Heal Inflammation to Help Heal Joint Pain
Written 8/25/2016, updated 7/25/2022
Gotta do my disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, I don't diagnose, treat or cure anything. If I could, I'd cure the FDA of its assault on my first amendment rights. Otherwise, I'm just sharing what I learned online, from my Functional Medicine training and from friends. Thank you for hanging out with me! Please share what you’ve learned in the comments.
David, a good friend, has rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a hideously painful and crippling auto-immune disease. Debilitating joint pain is a feature. He was diagnosed at age 27. Back then, he was told he'd be in a wheelchair tout de suite (fast), and dead not too long after that. In the meantime, he was prescribed meds to suppress the pain.
I guess healing the inflammation as a path to heal joint pain was not considered. But, geez, there's some news, eh? Told at 27 you will soon die a slow, painful death, get your ducks in a row.
My friend is not easily convinced. That was 22 years ago. He's walking, talking, happily married with children, and playing serious-league baseball with kids literally half his age! Against all advice, he refuses to take medication and works out like a fiend. Every day on his Facebook status, you see he's checked in at the gym. Relentless.
At first, he tried the pills. Those didn't work, so he started researching. Al Gore had just invented the internet (ok, I love that joke, I'll try not to wear it out) so it was not an all-encompassing encyclopedia. David had to actually GO TO THE LIBRARY and read! Which he did. Relentlessly.
Like me and probably many of you, Adele Davis was an early mentor. David changed his diet from SAD (Standard American Diet) to whole, nutrient-dense foods as organically grown as possible.
Over the years, a few things on the menu have changed. He's now grain-free, of course. Grains and joint pain do not mix! In the meantime, here's what I've learned from David, from you, and how we use that knowledge.
First: What is Inflammation?
According to the experts, chronic inflammation is, if not THE root cause, a primary factor in every disease. Every. Disease. Including those causing joint pain.
Note that it's chronic inflammation that's so bad. Regular is good, regular as in "acute" meaning at the moment of injury. An acute inflammatory response is needed to heal an injury.
Your cells are damaged every day by pretty much everything: sun, exercise, illness, a slip and fall, broken heart, food poisoning, indigestion, a cough, etc. When a cell is damaged, inflammation steps in to help heal or repair that cell. Once the cell is repaired, the inflammation goes away. However, when there's too much damage happening all at once (like in these disease states), the inflammatory response gets overwhelmed and just keeps going and going. This can become chronic, keeping your body in an inflammatory state 24/7.
Chronic inflammation results in a loss of communication at the cellular level, rendering it unable to repair injury and allowing disease to take hold. It's a terrible cycle, this disease/inflammatory state. One begets the other!
Ways to Heal Inflammation and Get Symptom Relief
As a functional medicine practitioner, my primary goal is to help clients heal their health problems at the root. Symptom relief is job one! You have to feel better asap. Chronic pain is a terrible way to live. We deal with relief, then immediately move on to healing.
The following areas need attention when it comes to healing inflammation and getting symptom relief.
Every suggestion below has helped others, including Hal and I. You can do it all eventually, but no need to do it all Day One. Give a go at whatever looks good to you. Keep what works, then try the next thing. Just don't give up. #berelentless
Sulfur as Opti-MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)
An amazing supplement, it’s been well determined in the alternative health community that we are all deficient. Sulfur’s main job is to heal inflammation.
If you do nothing else on this page, at least TAKE SULFUR.
We take the recommended dose every day, buy it here. We like the Opti because it's manufactured in the US, it's trademarked and produced using a different technique which typically produces a slightly higher assayed purity %.
The powder is even cheaper BUT it tastes NASTY. Like sulfur :) We dissolve in warm water, then drink quickly. Or you can put in a shot glass, pour a little kombucha over it, toss back, then chase with a bit more kombucha. Easy, really.
If you want to know more on sulfur, go to westonaprice.org and search "Seneff". Dr. Stephanie Seneff has written quite a bit on it.
Sulfur does so much good for you, we consider it essential now!
Grass-fed hydrolyzed collagen is excellent for supporting joint health. Your joints and bones (and nails and hair) are made of collagen! Every morning, I put 1 Tbsp of Perfect Supplements Collagen in my coffee. (Use code “sallyo” for 10% off.)
It dissolves instantly, has no taste and doesn't "gel" so mixes well in tea or smoothies.
My mom as well as a few friends have used Preventix for joint pain and swear by it, plus it gets RAVE reviews on Amazon.
Diets Designed to Heal Inflammation
As many have discovered, a whole foods diet minus grains and sugars is the foundational bomb when it comes to healing inflammation. To put a name to the diet, it's more ketogenic than anything else: high fat, moderate protein, low carb (less than 50 grams of carbs a day). Paleo or Primal, even Carnivore diets work, too.
Here are the diet experts who've taught me a thing or two:
First things first. Get this cookbook: Nourishing Traditions cookbook for $16. As much real foods primer as cookbook. You will be delighted you own this incredible resource, I promise.
According to Dr. Art Ayers, who is hands-down the most-knowledgeable guy on the topic of inflammation, fixing the diet is fundamental. His first post at Cooling Inflammation in 2008 was on diet: "My impetus for writing was my growing awareness that diet was the major reason why people were sick, and that health myths were preventing people from being healthy. Inflammation originated by diet-inflicted injury..." Here's a good intro article with a link to his anti-inflammatory diet.
We read Kathryne Pirtle's book Performance Without Pain a few years ago -- it changed our lives!
Then there's Dr. Terry Wahls. Her book is a phenomenal read, very inspiring. Watch Dr. Wahls tell her story (17 min) about recovering from MS by changing her diet. Outrageous testimony to the healing power of food!
Healing Heberden Nodes & Diet
My friend and sister WAPF chapter leader Ellen Ussery shared the following about gluten and Heberden Nodes (arthritis in fingers - the kind that leaves your fingers crooked). Her husband, Harvey of The Modern Homestead, was developing Heberden Nodes:
"When my husband eliminated gluten from his diet, his [Heberden Nodes] were arrested completely: no more pain!!!! And the two joints did not get any more deformed... After about 15 years they are still the same, just mildly crooked. I did not have the nodes but did have pain that was completely eliminated after going gluten-free, so I suggested that he try it too."
They also swear by Green Pastures’ FCLO/BO which we also take every day.
Enzymes to Reduce Inflammation
Yep, it ALL boils down to the gut. Hippocrates is credited with saying, "All disease begins in the gut." I'm credited with saying, "If it all begins there, it can all be healed there." Makes perfect sense, right?
In fact, every holistic health practitioner will tell you the same thing: heal your gut first because nothing else can be healed without that foundation! The very best most efficient way to a healthy gut is to take digestive enzymes with every meal. I take these enzymes formulated by Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez.
Dr. Gonzalez was a very successful and respected alternative cancer doctor, a WAPF board member and, tragically, one of the 50 holistic doctors who have died mysteriously in the last year. You can read up on his cancer healing protocol here. It's based on enzyme therapy, read about that here. A brilliant doctor, he saved many lives. It's terribly sad and unbelievable that he's no longer with us.
Having been an over-exerciser most of my life, I'm a fan of the less-is-more idea, particularly if there is any inflammatory and/or auto-immune disease going on.
I recommend Tabatas. Anyone, even my 87yo mother, can do a Tabata. Only four minutes at your maximum effort. < < < Click to learn more.
To improve health and fitness, start with one Tabata (4 minutes) 3-4 times a week. That's it. You can add more Tabatas as your fitness level improves to a max of 5 Tabatas at a time (20 minutes).
Not including stretching, need at least 10 minutes of gentle stretching.
More than 20 minutes of exercise starts to become counter-productive because of how it affects cortisol, your stress hormone.
Here's why you must exercise: you have to get the blood flowing, the breath moving, the heart pumping to keep the nutrients and digestion and detox mechanisms in shape.
PLUS -- and this is big if you are over 30 -- use it or lose it. If you are not doing what you can to keep your muscle strength, it is declining. Did you know that muscle mass is an indicator of longevity? If you want to keep what you have, you gotta work it.
Probiotics support healing by populating your gut with healthy bugs, flora and bacteria. If healing the gut is essential for healing everything else, you need probiotics no matter what the dysfunction.
Now, you can get those good bugs one of two ways: take a supplement or eat homemade sauerkraut every single day. When I took supplements, I cycled them: 3 months on one brand, then switch to a different brand, using two or three brands in the rotation. You don't want a monoculture down there! The world of probiotics is rapidly advancing -- there are so many new brands with more coming online all the time. People are seeing remarkable results, too.
Here are the brands I currently recommend -- I will update as I change brands: Just Thrive, Hyper-Biotics and Ultra-Biotics Advanced. (If you are prone to UTIs, then take Pro-Women Hyper-Biotics instead of the "plain" Hyper-Biotics. And, if you get frequent UTIs, you might be suffering candida overgrowth. Call me!)
Sauerkraut is much more affordable. Most days, this is how I refurbish my gut. I eat a Tbsp of homemade 'kraut almost everyday day - that's enough. On days I miss the 'kraut, I pop a probiotic. I have 4 jars in my fridge that a friend made (yay). But it's so easy to make 'kraut, even I can do it! All you need is salt and cabbage. Plus, you can make jars and jars of it in one afternoon. Stored properly, it lasts forever. Click here for a simple sauerkraut recipe. Back to top
I know, I know: "pre" biotics should come before probiotics, right? Here's why it can't: prebiotics help the good gut bugs proliferate. So you gotta have good gut bugs in residence ready to multiply, see? First, you have to load up on probiotics, get a colony going, THEN add pre-biotics and get those babies multiplying.
Here's my post on pre-biotics: My Heal Your Gut Smoothie, scroll down to "Why Each Ingredient" and read up on resistant starch. In a nutshell, resistant starch (RS) is indigestible fiber. Since it's indigestible, it sits in your gut and ferments. The fermenting process and resulting mush feeds your gut bacteria and they multiply.
While you have several options when it comes to RS, potato starch is our go-to. When not doing a smoothie, we simply drink it straight up: 4 T in a short glass of water. Tastes like nothing, your gut will thank you. You don't want potato flour! Potato starch is different, that's what you want. Bob's Red Mill potato starch, while not organic, is made from non-GMO potatoes (I wrote and asked them) and is often found in the grocery store in the baking section or the health food section. If not, it's cheap here on Amazon. Here's an inexpensive organic potato starch, too.
I have many friends who take 3-6 mg boron everyday. One in particular credits it for removing all pain from her knees in 3 weeks. She and others make their own from 40 Mule Team Borax. It's practically free, easy to make, and perfectly safe: mix a tsp Borax in a quart of water, then drink a tsp of that mix every day.
DH and I used to make our own from Borax. We now actually eat the Borax. Yes, 40 Mule Team in the coffee or smoothie or mixed in a little milk with sweetener. And we take 100 mg a day. We are not insane, we are biohackers and read up on this stuff all the time. Here’s the book where we got the insane idea that you can safely consume borax. So far, so good.
My post on how Curcumin Cures Everything
LDN (Low Dose Naltrexone)
My husband and I take this every day: he takes it for inflammation (he has bone-on-bone ankle joints) and we both take as a cancer preventive.
WHAT IT IS: Naltrexone is a generic drug used in a 50mg dose to help suffering addicts recover. However, in small daily doses (0.5 mg, about a tsp -- hence the "low dose" part of the name), it is helping millions of people find relief from various autoimmune diseases, inflammation, cancers, autism, chronic fatigue, and depression. It is extremely affordable and presents few known side effects.
I've been a member of this yahoo group since 2008: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/lowdosenaltrexone/
Great podcast by Linda Elsegood who has MS and uses LDN: http://wisetraditions.libsyn.com/40-autoimmune-help-with-ldn
Linda's book The LDN Book
Dr. Thomas Cowan has several podcasts and articles on LDN -- he's used it in his practice for many years:
Wise Traditions interview: http://wisetraditions.libsyn.com/the-deeper-reasons-behind-why-people-get-sick
Interviewed by the LDN Trust: https://www.mixcloud.com/LDNRT/dr-thomas-cowan-14th-december-2016-on-the-ldn-radio-show/
Mercola interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXB8lztHZp0
Interview on Phoenix Helix podcast: http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2016/02/27/episode-39-ldn-with-dr-thomas-cowan/
There is talk in the alternative community that RA (and other diseases, like auto-immune and cancer) are based in a virus. So makes sense to take an anti-viral. Here's what we take.
I've had the herpes virus ever since I can remember. About 10 years ago, I started taking lysine, took 500mg every day for 2 years. I used to get cold sores so huge, that my husband would name them. Yeah, funny. But, since the end of that 2-year mark, I almost never get an outbreak and, when I do, it's just a bump on my lip, then goes away. No monster anything and no pain.
I stopped taking it regularly for a few years, but still no outbreaks. Even so, we've added it back. Seems like there's a virus under every rock these days...
Please, please, please
Share what else we need to know/recommend. What has worked for you to heal joint pain? What on the list above has NOT worked for you? Thanks -- anything you share is greatly appreciated!