January 31, 2011
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A study shows that a formulation of curcumin can relieve pain and increase mobility in patients with osteoarthritis. It can also reduce a series of inflammatory markers.
100 patients with osteoarthritis were divided in two groups — the first group was given the “best available treatment” and the second group was given the same treatment plus 200 mg of the curcumin formulation each day.
According to IFT:
“The results showed that the [curcumin]-treated group had a statistically significant reduction in all primary clinical end-points … These results were complemented by the evaluation of a series of inflammatory markers, soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule (sVCAM)-1, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate [ESR]) … while no significant variation was observed in the ‘best available treatment’ group.”
This could eventually lead to a phase out of NSAID use, at least as a treatment for mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis.
If you’ve never heard of curcumin — the pigment that gives the curry spice turmeric its yellow-orange color — you’re in for a treat, as this is one natural compound that should be on your health radar. Curcumin is also the active ingredient in turmeric, which is a very popular supplement.
Both the ancient Chinese and Indian systems of medicine have recognized curcumin’s beneficial properties for thousands of years, and now modern research is showing it may be one of nature’s most powerful potential healers.
Most notably, curcumin is known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. The compound has been shown to influence more than 700 genes, and it can inhibit both the activity and the synthesis of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX), as well as other enzymes that have been implicated in inflammation.
One of the BEST Supplements for Many Cancers
Dr. William LaValley from Austin Texas, is one of the top natural medicine cancer physicians I know and he recently shared this important information on curcumin which has the most evidence based literature for as a cancer support among all nutrients. There are over 100 different pathways that curcumin has an effect on once it gets into the cell. Interestingly this also includes the metabolite of curcumin and its derivatives which are also anti-cancer. Curcumin appears to be safe in the treatment of all cancers.
In India where turmeric is widely used, the prevalence of four common U.S. cancers — colon, breast, prostate and lung — is 10 times lower. In fact, prostate cancer, which is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in U.S. men, is rare in India and this is attributed, in part, to the curcumin in turmeric.
Numerous studies have looked into this potential cancer-fighting link, with promising results. For instance, curcumin has been found to:
- Inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells
- Inhibit the transformation of cells from normal to tumor
- Help your body destroy mutated cancer cells so they cannot spread throughout your body
- Decrease inflammation
- Enhance liver function
- Inhibit the synthesis of a protein thought to be instrumental in tumor formation
- Prevent the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth
And according to researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, curcumin blocks a key biological pathway needed for development of melanoma and other cancers.
The spice actually stops laboratory strains of melanoma from proliferating and pushes the cancer cells to commit suicide by shutting down nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), a powerful protein known to induce abnormal inflammatory response that leads to an assortment of disorders such as arthritis and cancer.
To get the full benefits that curcumin has to offer, you will want to look for a turmeric extract with at least 95% curcuminoids that contains only 100% certified organic ingredients.
The formula should be free of fillers, additives and excipients (a substance added to the supplement as a processing or stability aid), and the manufacturer should use safe production practices at all stages: planting, cultivation, selective harvesting, and then producing and packaging the final product.
Details on How to Use Curcumin
The unfortunate challenge as this time is that there are not really any very good formulations of curcumin available to use in cancer. This is because relatively high doses are required and curcumin is not absorbed that well. Typical anticancer doses are up to three grams of good bioavailable curcmin extract, three to four times daily.
One work around for this is to use the curcumin powder and make a microemulsion of it by combining a tablespoon of the powder and mixing it into 1-2 egg yolks and a teaspoon or two of melted coconut oil. Then using a high speed hand blender to emulsify the powder.
Another strategy you can use to increase absorption is to put one tablespoon of the curcumin powder into a quart of boiling water. It must be boiling when you add the powder as it will not work as well if you put it in room temperature water and heat the water and curcumin. After boiling it for ten minutes you will have created a 12% solution and you can drink this once it has cooled down. The curcumin will gradually fall out of solution over time and in about six hours it will be a 6% solution so it is best to drink the water within four hours. It does have a woody taste.
One caution to know is that you want to avoid the “yellow kitchen” syndrome. Curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces if you aren’t careful. So you can perform the mixing under the hood of your stove with the blower on to make sure no powder gets into your kitchen.
Research Highlights Curcumin’s Pain-Relieving Power
In the latest study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility, whereas the control group, which received no curcumin, had no significant improvements.
A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids (plant-based nutrients that contain powerful antioxidant properties) blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the launch of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.
A Natural Alternative to NSAIDs
Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects help to reduce irritation to tissues characterized by pain, redness, swelling and heat, which is particularly helpful for osteoarthritis patients.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes joint stiffness, pain, inflammation and swelling that can become debilitating. Many patients turn to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and analgesics, like Tylenol, for pain relief, but the regular, chronic use of these types of medications is associated with significant, and very serious, side effects such as cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal harm and kidney and/or liver damage.
If you are taking an NSAID, you are at approximately three times greater risk for developing serious gastrointestinal side effects than those who aren’t.
Approximately 1.2 percent of patients taking NSAIDs are actually hospitalized for upper GI problems, per year of exposure. One study of patients taking NSAIDs showed that a life-threatening complication was the first sign of ulcer in more than half of the subjects.
Researchers found that the drugs suppress production of prostacyclin, which is needed to dilate blood vessels and inhibit clotting. Earlier studies had found that mice genetically engineered to be unable to use prostacyclin properly were prone to clotting disorders.
Anyone who is at increased risk of cardiovascular disease should steer clear of these medications as well. Ulcer complications are certainly potentially life-threatening, but, heart attacks are a much more common and likely risk, especially in older individuals. So having a natural alternative to NSAIDs for pain relief is invaluable, especially for a painful condition like osteoarthritis.
You can use turmeric in your cooking (choose a pure turmeric powder, rather than a curry powder, as at least one study has found that curry powders tend to contain very little curcumin), but you may also want to consider taking it in supplement form.
For many this is a more convenient method to obtain the potential health benefits, especially if it is from a high-quality organic source, and also if you don’t particularly enjoy the taste of curry. As an aside, curcumin is not only beneficial for osteoarthritis … research is also emerging showing it may play a beneficial role in the following diseases:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Type 2 diabetes
- Crohn’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Muscle regeneration
- Inflammatory bowel disease
More Natural Tips for Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis, the deterioration of cartilage that cushions your joints, is the most common form of arthritis among the elderly. It’s normally associated with “wear and tear” on your joints, but can also be caused by repetitive stress or acute trauma.
In addition to an anti-inflammatory like curcumin, I’ve long promoted omega-3 fats for arthritis because omega-3s are also well known to help reduce inflammation. Look for a high-quality, animal-based source such as krill oil. In addition, adding glucosamine to your omega-3s appears to be an excellent choice for osteoarthritis sufferers in particular.
If you have osteoarthritis, the cartilage within your joint is progressively being damaged, and the synovial fluid that keeps your joints lubricated and cushioned is typically reduced as well. The pain is a result of your bones starting to come into contact with each other as cartilage and synovial fluid is reduced.
Your body is fully capable of rebuilding cartilage and synovial fluid, but in order to effectively do so it needs the proper building blocks. In this case, it needs glucosamine to rebuild both cartilage and synovial fluid, so correcting this deficiency by using a high-quality supplement may be helpful.
In one study, participants with moderate-to-severe hip or knee osteoarthritis who received 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate along with 200 mg of omega-3 had greater pain reduction and fewer symptoms (morning stiffness, pain in hips and knees) than those who took glucosamine by itself.
I also recommend for osteoarthritis:
- Nutritional typing: Your unique biochemistry and genetics influence the ratio of fat, protein and carbohydrates your body needs to thrive, so eating for your nutritional type will ensure that you get the optimal macronutrient ratio out of your diet. Making proper dietary choices is actually one of the most profound ways to reduce inflammation.
- Optimizing your vitamin D levels: Vitamin D deficiency is associated with inflammation, so you will want to be sure your levels are in the healthy range by getting proper sun exposure, using a safe tanning bed or taking a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement. Low vitamin D has also been linked to osteoarthritis directly.
- Exercise: Even light exercise has been shown to help prevent the onset of osteoarthritis, and it is very important to exercise and increase muscle tone of your non-weight bearing joints. In time, disuse results in muscle atrophy and weakness, and immobility may result in joint contractures and loss of range of motion (ROM), so it’s important to keep moving.
Your program should include a range of activities, just as I recommend for any exerciser. Weight training, cardio, stretching and core work can all be integrated into your routine, and, if your condition allows, it would be wise to move toward a Peak Fitness program that is designed for reaching optimal health.
There are several other natural strategies that can offer pain relief from osteoarthritis as well, including acupuncture, herbs like ginger and boswellia, bromelain and evening primrose oil.