Amino Acids for Hearing Loss: Understanding the Vital Role Certain Amino Acids Play

Chances are, when you think about protecting your hearing health, nutrition isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But maybe it should be. Here’s how nutrient intake, specifically of certain key amino acids, impacts hearing health.

Though nutrition may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you consider your hearing health, researchers working in the field of nutrient science have found that certain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids can be quite impactful. Before delving into what scientists have uncovered so far about amino acids for hearing loss, we’ll first review some fundamental facts about hearing loss.

Basic Facts About Hearing Loss

Hearing loss occurs when part of the ear or overall auditory system malfunctions. Possible sites where malfunctions might occur include:

  • Hair cells of the inner ear
  • Organ of corti
  • Spiral ganglion
  • Stria vascularis
  • Auditory brainstem

Hearing loss has degrees of severity ranging from mild, which limits a person’s ability to hear soft sounds, to profound, which prevents a person from hearing anything but very loud sounds.

Normal hearing is defined as hearing thresholds of 25 decibels (dB) or better in both ears. Any individual who does not meet that criteria technically has some degree of hearing loss. The colloquial phrase “hard of hearing” applies to individuals with mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss. Typically, those individuals can communicate through spoken language, though they may find hearing aids, cochlear implants, captioning, and other interventions useful.

Those who identify as deaf most likely have profound hearing loss. Because they can hear very few, or no, sounds, it’s common for deaf individuals to use sign language to communicate.

According to a fact sheet compiled by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), more than 2 out of every 1,000 children born in the United States annually have detectable hearing loss in one or both ears. Hearing tests show that 13% of people over the age of 12 who live in the United States have hearing loss in both ears. Furthermore, 37.5 millions adults living in the United States experience some level of hearing loss.

As individuals grow older, their odds of experiencing hearing impairment increase. In fact, age is the single most significant predictor of hearing loss for adults between the ages of 20 and 69—the highest rates of hearing loss occur among those in the 60 to 69-year-old age bracket.

Sex affects your odds of experiencing hearing loss too. Men have nearly twice the risk women do of developing hearing loss. And race seems to play a role as well, with non-Hispanic white adults reporting higher rates of hearing loss than other racial and ethnic groups.

It’s common for age-related hearing loss to become increasingly severe. Approximately 2% of adults between the ages of 45 and 54 have hearing loss significant enough to be considered disabling, meaning “hearing loss of 35 decibels or more in the better ear, the level at which adults could generally benefit from hearing aids.” That rate rises to 8.5% for adults between the ages of 55 and 64. By age 65 nearly a quarter of adults could benefit from hearing aids, and by 75, more than half could.

Unfortunately, very few of the people for whom hearing aids could be helpful actually use them. Only one in three adults 70 and older with significant hearing loss have used hearing aids.

7 Quick Facts About Hearing Loss

Probing the Link Between Nutrition and Hearing Health

Though some studies on nutrition and hearing health were conducted as early as the 1930s and 40s, it took until the late 1980s for researchers to clearly state that diet plays a role in the development of certain hearing disorders. Now, scientists have conclusively determined that insufficient dietary intake of certain nutrients, including amino acids, can cause hearing loss.

These findings stem largely from population-based studies as well as trials done with animal subjects. A study done by Saudi Arabian researchers, for example, looked at whether dietary deficiencies of certain amino acids correlated to hearing impairment among 18 to 21 year olds.

The authors used a food questionnaire to determine the dietary habits of study participants—with a focus on amino acid intake—in combination with other survey questions. They also reviewed existing literature and findings on the beneficial impact amino acids can have on hearing health.

First, they looked at arginine, a conditionally essential amino acid known for its blood pressure and protein synthesis benefits. “Studies have indicated that arginine is protective against sensorineural hearing loss,” the authors note, as well as “cochlear damage caused by the toxins that are produced in Streptococcus pneumoniae infections.” Evidence supports the use of arginine as a preventative treatment in order to provide cochlea protection.

They also address the role played by methionine, an essential amino acid with powerful antioxidant properties. This amino acid has been shown to lower a person’s risk of ototoxic hearing loss, which occurs as a result of the ingestion of chemicals, including those found in some medications, that cause damage to the inner ear.

The authors mention, too, that deficiencies of methionine may produce hearing loss. They reference an epidemic of peripheral neuropathy in Cuba from 1992-1993 that affected over 50,000 people, some of whom developed high-frequency sensorineural deafness. “Obvious malnutrition was not present,” the authors wrote, “but a deficit in micronutrients including methionine appeared to be a primary determinant of the epidemic.”

They also reference the ability of glutathione, a free-radical scavenging antioxidant made up of three amino acids (L-cysteine, glycine, and L-glutamate), to reduce your risk of developing hearing loss caused by acoustic overstimulation, or noise exposure. “A depleted glutathione state increased noise-induced hearing loss, whereas replenishment of glutathione lessened the damage,” they explained. Furthermore, glutathione can protect against ototoxic hearing loss caused by gentamicin, particularly for individuals whose diets contain low levels of protein.

Last but certainly not least, they touch on the important role played by taurine, another conditionally essential amino acid. Taurine appears to make vital contributions to the development of human hearing capacities, both anatomically and functionally. “Infants with inadequate taurine in their diets had shorter auditory brain stem responses,” the authors stated. And animal studies have shown that supplementing with taurine encourages the brainstem auditory response to mature earlier.

Further Findings on Amino Acids for Hearing Loss

Taurine may hold particular promise as a means of treating tinnitus, a hearing malfunction that impacts approximately 10% of adults living in the United States. Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley published findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicating a correlation between tinnitus and decreased levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter. The team concluded that finding ways to change GABA functions could help to treat tinnitus, and taurine could be one possible route for doing so.

A separate study published in Hearing Research examined how daily taurine supplementation impacted chronic tinnitus in rats. Rats given a high dose of taurine—294 mg/kg—showed significantly reduced symptoms of tinnitus. “These results are consistent with the hypothesis that taurine attenuates tinnitus and improves auditory discrimination by increasing inhibitory tone and decreasing noise in the auditory pathway,” the authors concluded.

The connection between amino acids and hearing health appears to be intimately intertwined with the way amino acids influence neurotransmitter levels. A review published in Neural Regeneration Research offers perspective on this issue as it applies to glutamate and glycine. “Glutamate is well established as an excitatory neurotransmitter of auditory nerve fibers,” the authors explained, and likely other ascending auditory pathways as well. Glycine, meanwhile, acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central auditory system.

How to Use Amino Acids to Maximize Hearing Health

Your particular hearing concerns will determine which amino acids you’ll want to seek out in order to maximize your hearing health. The following overview of the links between certain amino acids and auditory functions can help you build a personalized diet and supplement plan.

Arginine

Evidence shows that arginine, a conditionally essential amino acid, helps protect against sensorineural hearing loss,  which accounts for about 90% of all cases of hearing loss. Arginine can also prevent cochlear damage resulting from illnesses caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria such as pneumonia, meningitis, and sinus and ear infections.

Foods high in arginine include:

  • Chicken
  • Dairy products
  • Lentils
  • Turkey
  • Soybeans
  • Spirulina

Carnitine

Carnitine, an amino acid already quite popular for its anti-aging impact, appears to have a positive impact on hearing loss related to brain stem auditory deficits caused by diabetes. It may also increase hearing health for older individuals.

Experts advise supplementing with acetyl-L-carnitine because the body absorbs it more readily and it facilitates the transportation of fatty acids to the mitochondria of inner ear cells, a crucial step for energy production.

Cysteine

This nonessential, sulfur-containing amino acid plays a number of important roles related to your hearing. First, it safeguards the function of inner ear cells and second, it acts as a precursor for glutathione, another amino acid relevant to hearing health.

Evidence indicates that when individuals supplement with n-acetyl-cysteine, they’re unaffected by noise levels sufficient to cause permanent hearing damage in other individuals. Plus, it can counteract the negative effects certain medications and cancer treatments have on your hearing, including cisplatin.

Glutathione

Deficiencies of glutathione (an antioxidant composed of cysteine, glycine, and glutamate) make individuals more susceptible to hearing loss following noise exposure. Those already experiencing this type of hearing loss can mitigate the damage by supplementing with glutathione. Glutathione also prevents gentamicin from harming the cochlear.

As we age, our glutathione levels decrease sharply. This can be particularly dramatic in the auditory nerve, raising the question of whether age-related hearing loss might be caused in part by dropping glutathione levels.

Histidine

Our bodies need histidine, an essential amino acid, to maintain the protective myelin sheaths that surround our nerves. Histidine deficiencies can contribute to nerve deafness as well as other types of hearing loss.

Methionine

Methionine keeps auditory hair cells as well as auditory neurons safe from ototoxicity, particularly from aminoglycosides, ionic platinum compounds, and cisplatin. However, this amino acid plays somewhat of a dual role in hearing health as it’s a precursor to homocysteine. Excess levels of homocysteine may obstruct blood flow to the inner ear.

If you increase your methionine intake, be sure to maintain optimal levels of folic acid as well as vitamins B6 and B12 to keep your homocysteine levels in check.

Taurine

As addressed in some detail previously, humans need taurine to develop brainstem auditory responses. There’s also some indication that this amino acid could be used to treat tinnitus.

Dietary taurine comes primarily from red meat, poultry, and fish, so vegetarians and vegans may need to pay particular attention to sourcing this crucial nutrient.

Use These 7 Amino Acids to Prevent and Treat Hearing Loss

Liver Failure Death: Causes, Symptoms and Stages

What are the causes and symptoms of acute and chronic liver failure? How is liver damage diagnosed? Prevented? What are the stages that lead to liver failure death? Find out here.

The human liver is one of our most vital organs, responsible for filtering our blood and detoxifying our bodies. Without a functioning liver, we first become jaundiced, and after a certain point, we can no longer stay alive without liver transplantation. Any issue with liver function is a life-threatening healthcare emergency. So come with us as we explore the leading causes of liver damage and the progressive stages of liver failure death.

What Causes Liver Failure Death?

Cirrhosis is late-stage scarring of the liver (fibrosis). According to those who study hepatology, the most common causes of cirrhosis in the United States are due to hepatitis C infections and heavy alcohol consumption. These chronic liver diseases not only affect one’s quality of life, but can also lead to the end of life.

However, there are other causes of acute liver failure that have a much faster onset, such as drug or toxin overdoses. Genetics are also among the risk factors that can contribute to liver damage and disease, as are obesity, autoimmune disorders, and various forms of cancer.

Liver failure death: causes, symptoms, and stages.

Causes and Symptoms of Acute Liver Failure

Acute liver failure is a rapid decline of liver function caused by:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose
  • Viral hepatitis infections (hepatitis A, B, and E)
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Adverse reactions to medications for epilepsy, antibiotics, or even nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Adverse reactions to herbal supplements like kava (a nightshade plant) or ma huang (ephedra)
  • Wilson’s disease (a rare genetic disorder that causes copper buildup and poisoning)
  • Hepatic vein thrombosis (also known as Budd-Chiari syndrome)
  • Exposure to toxins like poisonous mushrooms or industrial chemicals

The symptoms of acute liver failure include:

  • General malaise or a feeling of unwellness
  • Persistent tiredness, drowsiness, or sleepiness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes or skin)

Causes and Symptoms of Chronic Liver Failure

Chronic liver failure is characterized by long-term progressive damage from the following causes:

The symptoms of chronic liver failure and breakdown could entail:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Jaundice of the eyes or skin
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Severely itchy skin
  • Darkening of the urine
  • Fluid buildup in the arms or legs (edema)
  • Fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites)

The Symptoms of Liver Cancer

Cancer that develops in the liver (referred to as primary liver cancer) could also be the cause of liver failure. Those with cirrhosis (the third stage of liver failure) are more at risk of developing liver cancer, which could then shut down the organ or spread to the rest of the body. Liver cancer symptoms could include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Itchy skin
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Abdominal pain or swelling

The Stages of Liver Failure

Liver failure and liver disease are two different things, but one of them can cause the other. Liver disease encompasses any ongoing condition that damages the liver, including inflammation and infection. Liver failure occurs when the liver loses a portion or the entirety of its functionality.

Damage to the liver can come in stages, creating a systematic shutdown of the body and requiring end of life care from health care professionals. What follows are the details of those various stages.

1. Inflammation of the Liver

Inflammation of the liver is often the beginning of the damage that can ultimately lead to a person’s death. Not everyone will notice or feel when their liver becomes inflamed or enlarged, and if the inflammation continues unabated, permanent injury or scarring could occur, leading to the next stage of liver failure.

2. Fibrosis of the Liver

Fibrosis is liver scarring. While the liver is one of the most unique organs thanks to its ability to heal itself (unlike the heart muscle), long-term damage from repeated intoxication or uncured or incurable infections can still build up. When scar tissue begins to take the place of healthy and functional liver tissue, it diminishes the liver’s ability to function. Again, this progressive damage is not always detectable, and the longer it persists, the more it affects the individual’s survival rate.

3. Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis is characterized by severe scarring of the liver. When the damaged tissue accumulates enough to interrupt liver functioning, it puts your health in serious jeopardy. When scarring starts to outnumber and overwhelm healthy tissue, the liver begins to fail. Sometimes this stage is the first one that presents symptoms noticeable by the individual, including jaundice, dry mouth, muscle cramps, increased ease of bleeding, buildup of fluid in the abdomen (ascites), peripheral edema, and reduced brain functioning (hepatic encephalopathy).

4. End-Stage Liver Disease

Those with end-stage or advanced liver disease require palliative care and may be placed on a waiting list for a liver transplant by their health care provider depending on their MELD score (model for end-stage liver disease). This score was established to evaluate the short-term (90-day) survival rate of people with advanced liver damage, and it is determined by a series of blood tests. The MELD score ranges from 6 to 40, with 6 being the best change of survival.

Liver failure death: causes, symptoms, and stages.

Diagnosis of Liver Failure

Doctors may use several tools and methods to diagnosis and evaluate the severity of acute liver failure, including the following.

  • Blood tests: These tests include liver blood tests for enzymes that indicate liver functionality, CBC tests (complete blood count), or other blood tests to look for issues like viral hepatitis infection or undiagnosed genetic conditions.
  • Imaging tests: An MRI, ultrasound, or CT scan may be used to visually inspect the liver.
  • Biopsy: A tissue sample may be taken from the liver to investigate for scarring or other signs of disease and infection.

Liver Failure Treatment Options

First of all, in cases of acute liver failure, the patient will need to be hospitalized, and possibly in the intensive care unit to be given round-the-clock support as medical staff attempts to stabilize and treat their condition. Depending on the cause of the liver failure, a person may either recover or require a liver transplant.

For liver failure resulting from a chronic condition, often the first step is addressing the cause. If it’s drugs or alcohol, rehab needs to be part of the protocol. If it’s due to a viral hepatitis infection, then treatment will follow accordingly. For those with autoimmune conditions, certain therapies may be suggested by the medical team depending on the effects of the condition. If liver failure is a matter of lifestyle causes (poor diet or overuse of medications), then those behaviors would have to be addressed as part of a comprehensive treatment.

The American Liver Foundation says that liver failure can actually be reversed if it’s caught at the second (fibrosis) stage. For the third or cirrhosis stage, while the damage may not be reversed, it can be slowed, stopped, or treated so that the person may continue to live healthily.

For those with end-stage liver failure, however, if a liver transplant cannot be performed, the only follow-up may be end-of-life care.

How to Prevent Liver Failure Death

Given how important liver health is to human survival, taking care of your liver and your overall health is the best way to prevent sometimes permanent and deadly liver damage. Some ways to protect your liver include:

  • Abstaining from alcohol or only drinking in moderation
  • Never mixing medications with other drugs or supplements without a doctor’s consent
  • Never mixing medications with alcohol
  • Taking over-the-counter medications only when needed
  • Taking prescribed medications only as directed and to completion
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Aiding liver detox with your dietary choices
  • Getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B

Liver Long and Prosper

If you suspect there is anything wrong with your liver, seek medical advice immediately. The sooner you intervene on behalf of your liver’s health, the better chance you have at being able to reverse the damage done and heal completely. In many cases liver failure death can be prevented, if it’s caught in time and if you follow your doctor’s advice. Eat well, detox regularly, and you may well live long and prosper.

Building Muscle After 50: Top 7 Tips to Go from Sedentary to Stacked

Discover how to build muscle and maintain strength after turning 50: types of workouts, frequency of workouts, and how to supplement effectively now that you’re half a century strong.

One of the biggest concerns that face us as we age is muscle loss. Age-related muscle loss begins in our 30s and ramps up after 50. In advanced years that muscle loss can ultimately contribute to frailty if it’s not combated with proactive muscle building along the way. While those who have kept up with physical activity throughout their 20s and 30s have a much better foundation to build on, it’s never too late to begin weight training or resistance training, gaining muscles that get stronger the more they’re used. Because of these reasons, building muscle after 50 is necessary to keep you healthy and active for the rest of your life.

Sarcopenia: The Silent Breakdown

Age-related muscle loss is known as sarcopenia, and it’s one of the reasons that some of our grandparents lose their independence. The muscle loss that begins in our 30s and doubles down in our 50s gets even more aggressive after 70, but it’s not necessarily a downward slope. Studies show that we can gain muscle clear into our 90s, so not only is building muscle after 50 in the cards, but building muscle after retirement is a go as well. So what’s the holdup?

The issue is aging, and the fact that while we’re young we often don’t have to work as hard to stay fit and recover quickly. Side effects of aging come on gradually, and muscle-building efforts need to increase along with it. Maintenance just won’t cut it: to build muscle we have to challenge ourselves to workouts that are hard to perform at first, and when that level is mastered, we have to go harder.

Octogenarian bodybuilder Ernestine Shepherd was interviewed by The Independent, and revealed that she didn’t start her targeted muscle-building efforts until she was 56 years old, and this was after a lifetime of no exercise and even being exempt from phys. ed. in school because of car accident injury she’d had as a child. Nevertheless Ernestine says that she went from being a receptionist (a sedentary job) to a professional bodybuilder, in better shape and with more energy in every new year. In 2010 she was declared the oldest competitive female bodybuilder by the Guinness Book of World Records.

If, like Ernestine you’re starting from scratch after 50, how do you begin? Read on for some starter tips.

Top tips for building muscle after 50.

The Top 7 Tips to Begin Building Muscle After 50

When a young man or woman decides to build muscle, it often takes no more effort than just trying. Some weight lifting, some cardio, and before these youngsters know it they’ve got muscle groups popping up in places they didn’t even know they had. But for older adults, building muscles is not just about losing weight and looking good, muscle gain starts to become vitally important to staying healthy and independent as we approach our 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

As you age, not only do your joints creak and your hairs turn gray, but your muscle cells start to get eaten up and then not replaced. The younger we are, the more quickly the metabolic process revolves between catabolism (metabolism involving molecular breakdown to access energy) and anabolism (the metabolism of building new complex molecules like muscle proteins with that energy). When we get older, that process—along with so many others—slows down.

Reaching 50 is ideally the halfway point of a long and healthy life, and maintaining muscle strength is important if we want another strong 50 years on this earth. So without further ado, here are seven ways you can optimize your protein intake and start building muscle after 50.

1. Come to the Light

If you want to safely begin to build muscle after years of a largely sedentary lifestyle, you don’t want to head straight to the bench press. It’s not fun but it’s true: a twinge or a tweak to any one of your joints in these early days could snowball into a very severe injury if you’re not careful, derailing your efforts before you even really get going. You’ll get to the deadlifts and barbells soon enough after you’ve built up sufficient strength, but when starting out, start light.

Embracing lighter free weights can spur muscle growth without putting your wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints in any risk whatsoever. Studies show that more reps with lighter weights can stimulate protein synthesis just as well as lower amounts of reps with heavier weights. Lighter-weight training not only helps prevent initial injuries, but it also serves as a useful tool for repairing injuries. Similarly, higher reps with lighter weights leads to real muscle gain in older adults, so the only thing you’re losing out on is risk, not reward.

Once you build up a foundation of muscle, you and your joints will be strong enough to load up a barbell with ever-increasing weights, but as you begin, light is alright. Play to your strengths when it comes to strength training, and you’ll invariably improve as you age.

2. Stay on the Move

A sedentary lifestyle is dangerous to people at any age, but the damage done by inactivity compounds as we get older. To gain muscle, you have to not only incorporate a strength training program but also keep up with cardiovascular health. If your blood isn’t pumping well, you’re not getting the steady supply of oxygen and nutrients needed to build new protein for your muscles.

The cardio impact of walking and running changes in older adults, as seen in this 2010 study comparing younger (24 +/- 3 years) and older (64 +/- 6 years) participant groups. If you’re starting from scratch, begin with walking, increase to jogging and then treat yourself to new pair of running shoes, and know that you’re contributing to your muscle-building efforts with every new mile you cover.

3. HIIT Back

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to burn calories and build muscle quickly for all ages and fitness levels. HIIT is characterized by alternating short bursts of intense physical activity with periods of rest, and according to the Mayo Clinic, it can particularly benefit seniors down to the cellular level, and even reverse certain symptoms of aging.

While experts don’t recommend that every workout be a HIIT workout, cycling it into your workout regimen can help push your abilities to higher heights. And if you’re in a HIIT class full of athletes, just remember that your high intensity is different from their high intensity, and that’s a-okay!

4. Rest to Recover and Rebuild

Regular exercise doesn’t mean constant exercise, and in fact research shows that rest days are just as valuable for muscle building as workout days are. Recovery time means rebuilding time for your muscles, while overtraining syndrome occurs when excessive exercise is paired with an inadequate amount of resting time. The results of overtraining come with side effects that disturb the body’s neurologic, endocrinologic, and immunologic processes, along with the unwelcome symptom of mood changes.

Your recovery times over 50 may be longer than they would be if you started working out in your 20s or 30s, but you’ll know your body best: rest as long as you need, and then get back at it with the gains you’ve made.

5. Stretch It Out

If your muscles are tight, it’s imperative that you stretch them. Stretching before (particularly dynamic stretches) and after your workout helps to limber up the muscle fibers and reduce the risk of muscle strains and sprains, whether you’re working out on your own or under the guidance of a personal trainer.

A full-body workout is not complete without stretching, so be sure to pencil it in, as increased flexibility can help you avoid injury and perform better in your workouts.

6. Good Things Come in Threes

Have you heard of the rule of thirds? It’s a photography guideline for visually pleasing picture compositions. Do you know what “omne trium perfectum” means? It’s Latin for “everything that comes in threes is perfect.” Those rules apply to your strength-training workout frequency too: 3 days a week is a perfect minimum.

While the more’s the better, especially if you’re diversifying your workouts (lift weights on one day, go for a run on the next, etc.), it’s nevertheless true that strength training at least 3 days a week can lead to good progression in muscle building and is a great place to start.

7. Feed Your Need

You cannot make muscles without protein. More specifically, you cannot synthesize new muscle protein without a proper amount of all nine essential amino acids. Most people looking to build muscle know that a high-protein diet and possibly consuming whey protein supplements will help them in gaining muscle, but just because you’re getting enough protein doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting all the amino acids required to build lean muscle without your body cannibalizing the other muscle cells you have to supply the demand.

Research shows that consuming protein regularly throughout the day and especially after a workout helps stimulate muscle protein synthesis to its optimal degree in elderly people who are well advanced beyond age 50. To gain muscle while maintaining what you already have built, we recommend choosing a muscle-building protein supplement that has a full host of balanced amino acid content so you have all the ingredients you need to create new muscle.

You’ll Muscle Through

Building muscle mass is far from being a young person’s game: it’s everyone’s game to play and to win. While it’s important to start cautiously if you’ve never worked out before, it’s never too late to start building muscle, and the more you gain, the younger you’ll feel, as it’s been scientifically proven that proper fitness can reverse certain aspects of the aging process.

The health benefits of building muscle after 50 go far beyond improving your body weight and maintaining a trim physique. The strength-training efforts you start today can help you lose weight and, according to the American Bone Health organization, also help improve your bone density, which will matter more and more in the coming decades. Lifting weights or engaging in HIIT exercises 3 times a week could mean staying strong for the rest of your life.

The Top 10 Supplements and Vitamins for Joint Pain

Here are the top 10 natural supplements and vitamins you can use to boost bone and joint health, relieve pain from osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis, and strengthen your body’s cartilage resources.

Joint pain afflicts many people, often in cases as serious as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that can diminish one’s range of motion and quality of life. In the case of most arthritis conditions, previously healthy joints begin to develop degenerative conditions, whether genetically or through wear and tear. Levels of chronic pain vary, but there are dietary supplements that can help before resorting to dangerous pharmaceutical drugs for pain relief. This article runs down the top 10 supplements and vitamins for joint pain management.

The Unfortunate Abundance of Arthritis

Almost a quarter of the American population is afflicted with some form of arthritis. Pain in one’s joints can arise from many different conditions involving bone health, connective tissues, or the immune system, but the one thing they all have in common is a shared need for joint support.

While over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol (acetaminophen) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil (ibuprofen) are often quick solutions for joint pain relief, when it comes to chronic conditions, taking drugs indefinitely can lead to other side effects. Stomach bleeding, kidney stress, and liver damage, can all result from taking too many drugstore medications, and often people want relief without risking other aspects of their priceless health.

What follows are natural supplements and vitamins that can support bone and joint health without the need for drugs or medications.

Top 10 supplements and vitamins for joints.

The Top 10 Supplements and Vitamins for Joints

Here are 10 proven aids for joint health you can safely add to your daily routine.

1. Glucosamine

Glucosamine is a natural, crystalline compound found in our cartilage and connective tissue. Cartilage is the rubbery component of our joints that keeps our bones from rubbing together as we move (which would cause pain and dangerous wear).

Many joint disorders involve the breakdown of cartilage. But cartilage can not heal like our skin or our livers can, because cartilage has no blood supply. Therefore, in an effort to maintain healthy cartilage before it wears away to nothing, glucosamine can be consumed.

While glucosamine has been extensively studied in connection with osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease or DJD), researchers are still unclear on how it works. Of the two types of glucosamine supplements—glucosamine hydrochloride and glucosamine sulfate—glucosamine hydrochloride appeared to be ineffective in improving joint pain according to a 2013 meta-analysis of studies. And a 2007 study found that glucosamine sulfate did improve osteoarthritis symptoms.

When it comes to joint health, glucosamine sulfate is suggested for supplementation, as studies indicate that it may work by slowing down the narrowing of your joint space, a marker of worsening osteoarthritis progression.

2. Chondroitin

Chondroitin is a central component of cartilage, much like glucosamine. It, too, may help prevent cartilage breakdown due to osteoarthritis and other joint conditions.

Studies have shown that chondroitin has the ability to relieve joint pain and lessen the stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. Up to 53% of those who take it report a significant improvement in knee pain.

Chondroitin sulfate may also slow down joint narrowing and delay the degenerative progression of osteoarthritis.

Preservation is the name of the game in degenerative cases, meaning chondroitin is another valuable, natural addition to this list. Both chondroitin and glucosamine can often be found packaged together in joint supplements on the market.

3. Turmeric

A natural supplement known for its anti-inflammatory effects, turmeric root has a bright golden-orange color and can help relieve inflammation throughout the body, including in joints afflicted with arthritis. Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric that makes it an effective supplement, and it has been shown to perform significantly better than a placebo when tested in randomized clinical trials, as can be seen in this systematic review and meta-analysis from 2016.

Some studies suggest that turmeric may perform at the same level as ibuprofen, making it an excellent potential replacement for over-the-counter drugs that may cause digestive damage if taken too frequently.

4. Vitamin D

Having low levels of vitamin D is linked with a higher likelihood that you’ll suffer from joint pain. Not only does vitamin D aid the absorption of calcium (the bedrock component of your bones), but it also helps regulate phosphorus, another key player in bone health.

You can purchase a vitamin D supplement, or you can get it from eating fortified foods like cereal and milk (which also contain calcium), or from the natural rays provided by a few minutes’ exposure to the sun.

5. Frankincense

Frankincense, aka boswellia, is another natural compound like turmeric that is known to have an anti-inflammatory effect on arthritis and more. The active components in the extract are known as boswellia acids, and they have been clinically proven to ease knee pain and increase knee flexion and walking distance better than a placebo.

6. ASUs (Avocado-Soybean Unsaponifiables)

Avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs) are the extracts from avocado and soybean oils that can help prevent cartilage breakdown. They’re known to possess anti-inflammatory, anabolic, and anticatabolic properties, and on a practical level can reduce joint pain and stiffness while improving joint function in human subjects.

7. SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine)

S-adenosyl-L-methionine or SAMe is a derivative of the amino acid methionine. While methionine is an essential amino acid that you need to consume to gain, SAMe is a chemical created naturally from methionine in the liver. One of its functions is to aid in the production and repair of cartilage tissue.

Supplementing with SAMe can enhance these effects, as was found in this 2004 study comparing SAMe with the anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex (celecoxib). After 1 month of supplementation, Celebrex was out-performing SAMe, but at the 2-month mark both were performing more-or-less equally.

8. Devil’s Claw

The charmingly named devil’s claw, or harpagophytum, contains an anti-inflammatory compound known as harpogoside. Devil’s claw is native to southern Africa and a member of the sesame family, and is so-called because of its hook-like fruit. In this study from 2000, devil’s claw was found to be comparable in effect to diacerein, an anti-inflammatory drug, providing yet another promising natural alternative to drugs for joint pain relief.

9. Fish Oil

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil—DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)—not only have anti-inflammatory effects but can also improve heart health, brain function, and liver health. When it comes to the joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, a recent 2017 study found that consuming fish oil supplements helped reduce joint pain in the participants with RA.

10. Calcium

No joint health list would be complete without calcium, the building material that keeps us all standing tall.

Up to 99% of the calcium in our bodies resides in our bones (and our teeth). Without sufficient calcium, our bones become weak, more prone to fracture and dislocation. Weakened bones will inevitably impact our joints, which are defined as the space where two bones meet, or join together, and may cause joint deformity or even an acceleration of cartilage and joint tissue damage. For all of these reasons, calcium matters greatly when it comes to joint health.

Without enough calcium, too many people develop osteoporosis, a bone disease that comes with its own side effects of joint pain and weakness. The Arthritis Foundation asserts that getting enough calcium is vital for those with rheumatoid arthritis and those who are taking corticosteroids for treatment, as they both increase the risk of osteoporosis, which leads to a higher risk of falls, fracture, and joint deformation.

Calcium can be found in dairy products like milk and yogurt, fortified and enriched foods like breakfast cereals, and dark greens like spinach and broccoli. Women generally need to consume more calcium than men, especially women who have been pregnant.

Superior Joint Health Supplements

Consult your doctor for advice on supplements and vitamins for joint health, as not all supplements are closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Your doctor knows best what your joints need and in what dosages, so that they don’t conflict with any other medications (like blood thinners) or treatments you’re currently undergoing. When seeking supplements for joint pain, natural remedies are the best option if your condition is responsive to them, so do not hesitate to try.

Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD): Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a chronic condition that cannot be cured but can be managed to help preserve the joint health you still have before it’s too far gone. Let’s take a look at the causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is another term for the condition known as osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis. Painful and debilitating, this disease afflicts more than 30 million Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and this article details its causes, along with its prevention and treatment options.

What Is Degenerative Joint Disease?

Degenerative joint disease, or DJD (the medical abbreviation), is an all-too-common chronic joint disorder. Your joints are the spots in your body where two bones meet and are joined together via layers of cartilage and connective tissues like muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

With DJD, the cartilage starts to break down in the joint space, allowing painful bone-on-bone contact that causes stiffness, disability, and many other adverse symptoms. We’ll review those symptoms below, and then go on to discuss what causes DJD and how to slow its development.

The Causes of DJD

Age is one of the leading causes of DJD, commonly referred to as “wear-and-tear” arthritis because that’s often how it develops: a lifetime of using your joints may wear down the cartilage that keeps your bones separated. Other risk factors include a family history of joint disorders like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS).

Causes include:

  • Torn cartilage
  • Ligament injury
  • Dislocated joints

Whether the joint damage comes from an accident or is just a side effect of daily activities done under your own body weight, the pain can interfere with your life, and could ultimately require a joint replacement surgery.

The Nature of Cartilage

Your cartilage is a tough, rubbery, flexible substance that protects your bones while allowing them to move and slide against each other. When your cartilage starts to break down, the bone surfaces begin to roughen, causing pain in the joint and inflammation in the surrounding tissues.

Cartilage cannot repair itself like your skin or even your liver can—there are no blood vessels in cartilage, and so the damage suffered there is damage that is permanent.

Once cartilage wears away entirely, there is no more buffer between your bones to cushion their contact. What follows are the symptoms of that condition.

DJD Symptoms

Degeneration of cartilage can happen in any joint in your body, but the most common joints affected are the joints in your hands and fingers, hips, spine, and knee. The symptoms of DJD can include:

  • Joint pain: Pain in your joints during movement or even at rest could be an indication that there is friction between your bones and less cartilage to prevent it. This pain may worsen as the disease progresses.
  • Inflammation: A burning or itching inflamed feeling may be felt in your joints and surrounding tissues.
  • Stiffness: As stiffness worsens, your range of motion may become more limited, interrupting your daily activities and decreasing your quality of life.
  • Tenderness: The joints may become sensitive to the touch, especially if DJD develops in your fingers and hands.
  • Swelling: Synovial fluid (an egg-white-like viscous fluid in your joints) may increase in DJD cases, causing painful swelling. It may also contain broken-off pieces of cartilage freely floating within it.
  • Joint instability: Your joints may fail, buckle (lock up), or otherwise become unstable and unreliable, possibly causing falls if DJD is in your knee joints or hip joints.
  • Other symptoms: As DJD progresses, other symptoms may arise, like weakening muscles, bone spurs, and joint deformations.

While this condition and these damages are not reversible, there are ways to treat and alleviate the resulting pain.

DJD vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not the same as DJD. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder rather than a degenerative condition that can be caused by natural wear and tear. While they share similar symptoms, they are nevertheless different conditions and require different treatment methods to manage.

DJD Diagnosis

If you have joint pain, your doctor may take a medical history and assess your symptoms before ordering an imaging scan from either an X-ray or MRI machine to evaluate the condition of your bones and joints. A blood test may be ordered to rule out rheumatoid arthritis, and a fluid analysis may be conducted to find out whether your joint pain is caused by an infection or possibly gout.

Degenerative joint disease: causes and treatments.

DJD Treatment Options

Because DJD cannot be reversed, these treatments are therapies meant to manage your symptoms and retain the health you still have. This is why early diagnosis is important—you’ll want to slow the progression of the degeneration as much as possible. Outside of pain and anti-inflammatory medications your doctor may suggest or prescribe, here are lifestyle changes you can make to help manage DJD at home.

Low-Impact Exercise

Not only does exercise shore up your muscle strength, which provides joint stability, but certain low-impact exercise techniques like yoga or swimming can help stretch your body, alleviate stiffness, and improve your flexibility and pain management tools.

Gently stretching, going on walks, or practicing tai chi can improve your range of motion and preserve the joint health you still have.

Weight Loss

If you are overweight or obese, your weight-bearing joints like your knees are under extra strain, which could quicken the progression of DJD. Losing excess weight may not only improve your joint pain but could also save you from other health dangers like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Quality Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep improves your mood and mental health and allows your joints to rest and recover at the end of each day. Tips for a good night’s sleep include sticking to a regular bedtime, following the same pre-sleep routines, and going to bed in a cool, dark room.

Hot and Cold Therapy

You can help relieve joint pain by applying a heating pad or cold compresses as needed to the afflicted joints. Doing so can reduce swelling and inflammation and draw blood to the area to help repair surrounding tissue damage.

DJD Medications

Medications and pain killers that may help you manage DJD include:

  • OTC analgesics: Over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) along with pain-relieving gels, creams, or topical patches may help you manage pain flare-ups.
  • NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) can help reduce swelling and joint pain.
  • Antidepressants: The antidepressant duloxetine (Cymbalta) may be useful in helping you achieve pain relief—ask your doctor if it’s appropriate for your condition.
  • Corticosteroids: Oral or injected corticosteroids are prescription medications that can provide joint pain relief.

DJD Natural Treatments

Your doctor may advise that you try to avoid relying on drugs if you can manage your pain more naturally. Here are non-drug supplements that could help your DJD symptoms.

  • Green tea
  • Ginger
  • Fish oil
  • Glucosamine

Likewise natural physical treatment options include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Epsom salt baths

Don’t Let Degeneration Get You Down

There are very few upsides when it comes to degenerative conditions: the pain you’re in now might be persistent and progressive, and it’s hard to find a silver lining in what, medically speaking, is a downward slope. Focus not on what you can’t control, instead set your sights on how healthy you can be around degenerative joint disease, how well you can preserve your joints, and how you can build strength going forward.

SI Joint Pain: How to Identify and Relieve Sacroiliac Joint Pain

SI joint pain: find out if your lower back pain is coming from your sacroiliac joints, what causes this pain, and what treatment options are available to relieve it.

Your sacroiliac or SI joints are located in your lower back, and may be the source of low back pain you experience. This article has information that will help you identify SI joint pain. We’re also covering the different methods of pain relief and treatment options.

Where Is the SI Joint?

Issues with the sacroiliac joints are thought to be the cause of 15-30% of chronic lower back pain cases. A problem at your SI joint may manifest as a radiating stabbing pain between your pelvis and hips, or it may be felt as numbness and tingling down your thighs that makes it feel as if your legs are going to buckle. That is because your SI joints are located just above your tailbone (coccyx), between the triangle-shaped bone at the base of your spine (the sacrum) and two of your three hip bones (the flared ones that jut out below your waist, known plurally as your ilia), which reside at the uppermost part of your pelvis.

SI joint pain: causes and treatments.

The Symptoms of SI Joint Pain

SI joint pain, sometimes referred to as sacral pain, affects around 80% of adults in the United States at some point in their lives. Lower back pain and injury is one of the most common causes of work-related disabilities as well, most likely because the SI joint is the fulcrum of your back, responsible for distributing your body’s weight over the pelvic region and acting as a shock absorber for your spine.

The space between the jagged SI joint bones is full of lubricating fluid and free nerve endings that send pain signals directly to the brain. When there is any misalignment in the SI joint, the pain can be debilitating, and the communication between the nerves may be interrupted, causing numbness or lack of feeling.

While the bones in this area are stabilized by strong ligaments and muscle connections that allow us to stand upright, unlike our ape ancestors, and give birth to the large craniums of human babies, the area is nevertheless extremely vulnerable to injury and other medical conditions.

Some common symptoms of SI joint pain include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pain in the hips, groin, or buttocks
  • Radiating pain that spreads down to the thighs
  • Stiffness or burning feelings in the pelvis
  • Numbness or weakness
  • A sensation of leg-buckling
  • Increased pain when standing from a seated position

SI Joint Pain: What Are the Causes?

There are many ways the SI joint can experience pain, only one of which is injury. Inflammation of the SI joint is called sacroiliitis, though it is often referred to as sacroiliac joint dysfunction, a general umbrella term that could apply to any of the following causes of SI joint pain.

1. Injury

The lower back is one of the most vulnerable parts of our bodies. Our brains are protected by our skulls, our most vital organs all guarded by our ribs or cradled by our pelvic bones, but the lower back region is wide-open. This allows for a unique range of motion and the ability to stand upright and tall, but it also means that the weight of the world relies on one column of bone and ligaments (the spine), which sits atop the sacroiliac joint. Trauma resulting from motor vehicle accidents, household or workplace falls, or even sudden twists of movement can cause injuries and damage that may persist for a lifetime.

2. Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman’s SI joint needs to become more elastic to allow for a vaginal birth. This is achieved with the release of a hormone aptly called relaxin, which allows the pelvis to widen when it comes time to give birth.

A combination between this elasticity, plus the weight gain associated with pregnancy and the positioning of the baby’s body, all lead to a higher likelihood of SI injury or ache. The joint becomes less stable, and some women even develop arthritis in their SI joints, a condition that may worsen with subsequent pregnancies.

3. Gait

Your walking pattern or gait can contribute to SI joint pain and dysfunction. For example, an overpronation problem can affect the way you walk, and the same is true if one leg happens to be longer than the other. A lifetime of irregular walking can add up to problems like shin splints, knee joint pain, and lower back pain, conditions that may or may not be remedied by corrective footwear.

4. Gout

Gouty arthritis, or simply gout, is a disease characterized by high levels of uric acid in the body, often caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices. The joint pain caused by uric acid buildup can be severe, and while it usually starts with the joint of the big toe, it can affect any joint, including the two SI joints.

5. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis involves the degeneration of joint cartilage, causing potential pain and stiffness in many joints, including the SI joint, the knees, hips, and thumbs.

6. Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory arthritis that affects the joints of the spine. Not only does it cause pain from inflammation, but it can also lead to the growth of new bone structures that fuse together spinal joints and inhibit normal movement. This condition primarily affects the SI joint, but it can also cause inflammation in other joints and organs as far away as the eyes. It is most likely to be diagnosed in young men.

Diagnosing SI Joint Issues

SI joint problems are often hard to diagnose. These joints are located deep in your body and their associated issues often cannot be seen on CT, MRI, or X-ray images. Another reason is that lower back pain and other signs of SI issues resemble the symptoms of different conditions like arthritis of the hip, bulging spinal disks, and sciatica.

Doctors may diagnose your SI joint problems with a:

  • Physical examThe doctor may move you or ask you to stretch in certain ways to identify the source of your pain.
  • Diagnostic injectionBy injecting a local anesthetic like lidocaine into the SI region, doctors may determine the source of your pain if it temporarily disappears upon injection at that site.
  • Imaging test: While X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs don’t show every potential cause of SI joint pain, they can reveal an injury or misalignment right away.

SI Joint Pain: Treatment Options

Here are some possible options for treating pain in your SI joints.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

  • Pain medication: Doctors may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids to help relieve joint inflammation and chronic SI pain that cannot otherwise be prevented.
  • Chiropractic or physical therapy: A physical therapist or chiropractic physician may perform or instruct you in SI joint stretches to relieve pain and build strength.
  • Yoga: The stretching exercises that characterize yoga can help increase flexibility and improve your pain symptoms.
  • SI joint injectionsMedications like corticosteroids may be regularly injected into the affected SI joint or joints to ease pain.
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA): This procedure, like steroid injections, can help temporarily deaden certain sensory nerves to stop the transmission of pain signals from the SI joints.
  • Physical aids: A sacroiliac belt or corrective footwear could help SI joint pain depending on its cause.

Surgical Treatment Options

Surgery is the very last resort when it comes to relieving sacroiliac pain, and involves a sacroiliac joint fusion surgery that utilizes small screws and plates to encourage these bones to fuse together. It’s invasive, it comes with its own set of risks (as does any major surgery), and experts agree it’s best to explore all other nonsurgical options before deciding alongside your doctor that this is the only way forward.

Preventing and Recovering from SI Joint Pain

Some instances of SI joint pain are temporary, say if it’s caused by a pregnancy or can be dealt with by wearing corrective gear. However, sometimes this pain arises from chronic medical conditions like osteoarthritis or irreversible injury, and may plague you for a much longer time without medical intervention.

Be cautious with your back when lifting or moving items at home or at work, and maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid conditions like gout. That being said, not all SI joint pain causes can be avoided, so consult with a trusted medical professional to recover the best way possible.

SI joint pain: causes and treatments.

 

Amino Acids for Skin Tightening

Amino acids for skin tightening, anti aging, collagen building, and hydration: find out which amino acids are effective to have in your skin care products.

When searching for an anti-aging advantage, many people will turn to cosmetic and skin care products for replenishment and support. Whether it’s a moisturizer to cut down on redness or eye wrinkle cream meant to tighten the skin back up, the question is what substances actually work? When it comes to skin health, collagen production is key, and this article explains which amino acids for skin tightening and rejuvenation can help on the outside (from topical products) and within (for nutritional support).

What Is in Most Wrinkle Creams?

Let’s quickly review which ingredients in topical creams are meant to reduce wrinkles and prevent or reverse the symptoms of aging on skin. The following ingredients have been shown to be effective in improving the appearance of wrinkles.

  • Vitamin C: This antioxidant is known to protect your skin against sun damage when applied to the skin in a topical cream.
  • Retinol: Vitamin A, or retinol, is an antioxidant compound that helps to fight against free radical damage and oxidative stress that breaks down your skin cells.
  • Hydroxy acids: Alpha, beta, and poly hydroxy acids work as exfoliants to help remove dead skin cells and encourage new, smoother skin cell growth.
  • Coenzyme Q10: This enzyme helps to protect against sun damage and reduce finer wrinkles around the eyes, making it a regular ingredient in eye wrinkle cream.
  • Grape seed extract: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and promoter of wound healing, grape seed extract is sometimes included in skin cream.
  • Peptides: Peptides can help ameliorate stretch marks, encourage wound healing, and reduce wrinkles.
  • Niacinamide: This antioxidant similar to B3 (niacin) promotes hydration and skin elasticity.
  • Tea extracts: Black, oolong, and green tea extracts have plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Green tea extracts specifically are commonly found in topical wrinkle creams.

Amino Acids for Skin Tightening

Now that you know what’s usually in skin care cream, what about amino acids? These building blocks of protein in the body do more than just build muscle—they regulate your hormones and create necessary chemical substances that help keep you alive and healthy.

But what about aminos as components of skin care products? Do amino acids do better inside or outside the body, and are they effective in wrinkle creams? Here are the amino acids that have the greatest impact on your skin’s health, and how they are best applied.

What Are Amino Acids?

There are 20 main amino acids in the human body, and they are divided into two categories: essential and nonessential. Essential amino acids are the 9 aminos you need to consume from outside sources, while the remaining 11 nonessential amino acids can be synthesized by your own body so long as it has the right ingredients.

  • The essential amino acids include: Leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, histidine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. They can be found in animal meat (poultry, seafood, beef), animal products (eggs, dairy), and in certain high-protein plant foods (soy products, legumes, beans, and nuts).
  • The nonessential amino acids are: Alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. Each of these aminos are made by the natural bodily functionings of most healthy adults.

Amino acids for skin tightening and anti aging.

Amino Acids for Collagen and Skin

Amino acids are a natural part of the skin, keeping it hydrated, supple, and alive. Amino acids are also what make up our collagen molecules, collagen being one of the most abundant proteins in our bodies. Collagen makes up the connective tissues in our bodies like our muscles and tendons, it’s in our hair and our fingernails, and it’s also about 70% of our skin’s protein content. Collagen is a peptide because it has between 2 and 10 amino acids that make it up. Those amino acids are:

  • Arginine: The “anti-aging” amino acid that can repair visible skin damage.
  • Glycine: The simplest naturally occurring amino acid we have, glycine improves moisture retention, increases our collagen production, and promotes skin regeneration.
  • Proline: The producer of cartilage and the collagen that aids wound healing.
  • Hydroxyproline: Made from proline and lysine, this amino acid derivative makes up a good portion of fibrillar collagens.

The other amino acids that contribute to healthy skin are:

  • Histidine: An antioxidant that can help soothe skin.
  • Methionine: Works by eliminating the damaging substances that can harm our skin.
  • Lysine: Helps firm skin’s surface by aiding its supportive structures.
  • Leucine: Diminishes wrinkles and fine lines on the skin.

How Do Amino Acids Work for Skin?

One way amino acids improve skin health is by working with aquaporins, which transport water throughout the body and provide moisture for our skin. Aquaporins can also encourage hydration when applied to the skin’s surface with a cosmetic product.

While some amino acids serve as antioxidants, others help the skin create its own antioxidant supply, including the antioxidant glutathione, which helps fortify the skin when applied topically, preventing the signs of aging that are caused by environmental damage.

Synthetic amino acids in skin care products have been shown to be just as effective and sometimes better than plant- or animal-derived aminos. Great news for those who are conscientious about leading a vegan lifestyle, because you can avoid animal products and still enjoy the benefits of amino acid skin-tightening support.

How Do Amino Acids Work with Other Ingredients?

The amino acids in collagen peptides and the amino acids that support skin health and hydration in other ways work in concert with one another. High-quality skin care products may contain additional ingredients that help facilitate that dance, and those substances include:

  • Hyaluronic acidA key molecule in aiding skin moisture, hyaluronic acid has a unique capacity for retaining water.
  • Omega fatty acids: The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can help treat skin disorders with dermatological application.
  • Glycerin: Glycerin has been shown to help improve skin hydration, especially when combined with hyaluronic acid.
  • Ceramides: These are lipids that help shield the skin from damaging environmental influences, and can be used topically as a therapy for dermatoses.
  • Other collagen-like peptides: Anti-aging collagen-like peptides have significant effects on reducing wrinkles.

Aging Gracefully and Scientifically

Amino acids help make up our skin, and consuming the correct proportions of essential amino acids can contribute to anti-aging, as can applying certain amino acids as skin treatments. Amino acid need is universal in humans, and amino acid skin-tightening treatments can work for all ages and all pigments of skin.

Collagen Amino Acids: Where They Come From and How They Work

Collagen amino acids: which are they and how do they come together to form collagen? Discover the dietary and supplemental support you can give to your body’s collagen supply.

Collagen has become synonymous with youthful skin. To go further than skin-deep when it comes to what this protein is and does, read on for details about your collagen amino acids, as well as the various types of collagen supplements and how they work.

What Is Collagen?

First things first: collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, making up a solid 30% of all the protein we contain. It’s also 70% of our skin’s protein, which makes collagen the main structural protein present in our skin, but it’s in our other connective tissues too (muscles, bones, and tendons).

Certain types of collagen fibrils are stronger than steel, while other collagen molecules keep our skin supple, and are sometimes used in medical wound dressings to draw new skin cells to the area. Our collagen production declines as we age, which leads to (among other things) signs of aging like wrinkles and a loss of skin elasticity. This is why collagen is often applied in cosmetic and dermatological treatments.

There is collagen in your hair, your nails, and the ligaments that string the human body together. It’s collagen that allows us to bend and stretch, and it’s collagen that makes the difference between a strong, glowing outer appearance and a brittle, faded facade. Long story short: collagen is important, so what makes up collagen, and how can we be sure we’re getting enough of those ingredients?

What Is Collagen Made Of?

Collagen is made up of amino acids, which are known as the building blocks of all proteins. Actually, there’s one term in between you should know about: collagens are classified as peptides due to their amino acid composition. To understand the terminology:

  • Peptides: Compounds that consist of at least 2 amino acids.
  • Polypeptides: Polypeptide chains consist of 10 or more amino acids.
  • Proteins: Peptides that consist of 50+ amino acids.

So, as all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares, all proteins are peptides, but not all peptides have enough amino acids to be called proteins. Collagen is a peptide because it has between 2 and 10 amino acids.

What amino acids are in collagen? There are four different amino acids that make up the structure of collagen.

  • Arginine: Also known as the “anti-aging” amino acid, this semi-essential amino acid is a constituent of most body proteins.
  • Glycine: The simplest naturally occurring amino acid and the second most common one we have, glycine makes up a third of our overall collagen supply.
  • Proline: Proline is responsible for the production of cartilage and the collagen that benefits wound healing and heart health.
  • Hydroxyproline: An amino acid derivative made from proline and lysine, hydroxyproline makes up about 13.5% of fibrillar collagens.

These are classified as nonessential amino acids: because they can be synthesized within our bodies, we don’t vitally need to get them from outside sources. However, some people want more collagen than their bodies naturally produce, especially once the damage done by environmental factors, UV light, and aging slow down production. Our skin gets weaker, our joints get stiffer, and our nails, hair, and bones get more brittle. For more on sources of collagen and collagen supplements, read on.

The facts about collagen amino acids.

Collagen Amino Acids: Where Do They Come From?

The question now is: how do you get more of these amino acids so important for the formation of collagen? There are two ways, either from dietary sources or from collagen protein supplements. Let’s start with dietary sources.

Dietary Support of Collagen Amino Acids

1. Bone Broth

Bone broth is made by simmering animal bones to extract the collagen from them and their connective tissues. Because bones are full of other nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous, people consume bone broth in the hopes of ingesting these minerals along with the relevant amino acids, though the science is a little shaky on this topic.

2. Chicken and Egg Whites

Many collagen supplements are derived from chicken because of the abundance of connective tissue in poultry. Studies have shown that neck and cartilage tissue from chickens may have application in collagen treatments for the signs of aging.

While chicken eggs don’t have connective tissue, the whites of eggs are full of proline, one of the four necessary ingredients for collagen synthesis.

3. Fish and Shellfish

Just like in land animals, fish bones and shellfish ligaments are made out of collagen, and marine collagen is a particularly popular form of collagen supplement because of its potentially higher absorbability. Though we tend not to eat the bones and tendons of fish (let alone the scales and eyes where collagen peptides are most concentrated), fish skin is nevertheless studied for its potential aid in collagen production.

4. Citrus Fruits and Dark Berries

Fruits and berries make the cut due to vitamin C’s role in stimulating collagen synthesis. Though they don’t give the key ingredients for collagen, they do provide the means to make it. These foods include lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges, plus raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.

5. Beans

This plant protein source can provide many of the amino acids needed for protein synthesis, including those used in collagen formation. Beans also provide your body with copper, another nutrient (like vitamin C) needed for collagen production.

Supplemental Support of Collagen Amino Acids

If you’re thinking about supplementing with collagen powders, here are some quick tips:

  • Make sure the product says it contains hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides—”hydrolyzed” means the collagen is already partially broken down, increasing its bioavailability during digestion.
  • Look for proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline specifically listed on the label.
  • Choose sustainably sourced products from either wild-caught fish or grass-fed cows.
  • Avoid added dyes, flavors, or preservatives and instead opt for 100% pure collagen.

A good collagen supplement could provide you with the following scientifically proven benefits.

1. Improved Skin Health

Skin care studies have revealed that supplemental collagen peptides may help slow aging, reducing skin dryness and the presence of wrinkles. Collagen supplementation may also boost the production of elastin and fibrillin, two other proteins important for healthy skin.

2. Bone Loss Prevention

As bones are made of collagen, maintaining a strong collagen supply will help protect them. The collagen deterioration in bones due to aging could lead to the development of osteoporosis, while collagen supplements and treatments have been shown to inhibit bone breakdown and loss. One year-long study of women taking collagen supplements (5 grams per day) for a year found that those consuming collagen had up to a 7% increase in bone mineral density than the control group.

3. Promotion of Joint Health

The loss of collagen in your joints can lead to degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis. There are studies that have found collagen supplementation may improve osteoarthritis symptoms and relieve overall joint pain. In a 2008 study on athletes with activity-related joint pain, those who consumed 10 grams of collagen each day over 24 weeks reported a significant joint pain decrease over the control group. For the young and the old, collagen can improve joint function.

4. Enhanced Heart Health

Collagen provides the structure for your arterial walls and blood vessels, and without it your arteries could weaken, contributing to the risk of suffering from atherosclerosis and heart attack. In one 2017 study on atherosclerosis in healthy human adults, consuming 16 grams of collagen per day over 6 months resulted in notable reductions of arterial stiffness. They also happened to see an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol levels by 6%.

5. Increased Muscle Mass

Around 10% of your muscle tissue is made up of collagen, and collagen supplements may help increase muscle mass in those with sarcopenia, which is a decrease of muscle mass due to age-related loss. This 2015 study of elderly men showed that 15 grams of collagen taken alongside a 12-week daily exercise program led to significantly more muscle mass and strength than what was gained by the control group.

Calling All Collagen

For a good portion of our lives, we are able to generate the type of collagen production that keeps us youthful. After that, our bodies need more help in new collagen creation. Making sure you have sufficient amino acid supplies to make the collagen you need is step one in fighting aging and maintaining healthy skin, muscles, bones, and joints.

Natural Treatment of Osteoporosis: How to Naturally Boost Bone Density

What is osteoporosis, what causes it, and what are the traditional and natural treatments to help combat associated bone loss? This article provides a comprehensive look at osteoporosis and its treatment options. 

Osteoporosis has a silent onset, as it’s a disease that develops over many years, often going unnoticed because there are not obvious symptoms or discomforts—you cannot “feel” the weakening of your bones until they are so vulnerable you experience a bone fracture. The International Osteoporosis Foundation says that in the U.S. alone, 44 million men and women over the age of 50 are affected by low bone mass and osteoporosis. That is a startling 55% of all individuals age 50 and older living in the U.S., making the problems associated with low bone mass a major public health concern. Many people who face osteoporosis treatment are searching for the best and safest therapeutic, and the natural treatment of osteoporosis can be highly effective.

Natural osteoporosis treatments include addressing certain hormonal imbalances, getting enough exercise (especially via resistance training), preventing a vitamin D deficiency, and eating what’s considered an “osteoporosis diet.” The osteoporosis diet supports bone health by providing you with enough vitamins, minerals, and protein, especially minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, all of which play a key role in bone formation. For details on the nature of osteoporosis and the natural remedies you can embrace to regain bone strength, read on.

What Is Osteoporosis?

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the definition of osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Osteoporosis translates to “porous bones.”

This disease is generally found in women over the age of 50, although it can develop in younger women and men as well. About one in two women and up to one in four men over the age of 50 will suffer a broken bone due to osteoporosis at some point—that’s 25% of men and a concerning 50% of women.

When observed microscopically, osteoporotic bones reveal abnormal tissue structure. The disease occurs when small holes or weak spots are formed in the bones, which can then lead to bone fractures, bone pain, and other side effects and complications such as what’s called a Dowager’s hump, an abnormally outward spinal curvature in the upper back or thoracic vertebrae that appears as a humpback.

Osteoporosis vs. Osteopenia

Osteoporosis is distinct from osteopenia, a condition that is also associated with bone loss and bone weakness but is less severe than osteoporosis. According to the Harvard Medical School, both conditions involve various degrees of bone loss as measured by a bone density test, a marker for the level of risk there is that a bone might break.

Thinking of bone mineral density as a slope, a healthy skeleton would be at the top of the slope, and advanced cases of osteoporosis would be at the bottom. Osteopenia affects about half of all Americans over 50, and it falls somewhere in the middle of the bone density slope.

The natural treatment of osteoporosis.

The Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis

The loss of healthy bone density is an incredibly serious condition that should not be taken lightly. Broken bones, especially in older adults, can be difficult to recover from completely, and may lead to a decrease in overall life enjoyment or worse (like chronic pain, long-term hospitalization, or even premature death). Broken bones and the surgeries needed to fix them can sometimes lead to life-threatening complications, permanent disability, limited mobility, and, of course, the emotional toll that such circumstances take, which could lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression.

Recognizing the symptoms of osteoporosis before a serious injury occurs could save your life. The most common symptoms include:

  • Osteoporotic bone fractures: Breaks and fractures most commonly occur in the hip, spine, or wrist bones, but may also affect the knees, feet, and various other parts of the body.
  • Limited mobility: Increased difficulty getting around or completing everyday tasks could be a sign of weakening bones, and many elderly adults who do break a bone require long-term in-home nursing care or need to take up residency in an assisted living facility.
  • Bone pain: Intense or persistent bone pain is another clear sign of bone weakening.
  • Loss of height: Becoming shorter as you age is not so much a natural occurrence as it is a sign of loss of bone strength and density.
  • A hunched or stooped posture: Remember the Dowager’s hump associated with osteoporosis? An abnormal curve of the spine is more than a slouch, it could be a sign of weakening bones.

Feelings of isolation and depression are also symptoms that stem from this loss of vitality. About 20% of seniors who break a hip die within a year of the fracture, making osteoporosis a contributing factor for increased risk of death.

Osteoporosis: Causes and Risk Factors

Not everyone over the age of 50 develops osteoporosis, so what are the risk factors that make the difference? Low bone mass and the risk of osteoporosis are often caused by a combination of different factors, including age, surrounding health conditions, and nutrient deficiencies due to eating an insufficient diet. The most common causes of osteoporosis include the following.

  • Inactivity: Too little exercise can contribute to a loss of muscle and bone mass, while regular exercise helps to strengthen the skeletomuscular system.
  • Aging: The fact of the matter is aging leads to progressive decline in all our body’s faculties, including bone health.
  • Hormonal changes or imbalances: Particularly low estrogen levels in postmenopausal women, one of the main symptoms of menopause, can lead to a decrease in bone mass. The same can occur in men with low testosterone levels, though due to the changes inherent in menopause, women remain more at risk.
  • A history of certain medical conditions: Autoimmune disorders, kidney or liver disease, and pulmonary disease can put you at an increased risk for osteoporosis.
  • A vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D is needed for bone health and maintenance, and low levels of it can lead to skeletal weakness.
  • Other nutritional deficiencies: A lack of calcium or vitamin K can lead to osteoporosis, as they are two other key building blocks for your bones.
  • Stress: High amounts of stress or depression can alter your body’s chemistry and health and contribute to conditions like osteoporosis.
  • Weight lossWhether intentional or unexplained, significant weight loss that involves severe calorie restriction or malnutrition can lead to weakening bones.
  • Long-term medication use: Certain serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), fertility drugs or hormonal medications, aromatase inhibitors, anti-seizure medications, steroids (glucocorticoids or corticosteroids), and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can contribute to the development of osteoporosis.

On top of the previously listed symptoms, being a woman and/or being over 70 are two more significant risk factors, as are a number of other health problems that can deplete the body’s supply of minerals and lead to low bone density over time. Those conditions include but aren’t necessarily limited to:

Osteoporosis Diagnosis

Doctors typically use a bone mineral density (BMD) test to confirm osteoporosis. The BMD test involves a specifically designed machine like a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan (a DEXA scan), which measures the amount of bone mineral present in certain areas of your skeleton, usually the high-risk areas like your wrists, fingers, and forearms, your spine, your hips, and your heels.

Diagnosis is also confirmed by performing a physical exam, evaluating a patient’s medical history, administering blood and urine tests to discern whether there are underlying causes or contributing conditions, taking biochemical marker tests, and conducting vertebral fracture assessments (VFAs)—decreases in height are often due to loss of bone mass causing tiny fractures in the spine.

While osteoporosis is not life-threatening in and of itself, the prognosis can be worrisome for those who are diagnosed, because the longer the disease progresses, the more at risk they are of dangerous bone breaks. It’s possible to live many healthy years if you’re able to slow the progression of osteoporosis with weight-bearing exercises each day, for example, which can help build up bone mass.

While a case of low bone density can be stabilized or even improved in a matter of 6-12 weeks, once full osteoporosis is diagnosed, the patient’s bone mass usually does not return to normal. Once you have a diagnosis, the goal is to protect the strength you have and to rebuild density as much as possible to prevent your bones from becoming weaker and more at risk of fracture.

Conventional Osteoporosis Treatment

Conventional approaches to treat osteoporosis often involve prescribed medications, exercise recommendations, and dietary changes. There are many medications used to treat aspects of the condition and to help stop progressive bone loss, but not all of these medications are advisable for every patient. Factors include considerations like gender, age, medical history (like if you’re a cancer survivor or have a chronic autoimmune disease), and your lifestyle (your diet and activity level).

Available medications for osteoporosis include:

  • Bisphosphonates: This class of drugs is made up of alendronate (Fosamax), risedronate (Actonel), ibandronate (Boniva), and zoledronic acid (Reclast). Some of medications are suitable for both men and women, though others like Boniva are designed exclusively for women.
  • Rank Ligand inhibitors: Suitable for both men and women, Rank Ligand inhibitors aim to reduce bone absorption.
  • Parathyroid hormone-related protein agonistsThis osteoporosis treatment aims to increase bone mass.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: Most of these treatment options are designed for women only, and can include selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) or tissue specific estrogen complex.

The Natural Treatment of Osteoporosis: 7 Alternative Treatment Options

If you’re looking for a natural cure for osteoporosis, you may need to temper your expectations, because osteoporosis is a condition that will most likely need to be managed indefinitely. However, if you’re unable or unwilling to take the pharmaceutical drugs meant to treat this disease and you want an alternative natural treatment of osteoporosis, here are some steps you can take to manage your symptoms and help halt the progression of bone loss.

1. A Healthy Diet

When it comes to osteoporosis foods, you’ll want to prioritize foods that contain the essential nutrients for bone health, like magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, vitamin K, and sources of calcium. Protein is important, as nearly half of our bones’ structure is made up of protein, and a high-protein diet may be extremely valuable to your health if properly balanced.

A mineral-rich diet to help combat osteoporosis includes the following.

  • Raw cultured dairy: Yogurt, kefir, amasai, and raw cheese all contain calcium, vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin D.
  • Foods high in calcium: Calcium-rich foods include all dairy products, green vegetables (like kale, broccoli, okra, and watercress), almonds, and sardines.
  • Foods high in manganese: Manganese can be found in whole grains like brown rice, buckwheat, rye, teff, oats, and amaranth, as well as beans and legumes, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts.
  • Wild-caught fish: Osteoporosis may be exacerbated by chronic inflammation, and the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish can help reduce inflammation in the body. The best sources include anchovies, sardines, mackerel, wild salmon, and halibut.
  • Sea vegetables: Sea vegetables like nori, agar, wakame, algae, and kombu can provide critical minerals for bone formation and antioxidants for overall health.
  • Green leafy vegetables: For both vitamin K and calcium, green leafy vegetables like kale, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, watercress, collard greens, dandelion greens, and escarole can provide valuable vitamin and mineral content.
  • Quality proteins: Diets low in protein can impair bone health in the elderly. The recommended daily amount of protein for adults is between 0.8-1.0 grams per kilogram (~2.2 pounds) of body weight. Foods high in protein include wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, fermented cheese and yogurt, as well as pastured eggs and poultry.

Foods to Avoid

Here are some foods and practices that could worsen your bone loss or contribute to overall bad health if you are at risk of osteoporosis.

  • Too much alcohol: Osteoporosis and alcohol don’t mix. Alcohol increases inflammation and can lead to calcium being leached from your bones.
  • Sweetened beverages: The high phosphorus content in soda can also remove calcium from your bones, and the sugar content of sweetened beverages can increase inflammation.
  • Processed red meat: A high intake of red meat and sodium may result in increased bone loss.
  • Caffeine: Though the risk is small, an excessive intake of caffeine without enough calcium ingestion to counteract it may result in bone loss.
  • Smoking: You should also discontinue smoking or avoid being around active smokers, as smoking can worsen many chronic health conditions including osteoporosis.

2. Physical Activity

Exercise of almost any sort can be beneficial for those with osteoporosis: yoga, strength training, swimming, you name it. Physical activity can help build bone mass, relieve stress, improve flexibility and balance, reduce inflammation, and more. However, there are some exercises that you may want to avoid if the intention is to protect increasingly fragile bones, such as activities that require too much twisting of the spine, bending from the waist, or jumping up and down. Instead, consider some of these other options for strength training.

  • Brisk walking
  • Lifting weights
  • Swimming
  • Bodyweight exercises
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • The elliptical machine

Gentler exercises are ideal, and using equipment like bands, light weights, chairs, and walls to assist you is encouraged. In fact, one study showed that the low-impact practice of tai chi can provide as much as a 47% decrease in the likelihood of falls for the adults who practice it.

If there is any lingering pain or soreness after trying a new exercise, consult with your doctor on whether there isn’t a better form of fitness more suited to your needs. Weight-training exercises are especially important for improving bone density, but always defer to your doctor’s advice when it comes to your specific health needs.

3. Help Prevent Dangerous Falls

The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that about 1/3 of all people over 65 will fall each year, and many times this results in fractured or broken bones. One serious break like a hip fracture could irrevocably damage an elderly person’s life or even cause their death, so here are important steps you can take to reduce your risk of falling.

  • Get up slowly from sitting or lying down positions.
  • Use a cane or walker for increased support.
  • Use a flashlight in the dark or keep your home well lit to avoid objects that may trip you up, especially in stairwells.
  • Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes that help you keep your balance (low-heeled shoes with rubber soles, boots, flats, sneakers, etc.).
  • Utilize handrail supports as you climb stairs or walk on inclines.
  • Be extra cautious in slippery conditions like rain or snow.
  • Avoid slippery walking surfaces like tile, highly polished marble, or floors that have recently been mopped.
  • Make sure paths are cleared in and around your home, including keeping clutter out of your driveway, off your porch, and up from the floors as much as possible (wires, cords, loose floor rugs).
  • Keep often-used items within reach, use assistive devices to avoid straining while reaching, and be sure to use a sturdy stepstool when needed.
  • Install support bars and non-slip items in your shower, tub, and bathroom.
  • Place non-skid mats and rugs in your kitchen and throughout your house.
  • Try not to move too quickly, as being in a rush makes falling more likely.
  • Consider using a personal emergency response system (PERS), and wear it on your person if you live alone, in case you need to call for assistance.

4. Essential Oils

Applying essential oils on affected areas of the body or consuming them may help aid bone repair, increase bone density, or relieve osteoporosis-related pain. Sage has been observed to help prevent bone absorption, and aroma-massage therapy with ginger and orange essential oils has shown short-term pain relief.

Other essential oils for osteoporosis relief include rosemary and thyme oils, peppermint, cypress, fir, helichrysum, eucalyptus, wintergreen, and lemongrass oil. Acupuncture may help to reduce stress as well—explore these therapies to find out which one works best for you.

5. Sunshine for Boosting Vitamin D Levels

As little as 20 minutes of sun exposure on your bare skin each day can help prevent a vitamin D deficiency. To gain enough vitamin D, it’s necessary to expose large areas of your skin to sunlight without sunscreen, but not for long periods of time (for those who are cautious about skin cancer). However, the darker your skin tone, the more time you will need to gain enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Studies suggest that older adults have a more difficult time making vitamin D than younger people do, even with the same amount of time spent in the sun. Likewise if you live in a cold, overcast climate (Chicago, Seattle, London, etc.) or are above the age of 60, you may want to take vitamin D3 supplements to ensure you get enough of this vital vitamin.

6. Osteoporosis Supplements

Here is a list of assorted supplements that may help you maintain bone health.

7. Discuss Medication Use with Your Doctor

If you require steroids to treat another health condition like asthma, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, or lupus, you may need to take even more strenuous precautions to protect your bones, including regular exercise, a mineral-rich diet, and immediate cessation of smoking. Common steroidal medications include dexamethasone (Decadron), cortisone, methylprednisolone (Medrol), and prednisone. Taking these medicines for longer than 3 months has been shown to increase your risk of losing bone mass and developing osteoporosis, so talk to your doctor about whether there are any possible alternative treatments or extra precautions you can take if they are indeed necessary.

Natural Sources of Strong Bones

Incorporating these natural treatments for osteoporosis can be the dietary and lifestyle change that saves you. The causes of osteoporosis include poor diet, lack of exercise, aging, hormonal changes, certain medications, medical conditions, and nutrient deficiencies, and while all of these factors can’t be avoided or cured, you have control over your diet and activity levels. Treatment for osteoporosis may involve medications, but natural supplements and remedies alongside your doctor’s treatment may help alleviate your symptoms and strengthen your bones to their maximum potential.

Muscle Atrophy: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Learn about what causes muscle wasting or muscle atrophy, and how best to prevent and treat this condition, including through the use of physical therapy, medical intervention, and staying active. 

Muscle atrophy is essentially muscle wasting: it’s what happens when your muscles waste away, frequently as a result of a lack of physical activity. This article will explore the causes and symptoms of muscle atrophy, as well as preventative steps people can take if they’re immobile or bedridden due to illness. Loss of muscle mass or muscle strength can be particularly devastating for those who are already in positions of compromised health, and so in an effort to help you maintain your quality of life, we’ve compiled the relevant information here.

Muscle Atrophy: Definition

Atrophy of the muscles occurs when a person is inactive for so long that their skeletal muscles (these are the muscles attached to your bones which literally make your skeleton move) begin to break down, and the muscle protein is cannibalized by the body. This can happen in small instances or large, catastrophic instances.

Muscle atrophy of the hand or forearm may occur if you spend weeks in a cast to heal a broken arm, which is why people in casts are given exercises to do while they’re immobilized to prevent protein degradation in their muscles and muscle wasting. Muscle atrophy of the legs or muscle atrophy of the thighs can happen on a much larger scale to those who become wheelchair-bound, either temporarily or due to becoming permanently paraplegic. In even more extreme cases, those who have been held as prisoners of war may have full-body muscle wasting due to confinement and malnutrition for significantly long periods, sometimes years.

Muscle atrophy is a decrease in muscle mass, either partial or complete, which is most commonly suffered when a person becomes disabled or their movements severely restricted. This makes it difficult or impossible to move the part of the body where the muscle has atrophied, and medical advice should be sought for solutions.

Muscle atrophy: causes, treatment, and prevention.

Muscle Atrophy: Causes

Significant decreases in activity levels can lead to muscle atrophy, and there are many situations where that can occur, causing what’s known as disuse atrophy. There are also instances of muscle atrophy due to medical conditions that inhibit the use of a body part, and even rarer causes like the muscle atrophy experienced by astronauts after relatively short periods (a few days) of weightlessness. Muscle atrophy in situations of being bedbound or ceasing intense physical training can come on in as little as 2 weeks. Some of the other causes of muscle atrophy are as follows.

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Advanced aging
  • Malnutrition
  • Stroke
  • Alcohol-associated myopathy
  • Burns
  • Temporary disabling injuries (broken bones, torn rotator cuff)
  • Permanently disabling injuries (severed spinal cord, peripheral nerve damage)
  • Prolonged corticosteroid therapy

Some of the diseases and medical conditions that can disrupt or restrict movement, thus leading to muscle atrophy, include:

  • Spinal muscular atrophy: A hereditary wasting disease of the limbs.
  • Osteoarthritis: Degeneration of bones and joint cartilage that leads to decreased movement.
  • Polymyositis: An inflammatory disease of the muscles.
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease): Compromises the nerve cells of the spinal cord.
  • Muscular dystrophy: A hereditary disease that causes muscle weakness.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): An autoimmune disease that destroys the protective sheathing of brain and spinal nerves.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): A chronic inflammatory disease of the joints.
  • Dermatomyositis: Inflammation of the skin and underlying muscle tissue.
  • Polio: A virus afflicting muscle tissue, which can lead to paralysis.
  • Cancer cachexia: The weight loss, lack of energy, and loss of appetite in someone undergoing cancer treatment.
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome: An autoimmune disease and form of polyneuritis, which leads to paralysis of the limbs.
  • Neuropathy: Nerve damage that results in loss of sensation or functioning.

Muscle Atrophy: Symptoms

Regardless of the cause, these are the symptoms that may alert you to possible muscle atrophy, after which a trusted medical professional should be sought for advice.

  • One of your limbs (arms, legs) appears markedly smaller than the other one.
  • You’ve spent a long time physically inactive (bedridden, hospitalized).
  • You’re experiencing noticeable weakness in one limb.

Not to be flippant about the subject, but there is some truth to the phrase “use it or lose it” when it comes to muscle. If you cannot move your muscles with regular physical activity, you will start to lose them.

Muscle atrophy pain may or may not be a symptom, as that depends on the cause of the atrophy. Many people will begin to lose muscle before they are aware it’s happening, and will have to rely on visual muscle size to realize they need medical attention.

Muscle Atrophy: Diagnosis

Once you’ve gotten in contact with a medical professional, the diagnosis may involve your full medical history, a review of any previous injuries, as well as an evaluation of your symptoms. Diagnosing the atrophy may also involve diagnosing the underlying medical condition, which may require blood tests, X-rays, MRIs, CTs, a nerve conduction study, or a muscle and/or nerve biopsy to find out what could be causing muscle atrophy if it’s not readily apparently (as it would be if you’d suddenly become bedbound).

Can Muscle Atrophy Be Reversed?

Depending on the cause, yes. There are some cases where a proper diet, exercise, and physical therapy can not only reverse muscle atrophy, but also prevent it from recurring. However, this will not be the case in some disease-related forms of atrophy, and it is important that you consult your doctor on what your expectations for muscle atrophy recovery should be in restimulating protein synthesis and rebuilding your muscles.

Muscle Atrophy: Treatment

Again, this will depend on the diagnosis of the cause, and also the severity of your muscle loss, but the treatments for reversible muscle atrophy may be as follows.

  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Dietary changes
  • Surgery
  • Electrical stimulation

If a lack of movement caused this condition, regaining movement will go a long way towards fixing it, and moderate exercise like walking, along with physical therapy, may be a way to regain muscle strength without needing surgery to fix skin, tendons, or ligaments too tight to begin moving again (as in cases of contracture deformity that could be caused by malnutrition or burn injury scar tissue).

Muscle Atrophy: Prevention

There are ways to prevent muscle atrophy before it happens, and ways to guard against it if you were fortunate enough to recover your musculature after one instance of muscle loss. If preventing muscle atrophy is in your control (and, of course, sometimes it will not be), here are a few ways to maintain muscle strength in adverse circumstances.

Stay Active

If you’re in recovery from a severe illness or have just come home from the hospital after a debilitating accident, it’s not as if you’ll take up jogging right away. However, movements as small as walking to your mailbox each day, or around the block, or up and down a single flight of stairs, can truly make the difference in the long run when it comes to maintaining your mobility.

Stay Nourished

Depending on your condition, this may be difficult, but when your body lacks the proper nutrition to stay running, it will start to catabolize your muscles for its needs, which is a form of self-cannibalization or destructive metabolism that literally eats away at your muscles. Make sure you’re getting proper protein, if not from whole foods, then in the forms of protein shakes or supplements, as every little bit may help.

In fact, supplementing with amino acids has been proven to help accelerate muscle recovery in times of sickness and illness and can help boost your muscle-building gains. To learn more about amino acid therapy for muscle atrophy, give this informative article, written by one of the world’s foremost amino acid researchers, a read.

Seek Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is particularly valuable for those with severe injury recovery (such as a car crash survivor) or a neurological condition, as therapists provide professional guidance on what, and how, and how often to stretch your body to build strength.

Try Passive Movement

Another way physical therapy can help you even before you have the strength to help yourself is with passive movement. Passive movement requires the therapist to gently move your legs and arms for you. This is how you can begin to recover from a very deep muscle deficit and build up strength and muscle again.

Preventative Measures

Not only will the above advice help prevent muscle atrophy, but it can also help discourage bedsores in those who are bedridden due to illness, and reduce the chances of developing dangerous blood clots in the limbs. Likewise, these movements may prevent muscle stiffness, retraction, and nerve damage. Consult a medical professional or licensed physical therapist for more advice.

Eliminate Atrophy

If you are in danger of muscle atrophy, take steps to make sure your protein intake and nutrients are sufficient, including the use of a supplement if necessary, like Amino Co.’s essential amino acid supplement, which contains all of the essential aminos required to build new muscle cells and structures. Also, make sure that you stay active, no matter in how small a way, to preserve your muscle function and prevent your muscles from falling into complete disuse. You cannot always control your body’s condition, but if the type of atrophy you fear is the type that’s preventable, it’s well worth the effort to maintain the quality of life and movement you’ve come to expect.