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Holistic Health Notebook

By Staff | Jun 23, 2010

Funny how you don’t think about certain parts of your body until they hurt or stop functioning like they should. Knees, for example. Who thinks about their knees when they can bounce out of bed in the morning or when they can jog up and down stairs without flinching? But when you need assistance getting up out of a low-seating couch or you take one stair at a time because your knees hurt, you pay attention. Is this what “getting old” means?

A recent study found that within six months of receiving a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in the knees, people made several lifestyle interventions, often without the advice of their physician, and saw improvements in their pain and function. Part of their “home treatment” involved using dietary supplements, some of which really work.

One of the most popular supplements for joint health is glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin, two nutrients that aid in rebuilding the cushioning tissue between joints. When the studies about GS starting appearing in the literature a couple decades ago, they looked promising in the treatment of an incurable condition. People were getting about the same benefits they were getting from well-known drug therapies. Studies are still being published that compare these natural products with drugs, both from a cost-to-benefit ratio and flat results, and the conclusions are about the same, even after 20 years.

But GS doesn’t work for everyone. I find that about 50 percent of people benefit from GS and chondroitin. Why such low numbers? I don’t know for sure but part of the reason may be that they are allergic to shellfish. Almost all the GS products on the market are taken from shrimp and other crustaceans. Make sure you get a shellfish-free product, even if you don’t think that shrimp gives you problems.

Are your knees still inflamed? The “fires” burning in the knees continue to erode bone.

We have many, many options for reducing inflammation including the MSM that I talked about last week, ginger, boswellia, curcumin, bromelain, high doses of vitamin C, and so on. Creative companies have put many of these herbals/nutrients into combinations that are really effective in decreasing inflammation.

Other lifestyle considerations would be moderate amounts of low-impact exercise including strength-building exercises, plenty of sleep, stress management, and (hugely important) diet considerations.

My clinical experience has been that many people would rather pop a pill than make lifestyle changes. Is that your experience? If so, you will benefit but give it time. It takes time to resolve chronic inflammation, especially if you are still stuffing pro-inflammatory foods into your body or if you still insist that you get along just fine on six hours of sleep per night.

My weak area is exercise. I really hate it but my doctor keeps asking me if I have started and I know I need to build strength into the muscles supporting my weak knees. Want to help me out? Every time you see me, ask me if I have started exercising yet. Perhaps you can embarrass me into doing what I know I need to do.

Carol is a certified lifestyle educator. She owns the Island Nutrition Center on Sanibel. She can be reached at 472-4499 or via her website at www.carolsimontacchionline.com.