ACHES and PAINS: What Your Joints, Muscles and Nerves are Trying to Tell You

One in 3 New Zealanders will develop arthritis. By age 60 it affects 1 in 2. Do you have any stiffness, aches, numbness, cramps or shooting pains? Your body is trying to get your attention.

Discomfort is an arrow pointing to Inflammation that urgently requires resolution (see website TIPS for related article). Detective work is needed to determine the causative factors. If these are not addressed then the damage can intensify, move or spread elsewhere, or become systemic and even appear unrelated.

Inflammation can announce itself with pain, swelling, heat or redness. A primary initiating point is Your Gut (TIPS). According to the Journal of Neural Transmission gut bacteria – from impaired digestion, absorption or elimination – can enter the central nervous system and is now linked with chronic fatigue, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Inadequately digested food fractions can force their way through the gut wall and be targeted as dangerous invaders. Consumed regularly these keep the body on weary red alert as can long term stress or infection, toxic exposure, and trauma. Support nutrients are rapidly utilised and their low levels create additional problems. The alkaline minerals needed for muscles, joints and bones are the same ones needed for relaxation, sleep and digestion.

Temporary chemical relief comes in one of two forms: non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or NSAIDS (eg aspirin, Ibuprofen, COX-2 inhibitors), and steroids (eg cortisone, prednisone). NSAIDS work by blocking prostaglandins (PGs) including those that activate pain and swelling. PGs are hormone-like regulators constructed from fats. Some speedily step on the gas peddle to your body’s reactions, while others press on the brake. Whether you primarily produce pro- or anti-inflammatory PGs is determined by the types and quality of fats you eat (TIPS: The Fats of Life). Particularly avoid chemically processed and highly heated fats such as in commercial baking, snack, confectionary, most processed foods, standard cooking oils and table spreads. Buy cold-pressed or virgin oils; cook over lowest possible temperatures; and enjoy whole food sources such as avocado, nuts, seeds and fish.

Regularly using NSAIDS means PGs involved with protecting and lining the digestive tract are also destroyed – hence the related incidence of ulcers, bleeding and heartburn. Using steroidal Medications encourage Weight gain (TIPS), depression, diabetes, bone loss and hip pain. Chemical management can be brilliant in an emergency but with chronic conditions it does not address systemic causes.

Arthritis is a term that covers most inflammatory diseases that affect joints, spine, tendons, bones and muscles. It leads to 25,000 New Zealanders not being able to work each year. 50% of those diagnosed are of working age. 1,000 are children and young adults. Age is correlative not causative. Older people have had more time to accrue untended issues and gather collective assault. According to the New Zealand Orthopaedic Association the incidence of arthritis will increase by 50% over the next few decades, while osteoporosis (weak bones; not a form of arthritis) will increase by an astounding 200%.

Arthritis (and osteoporosis) is common with insufficient alkaline minerals especially Magnesium, Potassium and Calcium (TIPS) which are critical for joint, bone, teeth and muscle integrity. Excess acidity in your diet (Coffee, Sugar-TIPS, soft drinks, cocoa, beer, standard salt) means your Kidneys (TIPS) will withdraw these minerals from storage sites to achieve their priority of keeping the blood slightly alkaline. Alkaline foods include seaweed, most fruit and veg especially when raw, and liquid chlorophyll added to water. Without sufficient silica joints, Bones, hair, nails, Skin (TIPS) and your gut lining weaken with slow growth and vitality (have alfalfa, brown rice, leafy greens, oat straw tea). Lead, mercury, aluminium and other heavy metals kick out needed minerals and exert systemic toxicity. Increased alkaline minerals can displace them and soluble fibre can help eliminate them (enjoy my Linseed Cereal 5 x weekly; see recipe in The Shape Diet).

Contact this office to obtain an allergy test to check for inflammatory reactions to foods. One food group with a likely association of about 75% is nightshades (potato, tomato, eggplant, peppers: includes chilli, paprika). This solanaceae botanical family contains solanine, an alkaloid related to nicotine, other narcotics and poisons. When poorly broken down this affects the metabolism of calcium which gets withdrawn from bones and joints; and it inhibits the cholinesterase enzyme responsible for flexible muscles and regulated nerves. This can then increase pain, weakness, twitching, hypertension, intestinal contractions and sweating.

RA, MS, Lupus, Scleroderma, Sjogrens, Ankylosing Spondylitis and Guillain-Barre are all auto-immune disorders where the body’s own defence forces target and destroy healthy tissue with resultant muscular, nerve or joint pain. Your immune system may do this because it remains on high alert long after an infection or trauma. Or a food fraction may be identified as harmful so you produce antibodies against it. These attacks can also damage the vast and delicate gut lining (impeding digestion) or anywhere you have an inherited or developed weakness.

There is a higher incidence of RA, MS and some other auto-immune disorders the further you go from the equator and in those countries’ coldest regions. This is especially associated with low levels of vitamin D from the action of sunlight on skin (indirect sun, low-peak is fine; no sunscreen) and from foods (egg yolk, oily fish). Healthy kidney function is needed so they can secrete calcitriol – a hormone-like form of vitamin D which adjusts levels of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and oversees strong bone growth. Good Liver health (TIPS) and sufficient, quality fat (especially anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fish oil) is needed to utilise and store the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia are characterised by debilitating fatigue, poor Sleep (TIPS), and varying pain in muscles and joints. This is linked with low serotonin: a neurotransmitter needed for calm, sleep and pain relief. It requires amino acids (tyrosine, tryptophan); Adrenal support (including magnesium, potassium, sodium, vitamin C, Zinc-TIPS); Omega 3; and good gut health (where 95% of serotonin is produced). These disorders are usually preceded by sustained high stress (support adrenals and Thyroid; suboptimal function may escape blood tests) or long term infection from which recovery was poor (check for parasites, yeast overgrowth, sugar sensitivity, liver function, low iron or iodine levels). Also regulate dopamine by checking sensitivity to over-stimulators such as caffeine, sugar, MSG (TIPS).

Muscle Cramping, Neuralgia (nerve pain), Numbness and Tingling indicate that more muscle and nerve nutrients are needed: chiefly potassium and sodium; calcium and magnesium. Specific forms and ratios of each are required as determined by other indicators. Calcium is needed to contract muscles (including the heart; also check fatigue, teeth and bone strength as indicators) while magnesium relaxes muscles (need indicated with cramps, tics, broken sleep, palpitations, shaky tongue, prolonged stress). These two minerals govern the rhythmical movement of food through the digestive tract, ensuring that passage is not too slow or fast.

Potassium and sodium also govern fluid balance (check for puffiness, frequent or infrequent urination); blood pressure that is not too high (cardiovascular damage) or too low (weakness, light headedness); and blood vessel integrity (arteries, veins; silica and zinc also help). B vitamins are critical for nerve function. B12 (often low in vegetarians, the elderly and those with poor stomach and liver function) helps form and stabilise the protective covering around each nerve. Even with no other health issues low B12 leads to confusion, weakness, paleness, dizziness and poor motor control. It is depleted by Alcohol (TIPS), nicotine, high vitamin C, corticosteroids and oral contraceptives.

Nerve pain, sensitivity or a sensation of numbness can be related to poor blood sugar control (also true of psoriasis – linked with arthritis; skin); each meal and snack must provide steady not spiking levels (see The Shape Diet). Have your spinal alignment checked. Pressure can be felt on nerves due to posture; enlarged arteries (use alkaline minerals for flexibility; vitamin E to heal damage; soluble fibre to eliminate excess LDL cholesterol); enlarged veins (employ exercise; vitamin C, zinc, calcium, silica); low B12; stroke; underactive thyroid; infection; scar tissue; tumour.

Extremities need a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients critical to all cells. Exercise, healthy blood vessels and blood sugar levels help ensure this. Ischemia or constricted blood vessels interfere with supply. Cells can’t recover from injury, reproduce or fight infection. This can lead to colour changes (pale or blue) and cold extremities such as with Raynaud’s disease. Restless Leg Syndrome involves uncomfortable sensations in legs – especially at night – unless you move them. This can occur with inflammation; low iron, magnesium or dopamine levels.

Joint and back discomfort requires a thorough Warrant of Fitness check. Scrutinise the obvious: look in a mirror and get a friend to comment on how you stand, sit and walk. Is seating at home, work and in your car comfortable? Are your shoes and garments supportive or restrictive? If there is a time of the day when discomfort is worse then check what you are doing and how, before and while that occurs. Keep a ‘pain’ diary and look for patterns.

Past injury sites will always be weaker and more prone to problems. But supportive behaviours can prevent significant issues. #1: achieve a healthy weight to prevent excess strain. Employ an anti-inflammatory diet (Omega 3 from fish and whole linseed; fire-quelling antioxidants from 5 servings of 5 colours of veg and fruit daily especially berries, virgin olive oil; see The Shape Diet to eat for your metabolic body-type); gentle exercise strategies (6 x 30 minutes weekly; eg walking, yoga, swimming, Vibex) and consider massage, acupuncture, or osteopathy.

Maria Middlestead Reg.Clinical Nutritionist, Auckland Call Today!

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