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Managing Joint Pain

Arthritis, defined as "inflammation of a joint," is a general term for progressive joint disease marked by pain and stiffness. The most prevalent and painful are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis, characterized by the erosion of the articulations between bones, is the most common form, and is generally associated with aging. It generally attacks individual joints, usually those that bear weight, like the feet, knees, hips, and spine.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It is painful and crippling, causing inflammation and destruction of joints throughout the body.

Arthritis is most commonly treated with steroidal drugs like cortisone, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They have unpleasant to dangerous side effects including nausea, stomach irritation, stomach and duodenal ulcers, and possible kidney damage.

As arthritis becomes more prevalent, a number of natural approaches have appeared. In a double-blind study of patients with osteoarthritis, patients were given either 250 mg of glucosamine sulfate or a placebo, taken three times per day for six weeks. Those patients who received glucosamine showed significant alleviation and some elimination of symptoms.

In a double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled, randomized study involving outpatients with knee osteoarthritis, patients were given either 400 mg of glucosamine twice a week or a placebo. After six weeks, the patients who received glucosamine showed 150% greater improvement than the control group.

In one double-blind clinical study of patients with osteoarthritis, patients were given 800 mg of chondroitin sulfate per day or a placebo. The patients who received chondroitin sulfate reported significantly reduced pain and increased joint mobility.

In another double-blind study, a group of patients with finger-joint osteoarthritis were given 400 mg of chondroitin three times per day. Over the three-year study, x-rays were taken of the finger joints at yearly intervals. The patients treated with chondroitin had significantly less progression of the disease than the control group.

Boswellia serrata, an anti-inflammatory agent extracted from the sap of a tree in India, has been traditionally used for thousands of years. Studies have shown that boswellia can reduce joint swelling, stiffness and pain, improve blood supply to inflamed joints, and increase mobility of arthritic joints.

References: Pujalte, J.M., et al. Double-blind clinical evaluation of oral glucosamine sulphate in the basic treatment of osteoarthrosis. Curr Med Res Opin 1980;7(2):110-14. Verbruggen, G., et al. Chondroitin sulfate: S/DMOAD (structure/disease modifying anti-osteoarthritis drug) in the treatment of finger joint OA. Osteoarthritis Cartilage May 1998;6 Suppl A:37-8.

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Red Clover And Menopause

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) a relatively popular herb during the last 20 years now finds promise for menopause.

Red clover has been used as one of the best herbs in the classification of alteratives. Alteratives are substances that can alter the blood and lymphatic system by their cleansing action.

How this cleansing is accomplished has never been specifically agreed upon, but most natural practitioners refer to alteratives as acting on the liver and the kidneys. Red clover is one of the primary alterative herbs in many cleansing formulas that are used for everything from acne to psoriasis.

Recently red clover has been found to contain a group of chemicals called isoflavones, which have demonstrated estrogen-like qualities. Isoflavones are found in legumes such as clover, soy, lentils, chickpeas, and beans. Due to a higher consumption of legumes in Asia, Asian women's blood levels of the isoflavone phytoestrogens are 20-30 times greater than those of North American women.

Current research has shown that there are four isoflavones that play unique and important roles: biochanin, formononetin, genistein, and daidzein. Red clover delivers all four of these important isoflavones.

One red clover product has been shown to reduce hot flashes and other symptoms associated with menopause. It was first released in 1997 in Australia, where it quickly became the best-selling dietary supplement of natural plant estrogens for women.

Recently, a preliminary study evaluating the effectiveness of this product concluded it could reduce night sweats and hot flashes, two of the most uncomfortable symptoms of menopause. Lisa Nachtigall, Director of the Women's Endocrine Center at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston, MA, demonstrated that taking 40 mg of isoflavones daily resulted in a 56% reduction in both the intensity and the number of hot flashes and a 52% decrease in night sweats.

Reference: Nachtigall, L.B., et al. Nonprescription alternatives to hormone replacement therapy. The Female Patient June 1999;24(6).

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Smokers Benefit From Pycnogenol

Smoking is a major risk factor for strokes, because smoking causes blood platelets to aggregate or "clump" together. Researchers from the University of Arizona, working in concert with German researchers, investigated the ability of Pycnogenol to block platelet aggregation. Pycnogenol is a unique mixture of bioflavonoids and related compounds extracted from French maritime pine bark.

Heavy smokers were enrolled in this study. Platelet aggregation was measured two hours after each smoker took either 500 mg of aspirin or 100 mg of Pycnogenol. Aspirin is known to reduce platelet clumping, however it also tends to increase bleeding time. The unhealthy platelet activity was prevented by both the aspirin and Pycnogenol. As expected, however, the aspirin also significantly increased bleeding time. The Pycnogenol did not show this undesirable side effect.

In another part of this study, different intakes of Pycnogenol were compared in smokers. It was found that "a single, high dose, 200 mg Pycnogenol, remained effective for over 6 days against smoking-induced platelet aggregation."

The researchers were enthused about the benefits of Pycnogenol and noted that "Pycnogenol prevented smoking-induced platelet aggregation at a lower intake and without the adverse effect of aspirin."

Reference: Putter, M., Gortemeyer, K.H.M., Wurthwein, G., et al. Inhibition of smoking-induced platelet aggregation by aspirin and Pycnogenol. Thrombosis Res 1999;95:155-61.

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Fish Oil After Heart Attack

Surviving a heart attack is cause for celebration, but there are still health concerns-especially for subsequent cardiovascular events. Italian researchers report in the prestigious journal Lancet that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil reduce later risk of stroke, non-fatal heart attack, and fatal heart events.

A total of 11,324 heart attack survivors were enrolled in this study and assigned to take supplements of either 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids daily, 300 mg of vitamin E daily, both supplements, or no supplements for three and a half years.

The supplements of omega-3 fatty acids provided statistically significant health benefits. Long-term use of omega-3 fatty acids in heart attack survivors appears to offer worthwhile heart protection.

Reference: GISSI-Prevenzione Investigators. Dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E after myocardial infarction: results of the GISSI-Prevenzione trail. Lancet 1999;354:447-55.

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New Study Finds Organic Is Superior

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), cited research demonstrating the superiority of organic food to conventional products.

According to the OCA, the study was funded by the Soil Association, the largest organic farmer organization in the United Kingdom, and conducted by scientists at the University of Copenhagen. It showed that organic crops had a higher concentration of vitamins and far more secondary metabolites, which the OCA described as "naturally occurring compounds that help immunize plants from external attack." Some of these metabolites are thought to lower the risk of cancer and heart disease in humans, the association said.

The OCA also pointed out that these findings on the health content of organic food "contrast with research indicating that industrial agricultural practices may be having a detrimental effect on the nutritional value of conventional produce."

In an analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data from 1975 to 1997, the Kushi Institute of Becket, MA, found that the average calcium levels of 12 fresh vegetables declined 27%; iron levels dropped 37%; vitamin A levels 21%; and vitamin C levels 30%.

A similar analysis of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal, found that in 20 vegetables, the average calcium content had declined 19%, iron 22%, and potassium 14%. A 1999 study out of the University of Wisconsin found that three decades of the overuse of nitrogen in U.S. farming has destroyed much of the soil's fertility, causing it to age the equivalent of 5,000 years. A new U.S. Geological Survey report indicates that acid rain is depleting soil calcium levels in at least 10 eastern states, interfering with forest growth and weakening trees resistance to insects.

More data continues to mount supporting the use of organic foods.

Reference: OCA. Organic View, January 1999.

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The Magnesium-Migraine Connection

Magnesium's role in the origins of migraine headaches has been demonstrated in a number of studies. Evidence suggests some 50% of patients have low levels of ionized magnesium during an acute migraine attack. Alexander Mauskop, M.D., and colleagues from the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn set out to evaluate magnesium to treat headaches. The researchers recruited 40 people who suffered from any type of moderate or severe headaches. Age-matched healthy volunteers served as controls. When subjects had an acute headache, researchers measured their ionized magnesium, then gave them a 1 gram intravenous infusion of magnesium.

The results of this study were impressive. Only eight patients had no response to the magnesium, while 32 of the 40 patients had complete elimination of their headache pain within 15 minutes. As with other anti-migraine therapy, symptoms returned within hours in 14 of the 32 patients. Still, with just this one magnesium treatment, 18 of the 32 subjects were free of symptoms for 24 hours or more. Researchers found those without pain for 24 hours or more after treatment were mainly the patients whose initial ionized magnesium levels were low.

The conclusions from this study: A substantial proportion of migraine patients probably have low magnesium. The researchers summarize: "Magnesium deficiency could be involved in both the vascular and neurological aspects of the development of migraine."

Reference: Mauskop, A., Altura, B.M. Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraines. Clin Neurosci 1998;5(1):24-7.

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It appears that there are "responders" and "nonresponders" to the sports supplement creatine. Of the group of responders, the best ergogenic effects are seen in those with initially low creatine levels, such as vegetarians. Creatine aids sports performance by providing energy for short-term activities. Another way that creatine aids an athlete is by improving recovery time.

Reference: Demant, T.W., Rhodes, E.D. Effects of creatine supplementation on exercise performance. Sports Medicine 1999;28:49-60.

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Written by: EcoMall

Disclaimer: These statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and is for educational purposes only. For any serious illness or health related disorders please consult your physician.


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