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Arthritis is often thought of as a normal part of aging, with about 50 million people in the United States currently experiencing some form of this debilitating joint condition. But cases are on the rise in younger populations, too — particularly rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack joint linings and tissues.
Achieving long-term relief from arthritis has been a challenge for practitioners and patients. But there’s good news: Research on complementary and alternative approaches for arthritis is expanding, as doctors and scientists look for other therapies that can halt, slow and hopefully reverse the processes of chronic inflammation and joint destruction.
A number of natural treatments are showing effectiveness against many forms of arthritis. One approach focuses on a specific protein in the body called galectin-3. When galectin-3 levels in the blood get to be too high, they cause chronic inflammation and have been linked to numerous degenerative diseases, including cancer and heart disease as well as arthritis.
What Is Galectin-3?
Galectin-3 is a type of protein found inside cells as well as in tissues and in the bloodstream. At normal levels, galectin-3 is perfectly healthy and plays important roles in cellular communication, development and immunity. At elevated levels, however, galectin-3 actively promotes cancer by allowing cancer cells to clump together, grow, metastasize and dodge the immune system.
Elevated levels of galectin-3 in the body also spur the development and progression of numerous degenerative diseases related to chronic inflammation, fibrosis (uncontrolled scar tissue buildup), unhealthy cellular growth and, eventually, organ failure.
Research shows that elevated levels of galectin-3 are directly responsible for the inflammation, swelling, stiffness and joint destruction characteristic of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis. Published research has likewise demonstrated that the dietary supplement modified citrus pectin (MCP) has the unique ability to bind to and inhibit galectin-3, offering protection against a number of inflammatory diseases, including arthritis.
The Secret To MCP’s Anti-Arthritic Actions
As an integrative physician, I have been prescribing MCP in my clinical practice for more than 15 years, originally to address cancer and heavy metal toxicity. Since the 1990s, published research has shown MCP’s effectiveness in preventing cancer growth and metastasis through its ability to block excess galectin-3 molecules and selectively modulate the immune system. Clinical research has also shown MCP’s ability to safely remove heavy metals such as lead, mercury and nickel from the body, without affecting essential minerals.
These benefits make MCP an important tool within a strategic anti-cancer and chronic disease treatment protocol. But early in my practice, it was also remarkable to me how quickly this single ingredient could offer relief from arthritis and joint problems. After starting on MCP for just a few weeks or less, many of my patients would report a noticeable reduction in joint pain and stiffness and an overall increase in well-being.
This was before scientists discovered galectin-3’s role in chronic inflammation and fibrosis of joints, organs and tissues. My colleagues and I had originally suspected that MCP’s ability to relieve arthritis was due to its heavy metal detoxification benefits. This is certainly part of the big picture, since heavy metals can accumulate in joints and surrounding tissues, causing inflammation and pain.
However, as the body of galectin-3 research grew, scientists discovered galectin-3’s primary role in fueling inflammation and fibrosis throughout the body. That’s when MCP’s primary mechanisms against arthritis became clear.
Modified Citrus Pectin: Proven Galectin-3 Inhibitor
Through the expanding field of galectin-3 research, MCP continues to earn recognition as a proven natural galectin-3 inhibitor. MCP is produced from regular citrus pectin using an enzymatic modification process that allows it to absorb into the circulation and work throughout the body. It binds and blocks excess galectin-3 molecules, chelates heavy metals without affecting essential minerals, and provides additional immune modulating properties that even make it helpful for people with autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.
Research On Galectin-3 And Arthritis
High levels of galectin-3 molecules have been found in the lining of joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Research shows excess galectin-3 molecules stimulate the production of inflammatory proteins that promote joint destruction. When taken as a supplement, MCP’s specific structure allows it to attach to galectin-3 molecules and inactivate them, breaking the cycle of inflammation, pain and joint damage.
Simple Galectin-3 Blood Test
As the extensive body of published research continues to validate the role of galectin-3 in cancer and inflammatory fibrosis-related conditions, this rogue molecule may serve as the foundation for a new class of chronic illness: high galectin-3 diseases. In 2011, the Food and Drug Association approved a simple galectin-3 serum test to determine cardiovascular disease risks and prognosis. With a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, this test should be covered by most insurance; and experts estimate that it will soon be approved in the diagnostic and prognostic evaluation of numerous other conditions, including diabetes, hepatitis, cirrhosis, kidney disease and arthritis.
One of the most important therapeutic goals in dealing with arthritis and so many other conditions is to reduce inflammation and increase circulation. In addition to MCP, a number of other integrative therapies may be useful. Research suggests that the herbs boswellia, curcumin from turmeric, gotu kola and stinging nettle can be useful for rheumatoid arthritis. Also, the traditional Chinese herbal formula Huo Luo Xiao Ling Dan showed effectiveness in a 2012 study. A Tibetan Herbal Formula also has shown benefits in restoring joint function in arthritis patients, mainly because of its anti-inflammatory and circulation-boosting abilities.
Of course, diet and lifestyle are also critical. A nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet emphasizing alkaline foods can make a significant difference. Also, regular, gentle exercise such as walking or Tai Chi can help reduce inflammation and support circulation to joints and tissues.
Studies show that maintaining a healthy weight is another important component of an anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritis program. Therapies such as massage, osteopathy and acupuncture can also help significantly.
Arthritis is a general term to describe the process of joint inflammation and destruction, and there are a number of types of arthritis with different causes. A holistic, integrative program that emphasizes diet and gentle movement along with targeted herbs and supplements to reduce inflammation and support joint tissues can help alleviate joint pain and help you stay active.
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