|Cartilage loss (Part 1)
Osteoarthritis is all about loss of cartilage, subsequent inflammation and changes to bone and joint structure. The result is pain and loss of mobility. The ends of bones such as the femur are covered in tough, flexible cartilage. It may surprise that despite its tough appearance and texture it is actually 80% water which acts like a shock absorber.
Cartilage is a combination of living cells, the matrix they produce plus water. This matrix includes proteins like collagen and elastin and compounds (glycosaminoglycan) like chondroitin sulphate. The specialised cells are called chondrocytes and their job is to secrete and maintain cartilage. Each chondrocyte maintains a small piece of cartilage. In healthy cartilage, all the cartilage is able to be maintained by resident chondrocytes.
Chondrocytes are the real problem with osteoarthritis. Most types of cells can divide and replace themselves. Not so with chondrocytes. Once these have matured they cannot be replaced. If a chondrocyte is damaged, or worse dies, then the tiny patch of cartilage it maintained will eventually disintegrate. While we see cartilage loss as osteoarthritis, really we should see chondrocyte loss as the driver of the disease.
Osteoarthritis starts when chondrocyte cells die causing cartilage to breakdown. While there are a number of things that can damage chondrocytes, in most cases these are a combination of free radical damage from insufficient antioxidants and biochemical (enzyme) changes caused by trauma to the joint. While the triggers vary, the outcome is chondrocyte death and cartilage loss.
This is then followed by unwanted inflammation in the joint capsule that further damages cartilage. Eventually the bone itself becomes compromised and the net result is more pain and restricted mobility.
Nutritional therapy can help, especially in reducing inflammation, slowing the rate of cartilage loss and improving the function of existing cartilage. For example, therapeutic levels (800+ mg) of chondroitin can have significant effects on the health of chondrocytes and therefore cartilage protection and repair. Glucosamine also helps maintain cartilage while Curcumin from turmeric helps reduce inflammation and fluid accumulation.
An ex-builder contacted me two years ago with significant knee pain from advanced osteoarthritis. An orthopaedic specialist had recommended knee replacement. Two years on a personalised joint health programme and he now has very little pain and no longer needs surgery.
In terms of supplements, in most cases we start with a double dose of Bettaflex, giving 1600mg of chondroitin and glucosamine and 400mg of 95% Curcumin extract. To this we add about 6000mg of Omega 3 Fish Oil. Most people start to feel slight changes in 6 weeks with most noticing real differences after 3 months. I have helped thousands of people with cartilage loss caused by osteoarthritis that I am genuinely surprised if we do not get a substantial benefit.
John Arts (B.Soc.Sci, Dip Tch, Adv.Dip.Nut.Med.) is a nutritional medicine practitioner and founder of Abundant Health. If you have questions or need help you can contact John 0800 423559. You can email John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that the health advice given through this column is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any health problem. © John Arts 2020