis (about 3 percent).
All forms of arthritis have one thing in common: the pain and joint damage is the result of inflammation. And inflammation is a condition that results from many factors. Studies show that years of arthritis pain leads to decreased exercise and increased use of NSAIDS (over-the-counter or prescribed pain killers) which research shows increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. The reason for the chronic joint pain and damage uncontrolled “inflammation.”
For osteoarthritis, the knee is the joint most commonly affected. Even one injury to the knee (torn meniscus from a fall, torn ACL) can leaves the knee unstable, increase wear-and-tear, and result in osteoarthritis. (Other factors like genes, weight, and age can play a part.) The pain from osteoarthritis is sometimes helped by prescribed or over-the-counter pain killers such as ibuprofen (known as NSAIDS), even though NSAIDS do nothing to repair the inflamed joints. And some studies suggest certain NSAIDS actually damage joint cartilage repair, and thus worsen the arthritis. NSAIDS can also have serious side-effects (gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, etc.).
For rheumatoid diseases (so-called “auto-immune” diseases, aka: autoimmune inflammatory disorders) like rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis, genetic susceptibilities play a part in which of these, for whom, and at what age a particular individual will first show symptoms of inflammation. For example, rheumatoid arthritis tends to hit middle aged to postmenopausal women (symptoms worsen after menopause), anklylosing spondylitis hits younger males, and psoriatic arthritis, which is associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease such as Crohn’s Disease as well as other auto-immune conditions, tends to hit males and females equally between the ages of 30 to 50. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may suppress symptoms and temporarily stop the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, but they sometimes don’t work, they often stop working after a few years, the latest versions are extremely expensive, and most of them potentially cause certain cancers, life-threatening infections, and even death (Aletaha D, Kapral T, Smolen JS, “Toxicity Profiles of Traditional Disease Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs for Rheumatoid Arthritis,” Ann Rheum Dis, 2003, 62, Pages 482–486).
In an article published in 2015 in Pharmacognosy Magazine, scientists described certain Australian medicinal plants used to treat rheumatoid arthritis that were found to have low toxicity (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4461961/).
Studies consistently show that boswellia, curcumin, pycnogenol (pine bark exptract), and a few others are quick, short-acting herbs or extracts that can help decrease osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis inflammation. Fish oil (omega 3 fatty acids), and a few other “natural” ingredients can also help slow the progression of these diseases, but also help with pain. Studies on certain commonly used supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, used for osteoarthritis, show inconsistent results: a subset of patients do find these very effective while other groups of patients do not. For rheumatoid arthritis, studies show certain nutraceuticals such as resveratrol to control or eliminate microorganisms that cause some cases of rheumatoid arthritis.
One comprehensive study showed many Australian aboriginal plant extracts could inhibit a bacteria (Proteus sp.) that causes some cases of rheumatoid arthritis. Our foundation (National Fund for Alternative Medicine) supported laboratory and clinical research on 5’nitroimidazole antibiotics (such as metronidazole and clotrimazole) which showed these can be effective in stopping the progression of rheumatoid arthritis after a few short treatments for many patients either by their effect on microorganisms, their suppression of macrophage over-activity, or both. See our Letters for an interesting discussion of how the founding director of our foundation helped someone in Africa discover a particular infective cause of a friend’s crippling arthritis. Other researchers proved that by using antibiotics that kill mycoplasma bacteria patients with rheumatoid arthritis go into remission or are cured.
Research on plasma-rich platelets, stem cells, injectable fluids, vaccines, and genetic manipulation is ongoing and may provide better options someday.
Meanwhile, consider: 1. Lifestyle changes, such as: stopping smoking, getting more exercise (appropriate to the arthritis, gradually increasing tolerance, including water exercises); 2. Eating more fish, Mediterranean type diet, and fiber; 3. Losing weight as necessary to decrease the stress on joints; 4. Taking antioxidant supplements such as curcumin, boswellia, pine bark extract; 5. Taking fish oil, and trying other supplements that studies show sometimes help pain or repair damage (for example, glucosamine and chondroitin for osteoarthritis) to see whether they help you (everyone is individual—“no size fits all”); 6. Taking advantage of yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic, lymphatic massage, tai chi, and other techniques to help improve arthritic symptoms or even modify the disease progression; 7. Consulting a physician or clinical practitioner familiar with these different methods (for example, click our “Physician Referral Sources” tab for physicians who may be familiar with our metronidazole protocol, or who may have used other alternative approaches to successfully help patients with arthritis).
Supplements that can help arthritis: Quercetin (found in fruits and vegetables) and theaflavin (found in black tea) are anti-inflammatory compounds that together eliminate old “senescent” and injured cells from the body. These cells, instead of the body eliminating them naturally (a process known as “apotosis”) keep living and produce chemicals that increase the aging and deterioration of normal cells. This results in the inflammation that lies behind most chronic diseases such as arthritis, dementia (including Alzheimer’s Disease), cancer, heart disease, and many others. Research concludes that the best way to take quercetin is in a high dose wrapped within a phytosome (plant-based phospholipid compound). Take quercetin, along with theaflavin (from black tea), just once a week.
AMPK is a metabolic regulator that reduces chronic inflammation, helps cells burn energy instead of storing it as fat, and helps clean cellular “trash.” AMPK levels decrease as we age, which increases the risk for chronic diseases of inflammation such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and weight gain, autoimmune problems, several types of cancer, dementia and other neurological problems. Extracts from the Chinese herb Gynostemma pentaphyllum and the citrus bioflavonoid hesperidin help to activate AMPK in cells. Take approximately 500 mg of Gynostemma extract and 400 mg of hesperidin daily.