It's All Greek To Me
One of the most popular uses for supplementing with Curcumin is the debilitating disease of Arthritis which is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the joints. The word arthritis comes from the ancient Greek word arthro meaning joint and itis which means inflammation. Athro + Itis together become arthritis. The first known use of the word dates back to the 1500s.
Arthritis differs greatly from other disorders such as rheumatism which is general aches and pains. Doctors will often refer to rheumatism and musculoskeletal conditions and these are thought to be disorders that impact the joints and are different to arthritis.
Arthritis can be a quite debilitating disease and sufferers often complain that it hurts when they move and movement itself becomes restrictive. The symptoms vary greatly and people should always seek professional medical advice.
There are up to one hundred types of arthritis but generally a medical diagnosis of arthritis can be divided into two common types. The first type is osteoarthritis which is not an autoimmune disorder, but appears as a result of general wear and tear later in life.
People suffer greatly with osteoarthritis as it causes the joints in the body to feel stiff and ache. The symptoms reportedly feel worst first thing in the morning, usually 20 - 30 minutes after waking. The pain is also reported to worsen during physical exercise and towards the end of the day. Also after periods of inactivity, sufferers often complain that the joints feel as though they are cracking or might give way. The sensation of the joints giving way sometimes indicates that there may be a weakness of the surrounding muscles. The weakness of the muscles can be improved by strength training, however exercise may itself exacerbate the unwelcome symptoms.
Unfortunately, in advanced stages of the disease, constant pain leads the sufferers being unable to perform the simplest of daily tasks and chores and the appearance around the joints may look red and swollen.
The second type of arthritis is known as rheumatoid arthritis and is an autoimmune disorder and develops from the body's immune system attacking itself. The etiology of the word rheumatoid comes once again from Greek with rheumatikós meaning 'which flows as a river or stream' and the Greek suffix oid means some that resembles or looks like. Therefore, rheumatikós + oid led to the English word rheumatoid meaning something that resembles a river and in this context perhaps the meaning relates to the flow of inflammation in the human body of people with rheumatoid arthritis.
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are numerous and include joint stiffness, pain, redness, warmth, joint deformity. The symptoms can also include anemia. The treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are varied. Firstly, there is a type of medication called Non Steroidal anti inflammatory Drugs, NSAIDs for short, that attempt to reduce the inflammation, pain and swelling associated with the condition. NSAIDs work by targeting Cyclooxygenase enzymes(COX) which are responsible for inflammation in the body. Other well known medications for pain relief target the Cox enzymes such as aspiring and ibuprofen. Curcumin has also been shown to work well as an anti-inflammatory targeting the Cox-2 enzyme.
Rheumatoid arthritis is also treated using corticosteroid medications such as Prednisone. Corticosteroids are thought to be an highly effective treatment fro the pain and inflammation associated with the condition. Corticosteroids are also known as glucocorticoids and they mimic the activity of the steroid hormone Cortisol which is released into the body from the adrenal glands. One of the functions of Cortisol is to suppress the immune system. The use of a drug that can suppress the immune system can help resolve some of the negative effects of Rheumatoid arthritis which an autoimmune disease.
Another series of drugs called Disease Modifying Anti Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) don't attempt to alleviate pain or swelling, but try to interfere with the underlying causes of the disease. There are two types of DMARDs, conventional and unconventional. Conventional DMARDs are a random group of drugs that have no particular relationship to each other except that they all attempt to change the course of the underlying disorder. The interventions using unconventional DMARDs include the use of Methotrexate, Sulfasalazine, Leflunomide, Hydroxychloroquine, Azapathine and even Gold injections.
The second type of unconventional DMARDs are known as biological therapies or biologics. Biological therapies are medications that have been created in order to target specific molecules that are involved in the disease process. In particular, many biologics medications such as Adalimumab, Certolizumab Pegol, Entanercept and Infliximab all attempt to block the action of the inflammatory signalling molecule Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF). Many studies have also shown that Curcumin also has the ability to block TNF.
The incidence of Arthritis is not equally distributed between populations which suggests that genetics play an important role in the development of the disease. In fact, a significant factor noted in the development of the disease are the variations found in the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA). HLA genes, in particular HLA - DRB1, produce proteins that assist the immune system in distinguishing between the body's own proteins and those of invaders, foreign particles. When the genes don't work correctly, the immune system fails to recognise foreign particles such as bacteria and viruses which then leads to disease.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) using self reports about Artritis, from 1989 - 1991, found that in regards to ethnicity, Rheumatoid Arthritis was found in Black people 24.5%, Native Americans / Alaskans 22.6%, Hispanics 22.2%, Non Hispanic Whites 17.5%, Non Hispanic Blacks 24.3%, Whites 17.6% and Asian Pacific Islanders 13%. A 2017 article in the Washington Post suggests that 1 in 4 adults in the United States suffer from Arthritis citing a more recent CDC report. Statistics for the United Kingdom state that there are 10 million sufferers.
Statistics suggest that the onset of Arthritis can be as early as 31 years of age up to 60 years and effects rich and poor alike. Even famous people such as Kathleen Turner, Tatum O'Neil, Rosalind Russell, James Coburn and Glen Frey to name but a few have suffered with the disease.
More recently the famous singer songwriter and actress Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, better know to her legion of fans as Lady Gaga, said “I fought RA pain with my passion”, referring to Rheumatoid Arthritis. She appeared on the front cover of the a 2017 issue of Arthritis magazine discussing her condition and has been much lauded for bringing more attention to the condition.
Science is increasingly looking to the world of epigentics which has determined in simple terms that the expression of genes can be switched on and off. This may explain why certain foods help or hinder certain diseases in how they effect the expression of genes. In Arthritis, there are many foods that are thought to be triggers such as inflammatory foods such as fried and processed foods, AGES from heated, grilled, fried and pasteurised foods. Other triggers include Sugar and refined carbohydrates. The usual suspects such as dairy, alcohol, salt and certain preservatives are believed to trigger arthritis. Foods high in omega 6 such as many oils including corn oil also have a negative impact.
The foods that have a positive impact on the disease include Turmeric with its active ingredient Curcumin but also other foods including Green Tea with its active ingredients known as Catechins. Fruits, in particular berries such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries strawberries and blackcurrant have been found to ease symptoms. Many of these are Anthocyanin containg foods which relates to the pigments, the rich colours found in the foods that have anti-inflammatory properties. Don't just eat your greens, eat your reds and purples as well.
Other helpful foods are those that contain vitamin C such as oranges and and foods that contain Carotenes. Foods containing Carotene include cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, kale, butternut, pumpkins, squash and spinach. Flaxseed is also thought to help due to its omega 3 properties.
In a report entitled 'The spice for joint inflammation: anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in treating osteoarthritis' the Department of Pharmacology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre, Cheras, Malaysia suggested that Curcumin would be useful in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
The report suggested that invitro, Curcumin was shown to help stop cell death in the cartilage matrix and help to suppress cyclooxygenase, prostaglandin E-2 as well as inflammatory cytokines by way of inhibiting nf-κb signaling.