This post is for you if you were told you have degenerative osteoarthritis (OA) in more than one joint, and that it’s:
- A normal part of aging.
- Genetic and there’s nothing you can do about it.
- Something you can only “manage” with medications, but not solve.
Just like all of the chronic degenerative diseases, we often think that a slow breakdown after age 40 is just a normal “getting older” process. Let’s get this straight right now. Osteoarthritis does NOT have to be par for the course as you age! And if your parents had osteoarthritis, it does not mean that it’s inevitable for you.
What about wear and tear?
OA is known as “wear and tear” arthritis. However, it’s far too common for people who live sedentary lives or have an office job, without hard physical labor or athletic activities that wear down their joints, to have rapid joint degeneration. Sometimes the onset is very early as well, such as in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. Osteoarthritis that affects multiple joints is a systemic immune system disease – not a“wear and tear” disease. Simply put, it’s an inflammatory condition that results in random joint breakdown, often for no rhyme or reason.
There IS is such a thing as “wear and tear” arthritis, for sure. But this is due to actual wear and tear. Here are examples:
- A traumatic injury in a joint can lead to arthritis later in life. But it should only happen in the joint that was injured. This is not a systemic condition.
- Hard-core overuse without proper recovery can happen from jarring athletics or hard physical labor, and this can lead to joint degeneration. However, this should only affect the joints that had the wear and tear.
- Obesity can put more wear on lower body joints and cause OA – especially knees and hips. But since obesity increases OA occurrence in all joints, including hands, we don’t know if there’s an actual wearing down of the lower body joints, or if it’s simply due to inflammation (obesity causes inflammation).
- Improper body mechanics can lead to true wear and tear arthritis. This is a biomechanics issue that can result from injury or repetitive strain, and usually affects only one side of the body.
The bottom line is there can be an actual reason why a knee or shoulder or another joint develops OA, from past injury, trauma, or damage. But random arthritis that is not related to a known wear-and-tear issue is not normal. Think fingers, toes, neck, multiple or random joints, or both sides of your body.
Arthritis is an immune disease
All types of arthritic degeneration happen in an environment of inflammation. This is an immune issue rather than a joint issue. If you have arthritis, you probably know there’s inflammation. You may take medication to suppress the inflammation, which may help you feel better by temporarily masking it. Unfortunately, all of these medications cause collateral damage, to your gut, liver, or kidneys. None of them solve the disease process one bit – in fact, habitual use of these medications actually perpetuates more inflammation! You may take natural anti-inflammatories such as curcumin or fish oil. These don’t cause collateral damage, however, they don’t solve the underlying immune issue either.
Solving arthritis for good
So what is the approach to reversing osteoarthritis? In a nutshell, the project is to identify the triggers of inflammation and resolve them. Afterward, natural anti-inflammatories can take care of residual inflammation, and modalities to heal joint damage such as stem cells, injections, acupuncture, and supplements can work better.
In my clinical experience at least 80% of the time, OA inflammation is caused in part by a gut issue – These people have increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut). Leaky gut is caused by inflammation, typically from:
- Inflammatory foods like bad oils and junk food.
- Food proteins that trigger an IgG antibody response. We can figure these out with educated guesses, systematic trial, and error, blood tests, or a combination.
- Toxins from intestinal microbes like pathogenic bacteria or yeast. We can test for these with a DNA-based stool analysis called the GI Map. This test has an add-on marker for leaky gut, called zonulin.
It’s rare to have OA without a leaky gut. Fortunately, it’s easy to identify the causes of leaky gut and fix it!
If fixing your diet and gut does not stop leaky gut and arthritis inflammation, then we look for other root causes of inflammation. Inflammation doesn’t happen in a vacuum without triggers. Even if you have a genetic susceptibility, something in your environment triggers the process. We look for these sources of inflammation:
- Stress chemistry – yup, stress creates inflammation!
- Obesity – abdominal fat cells pump out inflammatory cytokines.
- High blood sugar, high insulin, or hypoglycemia are all inflammatory.
- Chronic allergies or histamine intolerance.
- Chronic infections such as UTIs, vaginal BV or yeast, Epstein Barr, HPV, and Herpes, among others.
Luckily all of the causes of inflammation can be investigated, identified, and helped.
Want help stopping your arthritis before heading down the path to chronic pain, deformities, or one or more joint replacements? Please reach out! It is never too late to stop the progression of OA and reverse it in its tracks!