It’s funny, but we take our ability to move through life without pain as a given, until suddenly there is that painful joint, keeping you awake at night, and stopping you doing what you would like to do during the day.
It’s what brings most people to the Physio, which can help, but what really is going on? And what other factors are at play?
Given enough force, friction stops cars, starts fires, and smooths even the hardest surfaces. Every movement of our body causes friction somewhere. Even the movement of air into and out of our lungs causes friction. Our skin against our clothing. Our tendons against our bones. The movement of blood in our arteries. Everything that moves is subject to friction.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that friction can be the cause of joint damage. Joint pain and arthritis is a painful problem related to friction and inflammation that can occur anywhere there is movement.
Think of a rope running through a pulley. No matter how smoothly it runs, eventually, the friction will cause the rope to fray and tear. This is exactly what would happen inside our joints if it wasn’t for a very special substance that our bodies actually make to reduce the friction and repair the damage in our own tissues. These magic substances are compounds called cortical steroids.
Corticosteroids are a group of specific substances whose purpose in the body is to reduce tissue damage and therefore the inflammation created by everyday friction.
They are made in the adrenal glands, which are 2 small but vitally important glands which sit on top of your kidneys.
Corticosteroids are made in the adrenal cortex. Thus the name.
You might have heard of the term “steroids” which most commonly we hear about as therapeutic agents, as pharmaceutical treatments like the common cortisone injections your doctor might offer you for…. joint pain.
Also in the group are:
Prednisolone – the asthma medication and treatment for other inflammatory disorders hydrocortisone – the topical cream used to treat skin irritations
Dexamethasone – another potent steroid used to treat severe inflammation. There are more.
These medications are used to treat inflammation. They have the same systemic effects on your body as your own “endogenous” which means produced in the body corticosteroids. They reduce the inflammation caused by friction. Unfortunately, they also have a lot of side effects, and their use is avoided as much as possible for this reason.
I always remember the story of the famous tennis player Pat Cash, whose career ended because of an overuse of steroid injections into his Achilles tendon which resulted in it weakening and rupturing.
So, in this case, the question should be – why is your body not producing enough of your own corticosteroids to deal with the friction and inflammation in your body?
Now we are getting closer to the root of the problem.
Our adrenal glands are extremely stressed in our modern lifestyle, and If we want them to be able to make enough cortical steroids we also need to take care of our adrenal glands and not over-tax them.
What are the most common stressors for our precious adrenal glands?
What Causes Inflammation?
There are several things common in our western diets that cause inflammation. The biggest ones are saturated fat, and sugar, with stress high up there as well.
Saturated fat: these fat molecules are very stable, and in order for the body to chemically convert them into a useful molecule that can be converted into a corticosteroid, free radicals are created in the process.
This causes oxidation when the body tries to convert it to a suitable molecule to convert to a cortical steroid, (saturated fats are solid at room temperature – think fat on meats, butter, cheese, coconut oil, palm oil).
Prednisone Molecular Formula
Hydrogenated fats: these are well documented to cause oxidative compounds in the body (margarines and hydrogenated oils which are chemically altered to make them solid at room temperature too)
Sugar has profound effects on the body, with proven inflammatory reactions. It causes a rapid increase of insulin which results in a seesawing of blood sugar levels and hormonal release, causing great shocks for the body systems.
In this study 50mg of sugar caused an increase in C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker within 30 minutes of consumption with the effect still evident 2 hours later. (Ref Acute effects of feeding fructose, glucose and sucrose on blood lipid levels and systemic inflammation )
Alcohol as soon as you consume it is converted into triacylglycerides which are inflammatory fats stored in the liver and blood vessels.
All of these substances are stored in the liver. The only way out for them is to be excreted in the bile. And unless there is a good amount of soluble fibre present in your diet the bile will recycle without excreting the waste products it needs to.
To reduce joint pain therefore we need to consume a diet high in *unsaturated* fats that reduce inflammation, high in soluble fibre to clean the bile, provide high levels of minerals and quality carbohydrates for energy for healing and protein for rebuilding of tissues.
We know that the normal turnover of cells results in completely new tissues on a regular basis. For example bones – every cell in your bones will die off and be replaced, meaning that in 2 years you can have completely new bones. Your glands will turnover completely in 3 months. Your gut lining will turn over in just 3 days. Each tissue type has a slightly different rate of renewal.
The key is giving your body the raw materials to do what it needs to do – to heal.
Diet For Healing Your Joint Pain & Inflammation
There’s a Do Not eat these things list. A Do eat these things list- these will help you heal.
DO NOT EAT sugar, caffeine or other stimulants, saturated fats, dairy, fruits, supplements or alcohol while you are healing a painful joint. Even herbal teas can set you back because of biochemical interactions. Don’t use iced water – it causes a stress response and removes vital warmth from your body causing stress. Room temperature and warmer is best. Avoid fragrances of any kind – even essential oils, these cause hormonal stress responses.
EAT at least a cup a day of salted nuts (who doesn’t like salted cashews!), or the equivalent – 1 cup nuts = ½ cup nut butter = ¼ cup good quality polyunsaturated oil. Salted homemade popcorn could be a good choice too- drizzle your favourite oil over it as a snack.
Peanut butter is delicious on celery sticks (I think), just make sure it doesn’t have hydrogenated oil or sugar added which many commercial ones do.
Make sure to have a little salt with it to assist in the production of those vital corticosteroids.
Your skin, nails and hair will also thank you.
LEGUMES. Eat ½ cup 3 times a day away from your fats. If you eat the beans with fats then the beans will absorb the fats instead of them being available for steroid production. These provide a wonderful source of soluble fibre, but also high quality carbohydrates and contain large amounts of minerals and b vitamins like selenium, folate and zinc which assist in the healing of inflammation. They also absorb and excrete triglycerides from the bile, lowering cholesterol and inflammation generally.
Eat at least ½ cup vegetables with every meal. These can be cooked or salad – but if salad you need to triple the amount. Tomatoes, avocados and mushrooms are classed as vegetables because of their mineral content.
Vegetables can provide all of the vitamins and minerals you need without the blood sugar spikes caused by eating fruit.
DRINK PLENTY OF WATER – at least 2.5-3 litres a day to allow your kidneys to excrete the excess wastes. The hotter the better. Since I gave up coffee I like to sip hot water from a thermos all day long.
Condiments and grains such as bread, pasta, rice are fine as long as they don’t contain saturated fats, or more than 5g of sugar per serve, but only eat these once you have filled up on the EAT essentials above.
For specific health issues, these e-courses are highly recommended Nutritional Practice.
To find out more about What To Eat To Speed Up Healing visit this link.
This blog post was written by Nicole Brammy.
Acute effects of feeding fructose, glucose, and sucrose on blood lipid levels and systemic inflammation
Faizan Jameel, Melinda Phang, Lisa G Wood, and Manohar L Gargcorresponding
Nutritional Practice Hurd Karen, 2021