Turmeric Extract Puts Drugs For Knee Osteoarthritis To Shame

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Written by: Sayer Ji

Millions take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) daily for arthritis and related inflammatory conditions, but are completely unaware that far safer, and at least as effective, natural alternatives already exist — and are as easily accessible and inexpensive as the spices found in your kitchen cupboard.

Human research on the health benefits of turmeric is sparse, mainly due to the lack of capital available to fund expensive clinical trials.[i] Despite many decades of investigation as a lead drug compound, and the availability of thousands of preclinical studies indicating turmeric’s therapeutic value, few yet realize that this common kitchen spice may provide a suitable drug alternative for common health conditions.

The latest human study to clinically confirm turmeric’s medicinal value was published in the Indonesian Journal of Internal Medicine in April, 2012 and found the curcuminoid extract of turmeric was able to reduce inflammation in patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis.

Researchers compared the effect of a curcuminoid extract to the NSAID drug diclofenac sodium in reducing cycloxygenase -2 (COX-2) secretion by synovial fluid’s monocytes in two, randomly divided, groups suffering with knee osteoarthritis.

The synovial fluid is an egg yolk-like liquid within the cavities of the synovial joints, which serves to reduce friction between articular cartilage during movement. In knee osteoarthritis, a condition that afflicts 1 in 2 people by the age of 85 years, the immune cells known as monocytes express increased inflammatory COX-2 enzyme activity within the synovial fluid.

In the study, subjects were given either 30 mg 3 times daily of turmeric extract (curcuminoid) or 25 mg 3 times daily of diclofenac sodium for 4 weeks. After the treatment period, aspiration of the joint as performed and the secretion of cycloxygenase-2 enzyme by synovial fluid’s monocytes was evaluated.

Results were reported as follows:

In curcuminoid group the average scores were 1.84±0.37 and 1.15±0.28 respectively (p<0.001). In diclofenac group the average scores were 1.79±0.38 and 1.12±0.27 respectively (p<0.001). In curcuminoid group the decreasing score of cycloxygenase-2 secretion was 0.70±0.51 while in diclofenac group was 0.67±0.45. There was no significant difference in decreasing the score of cycloxygenase enzyme secretion between both treatment groups (p=0.89).

In summary, both curcuminoid and diclofenac sodium were capable of significantly decreasing the secretion of the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme, with nearly identical potency.

Discussion

This is not the first human study to confirm turmeric is at least as effective as an NSAID drug in reducing the symptoms associated with knee osteoarthritis. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found 2,000 mg of turmeric extract was as effective as 800 mg of ibuprofen in reducing symptoms of pain and inflammation.[ii]

What is most remarkable about the more recent study is not that turmeric curcuminoids have potent anti-inflammatory properties – there are already hundreds of studies confirming its COX-2 reducing and otherwise anti-inflammary effects — but rather how much safer they are relative to NSAID drugs like diclofenac, which like most pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory drugs have been linked to adverse health effects such as increased cardiac mortality, miscarriage and seizure.

 

 

Simplest Tip Ever: Why You Should Drink Warm Water & Lemon

lemons-718x581cPosted on The Chalkboard

The way you start each day is incredibly important. Whether you’re a mom, a coach, a writer, a small business owner or a yoga teacher, what you do first thing in the morning matters.

According to Ayurvedic philosophy, choices that you make regarding your daily routine either build up resistance to disease or tear it down. Ayurveda invites us to get a jump-start on the day by focusing on morning rituals that work to align the body with nature’s rhythms, balance the doshas and foster self-esteem alongside self-discipline.

Your mind may say you have to check emails, take the dog out, get the kids out the door, that you can’t be late for work or that you just don’t have enough time to cultivate your own morning rituals. But if you can only make time for one ritual that will improve your health, let it be this: start the day out with a mug of warm water and the juice of half a lemon.It’s so simple and the benefits are just too good to ignore. Warm water with lemon:

1 Boosts your immune system: Lemons are high in Vitamin C and potassium. Vitamin C is great for fighting colds and potassium stimulates brain and nerve function and helps control blood pressure.

2 Balances pH: Lemons are an incredibly alkaline food, believe it or not. Yes, they are acidic on their own, but inside our bodies they’re alkaline (the citric acid does not create acidity in the body once metabolized). As you wellness warriors know, an alkaline body is really the key to good health.

3 Helps with weight loss: Lemons are high in pectin fiber, which helps fight hunger cravings. It also has been shown that people who maintain a more alkaline diet lose weight faster. And my experience is that when I start the day off right, it’s easier to make the best choices for myself the rest of the day.

4 Aids digestion: The warm water serves to stimulate the gastrointestinal tract and peristalsis – the waves of muscle contractions within the intestinal walls that keep things moving. Lemons and limes are also high in minerals and vitamins and help loosen ama, or toxins, in the digestive tract.

5 Acts as a gentle, natural diuretic: Lemon juice helps flush out unwanted materials because lemons increase the rate of urination in the body. Toxins are, therefore, released at a faster rate which helps keep your urinary tract healthy.

6 Clears skin: The vitamin C helps decrease wrinkles and blemishes. Lemon water purges toxins from the blood which helps keep skin clear as well.

7 Hydrates the lymph system: This cup of goodness helps start the day on a hydrated note, which helps prevent dehydration (obviously) and adrenal fatigue. When your body is dehydrated, or deeply dehydrated (adrenal fatigue), it can’t perform all of it’s proper functions, which leads to toxic buildup, stress, constipation and the list goes on. Your adrenals happen to be two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys and along with your thyroid, they create energy. They also secrete important hormones, including aldosterone. Aldosterone is a hormone secreted by your adrenals that regulates water levels and the concentration of minerals, like sodium, in your body, helping you stay hydrated. Your adrenals are also responsible for regulating your stress response. So, the bottom line is that you really don’t want to mess with a deep state of dehydration!

Adopting just this one practice of drinking a cup of warm water with lemon in the morning for a month can radically alter your experience of the day. Don’t be surprised if you begin to view mornings in a new light. Like I said, the recipe is really simple – a cup of warm (not hot) water and the juice from half a lemon.

6 Surprising Chronic Pain Triggers

pain_killersBy Emily Main

There’s nothing worse than suffering from debilitating chronic pain—except, perhaps, not knowing why you’re in pain or how to cope.

Treating these mysterious aches has become the mission of Gary Kaplan, DO, a pioneer of integrative medicine and director of the Kaplan Clinic for Integrative Medicine in McLean, Virginia. He treats people with chronic pain every day. In Kaplan’s new book, Total Recovery: Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Pain and Depression, he addresses the root causes of chronic pain, and how most doctors are going about treating it in all the wrong ways.

“Treating chronic pain is never as straightforward as treating a bacterial infection,” he writes. “As a medical scientist, I was convinced that when patients in chronic pain had a history of emotional, physical, and infectious assaults, all of those assaults must somehow be working together.”

In his decades of treating chronic pain, he’s found some surprising causes of people’s misery, such as these six:

#1: Emotional trauma. Doctors are increasingly realizing that deep-seated emotional pain from a past trauma, be it abuse or post-traumatic stress, can manifest itself as chronic physical pain. Dr. Kaplan notes that research hasn’t yet uncovered what links the two, but in his practice, he writes, he’s found that patients who have chronic pain that doesn’t respond to traditional treatments have, upon further evaluation, often had some traumatic experience in their lives.

One prevailing theory, he says, is that emotional trauma, physical injury, or environmental toxins appear to stimulate microglia, molecules that live in the central nervous system that spew out a continuous supply of inflammatory chemicals whenever they’re stressed. Your body’s response to this constant inflammation manifests itself in two significant ways: chronic pain and psychological disorders like depression and anxiety.

#2: Painkillers. Surprising, but true: Overusing pain killers dulls your body’s response to pain, so you need more, and more potent, painkillers to alleviate chronic pain. But that just leads to increased sensitivity to pain in the long run. Dr. Kaplan says this problem is particularly bad with prescription opiod painkillers, such as Vicodin or Oxycontin. Using painkillers to deal with chronic pain is “shortsighted,” Dr. Kaplan writes.

#3: Poor-quality sleep. Our perception of pain increases when the quality of our sleep is poor, Dr. Kaplan writes. Deep sleep is a time when your muscles have an increased blood supply, which helps with tissue growth and repair. You can see an increase in generalized muscle pain, he adds, within just a week of not getting regular deep sleep. And sleeping pills don’t help, since they just put you to sleep without improving the quality of sleep, which means you might not reach those deep, pain-relieving stages you need to feel better.

#4: Your leaky gut. Seventy percent of your immune system is located in your gut, which is filled with nerves as well as tiny hairs in the walls known as villi that prevent your body from absorbing too many toxins. Taking too many painkillers, or even having food sensitivities like gluten sensitivity, can damage both the nerve endings and those villi, leading to a condition known as “leaky gut.” When your gut “leaks,” undigested food (with sometimes problematic proteins like gluten), bacteria, and other environmental chemicals that can cause those microglia to get stimulated and lead to chronic pain.

#5: Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, Dr. Kaplan notes, and good health is practically impossible if you don’t have enough. And most of us don’t. In fact, 57 percent of Americans don’t get enough. But this vital mineral blocks your brain’s receptors of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that can cause neurons to be hypersensitive to pain. Dr. Kaplan says he prescribes intravenous magnesium to many of his chronic pain patients, but you can get your daily recommended amount easily if you load up on leafy greens, dried apricots, avocados, brown rice, almonds, cashews, and bananas.

#6: Lyme disease. Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States, carried predominantly by the black-legged, or deer, tick. Roughly 32,000 cases are diagnosed every year, and that number will surely rise as climate change allows ticks to survive longer and travel into new regions.

Dr. Kaplan writes that the standard treatment for Lyme disease is a two- to four-week course of antibiotics—which can damage your gut—but as much as 20 percent of treated Lyme sufferers develop Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, which is characterized by achy joints and can linger six months or longer after treatment. Research into this syndrome is ongoing, he adds, but many scientists theorize that Lyme can provoke an autoimmune response that continues long after the antibiotics have killed the bacteria, leaving people suffering from debilitating pain even as tests don’t detect any lingering signs of the disease.

 

 

 

Top 10 Inflammatory Foods to Avoid

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Written by Wee Peng Ho

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, about 12.9 million people worldwide died from some form of cardiovascular disease in 2004. Each year, the World Cancer Research Fund estimates that some eight million people died from cancer. Heart disease and cancer, the deadly manifestation of chronic inflammation, are expected to remain as the leading causes of death in developed countries for many years to come.

But study after study shows that the risk of heart disease and cancer are modifiable by our lifestyle choices which include the food we choose to eat each day. With every bite we take, we’re either balancing the pro- and anti-inflammatory compounds in the body, or tipping the scale to one end.

To shift the balance to your favor, other than incorporating more natural anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, it is also equally important to avoid or cut down on foods which are known to promote inflammation. Here, we look at the top ten foods which set the stage for inflammatory diseases:

1. Sugars

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Excessive sugar intake causes tooth decay and has been linked to increased risks of obesity, inflammation and chronic diseases such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Recently, it has also finally been proven that sugar, as well as dairy, are the causes of acne.

Find them in: Sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks, fruit drinks and punches are some of the major sources of dietary sugars that many have overlooked. Do you know that drinking a can of Coke is as good as sucking ten sugar cubes? Other obvious sugar-loaded foods to avoid or at least limit include pastries, desserts, candies and snacks. And when you are looking out for sugar in the ingredients list, note that sugar has many names: corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, golden syrup, maltose, sorghum syrup and sucrose are some of the creative names used.

Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Got a sweet tooth? Opt for natural sweeteners like stevia, honey, or blackstrap molasses to flavor beverages and foods modestly. Natural sugars found in fresh or dried fruits and fruit preserves with no added sugar are also great choices. Not only do they give you the sweetness you crave, fruits also supply you with vitamins, antioxidants and fibers that you won’t find in sugary foods and drinks. Dates, figs, persimmons, kiwis, tangerines and various types of berries are some of the natural healthy snacks you can sink your teeth into.

2. Common Cooking Oils

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Common vegetable cooking oils used in many homes and restaurants have very high omega-6 fatty acids and dismally low omega-3 fats. A diet consisting of a highly imbalanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratio promotes inflammation and breeds inflammatory diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Find them in: Polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as grape seed, cottonseed, safflower, corn and sunflower oils. These industrial vegetable oils are also commonly used to prepare most processed foods and takeaways.

Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Replace your omega-6-saturated cooking oils with macadamia oil, extra virgin olive oil, or other cooking oils with a more balanced omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids ratio. Macadamia oil, for instance, has an almost one-to-one ratio of omega-6:3 fats, and it is also rich in oleic acid, a heart-healthy, monounsaturated fatty acid.

3. Trans Fats

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Trans fatty acids are notorious for their double whammy effect: they increase the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, while lowering levels of the ‘good’ cholesterol. But that is not all they can do. They have also been found to promote inflammation, obesity and resistance to insulin, laying the ground for degenerative illnesses to take place.

Find them in: Deep fried foods, fast foods, commercially baked goods and those prepared with partially hydrogenated oil, margarine and/or vegetable shortening. Note that items that list 0g trans fats on the label may still contain some amount of these toxic fats. This is because in the US, the government allows items containing less than 0.5g of trans fats to be declared as trans-fat free. Commercially prepared peanut butter is one good example. Your best bet is to read the ingredients list and make sure partially hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening is not used.

Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Look for alternative products that contain no trans fats, and that do not have partially hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening in the ingredients list. When in doubt, assume that all commercially prepared foods contain trans fats unless stated otherwise.

4. Dairy Products

Pro-inflammatory Agent: As much as 60% of the world’s population cannot digest milk. In fact, researchers think that being able to digest milk beyond infancy is abnormal, rather than the other way round. Milk is also a common allergen that can trigger inflammatory responses, such as stomach distress, constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, acne, hives and breathing difficulties in susceptible people.

Find them in: Milk and dairy products are as pervasive as foods containing partially hydrogenated oil or omega-3-deficient vegetable oil. Apart from obvious milk products like butter and cheese, foods with hidden dairy content include breads, cookies, crackers, cakes, cream sauces and boxed cereals. Scanning the ingredients list is still the safest way to suss out milk.

Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Kefir and unsweetened yogurt are acceptable in moderation for those who are not allergic to milk. They are easier on the stomach as the lactose and proteins in the milk have been broken down by beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts.

5. Feedlot-Raised Meat

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Commercially produced meats are feed with grains like soy beans and corn, a diet that is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids but low in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Due to the small and tight living environment, these animals also gain excess fat and end up with high saturated fats. Worse, to make them grow faster and prevent them from getting sick, they are also injected with hormones and fed with antibiotics. The result is one piece of meat which you and I shouldn’t be eating.

Find them in: Unless otherwise stated, most, if not all, beef, pork and poultry you can find in the supermarkets and restaurants come from feedlot farms.

Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Organic, free-range animals that are fed a natural diet such as grasses instead of grains and hormones contain more omega-3 fats. Having more room to roam freely, they are also leaner and contain less saturated fats.

6. Red Meat & Processed Meat

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that red meat contains a molecule that humans don’t naturally produce called Neu5Gc. After ingesting this compound, the body develops anti-Neu5Gc antibodies – an immune response that may trigger chronic inflammatory response. Low-grade, simmering inflammation that won’t go away has been linked to cancer and heart disease.

The link between processed meat consumption and cancer is even stronger. In the 2007 report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, processed meat has been stated as a convincing cause of cancers of the colon and rectum, and possibly of the esophagus and lungs too. Processed meat includes animal products that have been smoked, cured, salted or chemically preserved.

Find them in: Common red meats are beef, lamb and pork, while processed meats include ham, sausage and salami.

Inflammation-dousing Substitute: You don’t need to avoid red meat totally, though the same thing cannot be said for processed meat. No amount of processed meat is safe. Replace the bulk of your red meat with organic vegetables, poultry and fish, and relegate red meat to a weekly treat. When you do eat red meat, remember to choose lean cuts and preferably, that of grass-fed animals. To reduce the formation of heat-generated food contaminants, it is also advisable not to overcook your meat and use moist heat cooking like stewing and boiling more often than high-temperature dry heat methods such as grilling and frying.

7. Alcohol

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Regular high consumption of alcohol has been known to cause irritation and inflammation of the esophagus, larynx (voice box) and liver. Over time, the chronic inflammation promotes tumor growth and gives rise to cancer at the sites of repeated irritation.

Find them in: Beers, ciders, liquors, liqueurs, and wines.

Inflammation-dousing Substitute: A refreshing and thirst-quenching glass of pure, filtered water, anyone? How about a cup of anti-aging and anti-inflammatory jasmine green tea? If you find the idea of swapping ethanol for water or tea implausible, at least limit your consumption to no more than one drink a day.

8. Refined Grains

Pro-inflammatory Agent: A lot of the grains we eat nowadays are refined. They are devoid of fiber and vitamin B compared to unpolished and unrefined grains that still have the bran, germ and the aleurone layer intact. This makes refined grains as good as refined sugars, which are practically empty calories. And like refined sugars, refined grains have a higher glycemic index than unprocessed grains and when they are consistently consumed, can hasten the onset of degenerative diseases like cancer, coronary disease and diabetes.

Find them in: Products made from refined grains are almost everywhere. The common ones are: white rice, white flour, white bread, noodles, pasta, biscuits and pastries. To make things worse, many products with refined grains undergo further processing to enhance their taste and look, and are often loaded with excess sugar, salt, artificial flavors and/or partially hydrogenated oil in the process. A prime example is boxed cereals which contain substantial amounts of added sugar and flavorings.

Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Go for minimally processed grains if you are not gluten intolerant or allergic to grains. If you are an avid bread or pastry maker, invest in a grain mill to produce your own flour. It will be much fresher than the stale grain found in stores. When buying cereals or other products made from grains, don’t take the words on the packaging for granted. Just because the box says whole grains, it does not mean the grains inside are 100% intact. The problem is due to a lack of an internationally accepted definition for the word ‘whole grain’. When in doubt, if it does not look close to its natural state, don’t buy it.

9. Artificial Food Additives

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Some artificial food additives like aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG) reportedly trigger inflammatory responses, especially in people who are already suffering from inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Find them in: Only packaged foods contain artificial food additives. If you need to buy them, read the labels carefully and weigh your risks. If you order Chinese takeaways, make sure you have the option to ask for no MSG. Otherwise, look elsewhere.

Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Besides limiting the consumption of processed foods, use anti-inflammatory herbs, spices or natural sweeteners to add flavor to your dishes instead of relying on food additives.

10. Fill in the Blank

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Why is this blank? Because it is meant for you to fill in with the food that you are sensitive to. Many people are sensitive to certain foods but are totally unaware of it. Unlike food allergies whereby symptoms usually come fast and furious, symptoms caused by food intolerance may take a longer time to manifest. Consequently, when symptoms of food intolerance do appear, they are often brushed off as common minor ailments such as tiredness and headaches. But repeated, long-term exposure to food that irritates can cause inflammation and lead to chronic disease.

Find them in: Common food allergens are gluten, milk, nuts, eggs and nightshade vegetables. Contrary to common belief, it is possible to develop an allergy to the foods that you eat often.

Inflammation-dousing Substitute: If you suspect that a particular food may be responsible for your food intolerant response, try avoiding it completely for about two weeks and monitor your reaction. At the end of the abstinence period, re-introduce the food back into your diet. If you are in fact incompatible with it, you should be able to notice the difference in how you feel easily.

(This article first appeared in The Conscious Life)