Understanding Autophagy: Loose Skin, Chronic Disease and Cancer—Some Scientists Say It Could Be the Key to Treating and Preventing All of These 

Maximize the ability of autophagy, a cellular cleansing process, to prevent loose skin after weight loss, chronic diseases, and even cancer. Read on to learn about the science behind autophagy as well as how it can help those on weight-loss journeys.

Autophagy (pronounced ah-TAH-fuh-gee), a medical term, describes a regenerative cellular process that decreases your risk of developing a multitude of serious diseases, extends your lifespan, and improves your overall health and well-being. In some circles, there’s particularly intense interest in the impact of autophagy on loose skin following weight loss, a frustrating side effect that can require surgery to address.

Read on to learn about the science behind autophagy as well as how it can help those on weight-loss journeys.

What Is Autophagy?

In simple terms, the concept of autophagy can be defined as follows: without external nutrients, the body begins to consume itself. The term comes from the Greek words “auto” meaning self and “phage” meaning to eat.

While this may sound like the premise for a horror movie, it can be incredibly beneficial. During the process of autophagy, specialized membranes seek out cells that are dead, damaged, or diseased and use their component parts for energy or to make new cells.

“Think of it as our body’s innate recycling program,” said Dr. Colin Champ, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, in an interview. Other experts have summed it up as “cellular housekeeping” or “cellular quality control.”

Though Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve originated the term “autophagy” in 1963, much of what we now know about this vital process was not discovered until well into the 2000s. In fact, pioneering Japanese biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi won a Nobel Prize for his investigations into the mechanisms of autophagy in 2016. Scientists working in the field, however, caution that what we currently don’t know about autophagy would fill far more books than what we do.

7 Proven Benefits of Autophagy

Autophagy plays a fundamental and essential role in overall cellular function by recycling disused or dysfunctional components that, if left in place, can become problematic. By doing so, autophagy can prevent the development of several types of diseases. Here are 7 proven ways autophagy benefits your health.

1. Decrease Systemic Inflammation

A 2017 review published in Clinical and Translational Medicine states that “increasing evidence” demonstrates autophagy can help to prevent the development of inflammatory diseases.

“Autophagy plays critical roles in inflammation through influencing the development, homeostasis and survival of inflammatory cells, including macrophages, neutrophils and lymphocytes; effecting the transcription, processing and secretion of a number of cytokines, as well as being regulated by cytokines,” the authors state. Essentially, this means that autophagy helps to ensure that all the cells regulating your body’s inflammatory processes are working properly.

The authors go on to say that studies suggest autophagy’s positive influence on inflammatory cells offers promise as a therapeutic intervention for diseases linked to inflammation, including:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Obstructive pulmonary disease

2. Treat Neurodegenerative Diseases

Findings published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, a leading journal in its field, point to autophagy as a way to slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

As we’ve established, autophagy repurposes cellular components, including misfolded proteins. The accumulation of misfolded proteins is believed to cause symptoms of many neurodegenerative diseases to worsen. So, by preventing that, autophagy can mitigate the severity of those diseases.

3. Safeguard Mental Health

Some research has shown that when autophagy does not occur with sufficient frequency, your mental health can be negatively impacted.

A study published in Molecular Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed journal, looked at the connection between autophagy and mental health. When they analyzed the brains of schizophrenia patients, the authors found clear reductions in post-mortem levels of proteins that control autophagy. They determined that the direct association between autophagy and the progression of schizophrenia could offer a pathway to new methods of treatment.

4. Increase Longevity

A review published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation claims that inducing autophagy can counteract cellular aging processes and enhance the metabolic activity of your cells, resulting in increased longevity.

This claim stems from experimental findings, and it’s not yet clear exactly how autophagy increases anti-aging activity and extends life spans, though studies with mice have shown that to be the case.

5. Suppress Tumor Growth

It’s clear that the process of autophagy is intimately linked to the development of cancer, but exactly what effect it has on tumor initiation and development remains somewhat murky.

Per a review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, “Many studies have found that autophagy plays dual roles in cell survival and cell death in the context of tumor initiation and development.” The authors elaborate that while autophagy has been shown to suppress tumor formation in certain instances, it also seems to contribute to cancer progression by supplying nutrients to cancer cells in others.

More research is needed to fully understand how to harness the power of autophagy to prevent cancer. In the future, however, the authors believe it could be “a potentially effective therapeutic strategy in anticancer therapy.”

6. Support Maintenance of a Healthy Weight

Some of what we know about autophagy comes from research in what happens in its absence. For instance, a study done with mice and published in Cell Metabolism found that deleting an essential autophagy gene led to higher body weights, increased fat mass, and higher rates of glucose intolerance.

According to the authors, these findings indicate that an autophagy deficiency may play a role in the development of obesity.

7. Prevent Sagging Skin Post-Weight Loss

Though this benefit does not have rigorous scientific support, solid anecdotal evidence indicates that autophagy can help those who have lost weight—particularly, individuals who have lost a lot of weight—from needing skin removal surgeries. Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist who specializes in research into fasting, has developed a program designed to help people successfully lose weight and reverse conditions linked to weight gain, such as type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and fatty liver.

“We’ve never sent a single person for skin-removal surgery,” said Dr. Fung in an interview. “We have anecdotal cases where people have lost 120, 130 pounds, and they said their skin also shrank, too.”

Fung believes this happens because the body harvests the protein contained in excess skin. “Remember, during fasting, you’re activating a pathway within your body that says, ‘Okay, we need to buckle down because we’re in a time of famine, so to speak, and we don’t need all that extra skin, so let’s burn it. And if you need it, we’ll build it again.’”

How to Increase the Efficacy of Autophagy for Loose Skin

Is It Possible to Trigger Autophagy?

Though it has not yet been definitively proved that it’s possible to trigger autophagy in humans, studies done with animals indicate that fasting and calorie restriction may be means of inducing autophagy.

A literature review published in Ageing Research Reviews in 2018 found that “the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that autophagy is induced in a wide variety of tissues and organs in response to food deprivation.” In other words, there’s a very high likelihood that if you fast, autophagy will occur.

Studies done with mice have historically delineated 24 hours as the marker for when autophagy sets in, but it’s not clear whether the same would hold true for humans. Dr. Fung believes that autophagy most likely sets in during the later stages of an extended fast, “somewhere around 20 to 24 hours is my guess, and it probably maxes out somewhere around 32 hours, again, my best guess.”

While scientists have yet to agree upon a surefire way to trigger autophagy, this process does occur naturally, though it’s unclear how frequently or extensively it takes place without outside stimulus. Fasting, exercise, and other forms of physiological stress seems to cause the process to accelerate.

However, it’s quite challenging to measure autophagy (technically, what would be measured would be termed autophagic flux) in humans, as it requires tracking the levels of minuscule proteins, including protein 1A and LC3.

Does Autophagy Have Any Negative Effects?

While autophagy clearly has a host of remarkable benefits, it can cause problems too. An article published in PLOS Biology termed it a “double-edged sword.”

Author Andrew Thorburn of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine explained that “autophagy’s effects may work for both the good and the bad of an organism.” When it comes to conditions like treating bacterial infections, autophagy sometimes leads to improvement and sometimes causes conditions to worsen. According to Thorburn, using autophagy effectively will require a better understanding of which cells it degrades and under what circumstances.

It’s important to note as well that using fasting as a method for inducing autophagy comes with its own risks. There are no universal medical recommendations at this time, but most experts agree that extended fasts—going without food for 36-, 48-, or even a full 72 hour-fast—should only be undertaken by those in good health. Extended fasting should not be done too frequently either. As a general rule, it should only be undertaken 2 or 3 times annually. Confer with a trusted doctor before embarking on a fast to make sure it’s safe for you.

If you have previously engaged in unhealthy food restrictions behaviors or have been diagnosed with an eating disorder like anorexia, it’s likely best to avoid fasting.

Expert Advice on Triggering Autophagy

Because autophagy is a stress response, to intentionally trigger it, you will have to endure some discomfort. “It’s our ancestral and evolutionary response to dealing with feast and famine in times of stress,” said Dr. Champ.

If you’d like to try triggering autophagy, one of these three methods is a good place to start.

1. Enter a State of Ketosis

If the idea of fasting feels daunting or there are reasons you should avoid it, evidence shows you can also activate autophagy by entering ketosis. By restricting your carbohydrate intake and increasing your fat intake, you can shift your body into a state in which it uses fat rather than carbs as its primary source of fuel. This is the scientific basis for the immensely popular high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet, commonly abbreviated as the keto diet.

In order to adhere to the keto diet, you’ll need to keep your carbohydrate intake at no more than 5% of your total calories, your protein intake between 20% and 30%, and your fat percentage at between 60% and 70%.

Studies have shown that entering ketosis can bring about significant fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. Other proven medical uses for the keto diet include improving the treatment of epilepsy and other brain conditions (in fact, it was developed to treat epilepsy in children), lowering your risk of diabetes, and assisting your body in defeating cancerous tumors.

According to Champ, “Ketosis is like an autophagy hack. You get a lot of the same metabolic changes and benefits of fasting without actually fasting.”

2. Experiment with Intermittent Fasting

Extended fasts can be grueling, but that may not be necessary in order to spur autophagy.

A Brazilian research team published a research review indicating that intermittent fasting can help increase autophagy, which makes cancer treatments more effective and reduces side effects. They note, however: “Additional studies are required to better understand the molecular mechanisms evoked by fasting, aiming to identify the context in which fasting may be beneficial as an adjunct to cancer treatment.”

In the meantime, it certainly seems worthwhile to give intermittent fasting a try, if for no other reason than the wealth of benefits they mention that have been associated with intermittent fasting, such as an extended lifespan and a lower risk of diseases including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Neurodegenerative conditions

As with extended fasting, there are limitations on who should try intermittent fasting. It’s typically not advisable for children, pregnant women, or individuals with diabetes or other blood sugar issues to follow this fasting protocol.

3. Engage in Regular Exercise

As you may know, exercising creates microscopic tears in your muscles. When your body repairs those tears, that process leads to bigger, stronger muscles. It appears that exercise also increases the rate at which your body carries out autophagy.

A study published in Nature, an international journal of science, found: “Acute exercise induces autophagy in skeletal and cardiac muscle of fed mice.” The authors discovered that after 30 minutes of running on a treadmill, the rate at which mice recycled their own cells via autophagy increased significantly and continued to do so until the 80-minute marker at which point rates leveled out.

Scientists have not yet pinpointed the threshold require for humans to kickstart autophagy. Dr. Daniel Kilonsky, a cellular biologist specializing in autophagy, says that at the moment, it’s proving quite difficult to answer that question.  However, he reminds us that exercise, like intermittent fasting, has many other benefits.

3 Possible Methods for Triggering Autophagy

Additional Advice on Naturally Addressing Loose Skin

If your primary interest in autophagy has to do with its potential role in addressing loose skin following weight loss, you may want to incorporate these other natural methods for resolving loose skin without plastic surgery.

A key aspect of doing so is improving skin elasticity. Without proper elasticity, your skin cannot adapt to physical changes such as weight loss. To maintain or enhance skin elasticity, you’ll need to sustain an adequate supply of collagen.

All the collagen in your body begins as procollagen. To make procollagen, your body uses two amino acids: glycine and proline. Certain nutrients have been shown to increase the rate at which your body produces those amino acids, such as vitamin C, copper, selenium, and zinc.

Citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and raw liver all contain high concentrations of vitamin C. Organ meats are generally high in copper, as are cashews, sesame seeds, lentils, and cocoa powder. You can get plenty of selenium from seafood (salmon in particular) and Brazil nuts, while oysters and red meat are rich in zinc.

Consuming foods high in glycine and proline themselves also boosts procollagen production. Good sources of glycine include gelatin as well as pork and chicken skin, while egg whites, dairy products, wheat germ, mushrooms, asparagus, and cabbage provide lots of proline.

Because your body needs a balanced supply of all the amino acids in order to effectively utilize them, you’ll also want to eat foods with overall high levels of amino acids, like:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Legumes
  • Tofu

Interestingly, eating foods high in collagen, such as bone broth, is not necessarily the best way to raise levels in the body. That’s because when you consume protein, your body breaks it down into its component amino acids.

3 Possible Methods for Triggering Autophagy

Trigger Point Injections: What They Are, When They’re Needed and How They’re Performed

Find out how trigger point injections work, what the procedure entails, and what the post-procedural care requires. This treatment option for myofascial pain syndrome could help restore your quality of life.

Trigger point injections are designed as pain management for myofascial pain syndrome.  We’re helping you decide if trigger point injections are right for you by providing an in-depth definition of the procedure, when it’s medically justified, how it’s done, and what the potential side effects may be.

What Is a Trigger Point Injection?

Trigger point injections are intended to provide pain relief by inactivating (basically stunning or inhibiting) certain trigger points involved in the symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome. To do this, a health care professional inserts a small needle containing a local anesthetic or saline, and possibly a corticosteroid, into the trigger point causing the muscle pain in order to subdue it.

What Is Myofascial Pain Syndrome?

Myofascial pain syndrome is a muscle disorder that causes pain around what’s known as myofascial trigger points. It’s a distinct syndrome from fibromyalgia, which also causes tender points throughout the body, though both of these conditions could occur in the same patient at the same time, making each of them more difficult to diagnose and treat.

Myofascial trigger points are hyperirritable spots that create musculoskeletal pain. They may have palpable nodules that exist in taut bands of muscular fibers, and they are still not widely understood even in the medical community. Treatment of these trigger points can involve ultrasound therapy, manipulative therapy, spray and stretch therapy using a topical anesthetic, or trigger point injections.

Trigger point injections are not required for every case or even every trigger point, especially if noninvasive physical therapy is effective. However, if a trigger point experiences chronic pain in certain areas like the lower back, a small needle injection may be the most effective treatment. The injection may be a corticosteroid, an anesthetic like lidocaine or bupivacaine, or a mixture of both.

Indications for Trigger Point Injections

Trigger point injections are indicated for those patients who have health care findings consistent with active trigger points (distinct from latent trigger points that don’t need treatment as they are asymptomatic). Other widespread pain disorders such as endocrine disorder or fibromyalgia are not eligible for trigger point injections unless they have myofascial pain trigger points also.

Seek medical advice to decide if injecting these points of muscle spasm is the safest way to treat painful areas, including the trapezius muscle (upper back and neck pain), the erector spinae muscles (along the spinal cord), the iliocostalis muscle (low back pain), and other areas of muscle which, if afflicted, can cause referred pain (pain felt in other areas that are not the origin spot), tension headaches, and a decline in quality of life.

Your doctor will examine your skeletal muscles for a local twitch response (a contraction or dimpling of the skin as muscle fibers tense), take into account your pain level and “jump response” to the exam, and discuss your various treatment options.

Contraindications for Trigger Point Injections

Trigger point injections have contraindications for:

  • Those with bleeding disorders or those on anticoagulants
  • Pregnant patients
  • Patients who are ill or who have conflicting medical conditions
  • Those with a higher risk of infection (such as those with diabetes mellitus or who are debilitated)
  • Patients on steroids

While a steroid injection can act as a nerve block, there have nevertheless been studies that show dry needling (needling without injection, akin to acupuncture for musculoskeletal disorders) may provide some relief, though a scientific consensus has not yet been reached. Researchers also warn against “sham needling” practices that are not done by properly trained medical personnel.

Trigger Point Injection Procedures: What to Expect

Here’s what you can expect at a trigger point injection procedure.

  • The needles involved will be long enough to reach the deepest muscles requiring treatment.
  • The area will be sterilized before injection.
  • Your health care provider will prepare the injection with local anesthetics and/or steroids.
  • The doctor will position you for best access to the affected muscle groups, and may also use ultrasound guidance to precisely pinpoint the injection.
  • Your clinician will isolate the trigger point area by pinching the skin between their fingers to keep it in place during the injections (the needling and injecting will be repeatedly redirected without removing the needle from the subcutaneous level of the skin).
  • This treatment of trigger points will include post-procedural care on your part: resting for 1-2 days and avoiding strenuous activity and pain-provoking activities that could overstress the muscles.

Your doctor will make sure you’re aware of potential complications resulting from trigger point injections, which could include vasovagal syncope (sudden fainting), hematoma formation, skin infection, pneumothorax (a collapsed lung), or needle breakage.

Trigger point injections: how they work.

Post-procedural Care

To ensure the best success with trigger point injections, post-procedural care may include the following.

Proper Stretching

While it’s important not to overstress the muscle, it is still recommended that you use your muscles to their full range of motion to help relieve stiffness and reclaim normal muscle functioning. To help your muscles relax and optimize the effects of the injections, stretching after your trigger point injections is an integral post-procedure component.  Your doctor will most likely stretch you as soon as the procedure is complete, and then send you home with instructions to continue proper stretching on your own.

Active Exercise

The whole purpose of undergoing trigger point injections is to restore full use of your muscles, and active exercise will help determine whether or not the treatment was effective. These exercises will target muscle stretching, muscle strengthening, and muscle conditioning to help relieve myofascial pain. Staying active with exercise will also help reduce the chances of developing more trigger points in your muscle fibers as you increase your muscle endurance.

Once you’ve built up enough strength via training, conditioning exercises like jogging, jumping rope, tennis, swimming, and/or bicycling are encouraged at least twice a week going forward.

Don’t Be Triggered

Alleviating neck, back, and shoulder pain are major aspects of physical medicine, and getting expert help with treating myofascial pain syndrome can help improve your quality of life while living with this musculoskeletal disorder. Trigger point injections are the last hope for pain relief for many, and they may finally bring you the treatment you need.

Thumb Knuckle Pain: The Top 6 Possible Causes

Thumb knuckle pain: what does it mean when you have unexplained pain in your thumb pad, lower joint, or knuckle? Find out what could be the underlying cause and how to get relief. 

If you have persistent pain at the base of the thumb, right at the knuckle joint, or in your thumb pad, you might be worried about what it could mean. Did you sprain your thumb, somehow sleep on it wrong, or could it be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis? This article reviews a few thumb knuckle pain culprits, and what you can do to help treat the cause of this discomfort.

Joint Pain Overview

If you’re young and experiencing joint pain, you may not immediately jump to the conclusion that it could be arthritis or some other serious joint-affecting condition like degenerative joint disease or gout. However, data shows that these conditions, though statistically more likely to develop with age, can afflict people as young as 40 (arthritis) or 30 (gout). In all honesty, our bodies start declining in little ways after the age of 25, and after that it’s just the luck of the draw on the genetic lottery sometimes, especially with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

If you’re experiencing unexplained tenderness anywhere from the base of the thumb to thumb middle joint pain, discomfort so palpable that it’s interfering with your thumb’s range of motion, then it could be the sign of a serious condition, regardless of your age.

Thumb knuckle pain: top 6 possible causes.

Thumb Knuckle Pain: The Top 6 Possible Causes

Our thumb joints are one of the evolutionary wonders that differentiate us from our ape ancestors, and thumb knuckle pain can throttle your fine motor skills.

If you can’t think of any reason why your thumb knuckle is in pain—something as innocent as maybe you spent some time cracking walnuts or you’ve gotten a new keyboard and it could be a mild case of wrist tendinitis—then you could be worrying about one of the following underlying conditions.

1. Basal Joint Arthritis or Osteoarthritis

Basal joint arthritis could be causing your joint pain. The basal joint lies at the base of your thumb, just above the wrist. A wearing away of the cartilage in this joint is commonly called “thumb arthritis,” and comes not only with pain but also the loss of thumb mobility and the possible loss of thumb grip strength.

Our joint cartilage provides a cushion at the spot where two bones would otherwise meet and grind together. Cartilage cannot heal on its own, because, unlike other forms of tissue in the body, it has no blood supply to provide a healing pathway. Becoming aware of cartilage damage as soon as possible is important so you can ask your doctor how to prevent further breakdown.

Cartilage breakdown in the joints is also known as osteoarthritis, and it’s the most common form of arthritis worldwide.

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Thumb arthritis could also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis in the thumb. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder that can affect many of your joints. Rheumatoid pain in your thumb joint might be experienced as a stabbing, burning, or milder creaking pain.

3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by a pinched or compressed median nerve in the “tunnel” it travels through your wrist. This could cause tingling, burning, numbness, or weakness in your finger joints, thumb joints, or wrists. A common condition in the United States, carpal tunnel affects up to 6% of adults, though it’s more likely to occur in women rather than men.

Long-term repetitive movements of the hand are risk factors for developing carpal tunnel. Imagine the repetitive work of jobs like stenographer, cashier, assembly line worker, musician, or hair stylist.

4. Sprain, Injury, or Break

A sprained, jammed, or even broken thumb could cause pain in the area. Jammed thumbs are commonly referred to as “skier’s thumb.” If you suspect an injury as serious as a thumb break, you should seek medical advice immediately to have it evaluated and properly set for healing.

5. De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis and Trigger Finger/Thumb

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a tendinitis condition that involves inflammation on the thumb side of your wrist. It’s often called “gamer’s thumb” in the modern world, as it can develop due to repetitive video game playing and the grip held on the controller.

Likewise trigger finger is the lay term for stenosing tenosynovitis, which is typified by a locking or catching sensation when you bend or straighten one of the digits on your hand. It most commonly affects the ring finger and the thumb, but it can impact any of the other fingers as well.

6. Gout

Though most people think of gout affecting the big toe joint, it can cause pain in any joint, including the knees, elbow, ankles, wrists, and fingers. Gout causes a buildup of uric acid crystals in these joints, which then leads to pain, swelling, and inflammation not unlike a feeling that the joint is on fire.

Thumb Knuckle Pain Treatment

Depending on the cause of your pain, treatment may involve little more than RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) if it’s due to an injury, or it may involve long-term care if it’s due to a chronic condition. A doctor may order X-rays or MRIs to assess the cause of this pain, and present you with treatment options, which may include:

  • Home remediesOver-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Tylenol or Advil, natural supplements and vitamins for joint pain, and devices like splints or ACE wrap bandages.
  • Medical treatments: Steroid injections, prescriptions for pain relief, physical therapy, or possible surgery may be appropriate for your situation. Your physician will review the pros and cons of each.

Thumb knuckle pain: top 6 possible causes.

Knuckle Down

There are many different causes that may be behind your thumb knuckle pain, anything from arthritis of the thumb to an injury that just needs time to heal.

If you’re experiencing persistent pain in your thumb pad, thumb joint, or thumb knuckle, don’t simply rely on anti-inflammatory medications to wait it out—chronic pain means there’s an underlying cause, and getting professional medical treatment sooner rather than later could make a massive difference when it comes to treatment, thumb mobility, and getting back to your daily activities.

Tendonitis Foot Pain: Causes, Symptoms and Solutions

Pain in your foot could be due to any number of tendonitis issues: find out the locations of the main tendons in your foot, the common causes of tendon inflammation, and how best to treat these injuries.

Tendonitis, or tendinitis, of the foot can occur in several areas of your foot, heel, and ankle. Tendonitis foot pain can severely hamper your daily activities, starting first thing in the morning (when it’s at its most painful), and then clear into the evening. Not only does tendonitis foot pain turn every step you make into a chore, it can also lead to decreased physical activity, and even back and neck problems if you develop a limp to ease the pain. This article has information on the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for different types of foot tendonitis so you can hopefully address the condition before it becomes chronic.

What Is Tendonitis?

The “-itis” in tendonitis refers to inflammation, and it can afflict just about any tendon in your body, from those in your shoulders, your elbows (familiar with tennis elbow?), your wrists, your knees (how about jumper’s knee?), and, of course, your feet. Tendonitis of the foot can be tricky to deal with because many of us need to be on our feet for hours each day. Plus, our feet are as complex as our hands are when it comes to the vast number of small bones and moving parts.

Each of our feet have 33 joints, 26 different bones, and over 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Just one connector out of sync and it’s like a rope has snapped in the rigging of a massive sailing ship: it could be an easy fix or it could be the first domino to fall in a series of ever-greater catastrophes. Tendons are the cords that attach muscle to bone, and while they are encased in lubricating sheaths to help protect them from friction and injury, one misstep or ankle injury could cause compounding pain and inflammation unless it’s treated quickly and correctly.

Read on to discover the common causes and symptoms of tendon injury to help identify the problem as soon as possible.

Tendonitis foot pain: causes, symptoms, and solutions.

What’s Causing Tendonitis Foot Pain?

Our tendons are built tough, especially the ones in our feet. While the tendons in our wrists and hands can be injured easily due to the delicate fine motor skills they’re meant to conduct, our feet bear the full weight of our bodies every day: walking, running, extending, climbing, and jumping when needed. However, even these strong bands have limits as to how far they can stretch.

When a tendon is repeatedly stressed or injured, small tears develop along its length, causing the body to respond at first with healthy inflammation, which may then lead to painful, chronic inflammation. Common causes of tendonitis of the foot include overuse, having high arches or flat feet, and sports-related or accidental injuries, but determining which tendon has been afflicted is the first step in discovering the cause and the solution.

Let’s highlight the main tendons in the foot, so you can better determine the location of your tendonitis foot pain as well as the causes, symptoms, and suggested treatments.

Ankle and Achilles Pain

The Achilles tendon is the thick band that attaches the back of the heels to the calf muscles.

Causes

Achilles tendonitis is often due to an injury from sports like soccer, but can also be caused by:

  • Tight calf muscles
  • Heel spurs or plantar fasciitis (a condition affecting the ligament in the foot’s arch)
  • Sporting or accidental injury
  • Overuse without enough recovery time

Symptoms

Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis may include:

  • Achilles pain
  • Stiffness of motion
  • Swelling at the heel bone or ankle
  • Difficulty walking in the morning or after long periods of rest

Treatment for a one-time injury may require no more than rest, ice, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). However, for athletes or those suffering serious injuries, it’s recommended that you consult a health care professional to determine whether physical therapy or orthotic shoe support is appropriate. For those with an underlying anatomy problem like flat feet (overpronation), orthotic support will help remove strain from the area and may help drastically prevent future injury.

Inner Ankle Pain

Your posterior tibial tendon is on the inside of your leg near your inner ankle bone, and it attaches your calf muscle to the inside of your foot, holding up the arch as you walk.

Causes

Causes of injury to this tendon often come from:

  • High-impact sports movements (jumping and landing in basketball, soccer, tennis, etc.)
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Wear and tear due to aging
  • Overpronated or flat feet

Symptoms

Pain in this tendon will have symptoms like:

  • Swelling of the inner side of the foot
  • Pain on the inner side of the foot
  • Radiating pain throughout the foot if the foot collapses

Once more, the standard treatment is rest, ice, and possibly anti-inflammatory medications, but if this is a chronic problem due to the shape of your foot, your gait, or a sporting activity you regularly take part in, consult a doctor or physical therapist for advice on orthotic support or perhaps cortisone steroid injections to the area.

Outer Foot and Ankle Pain

There are two peroneal tendons in each foot. One runs from the lower leg bone (the fibula, next to the shin bone) and wraps around the outer ankle bone to where it attaches to the little toe. The other runs underneath the foot, attaching to the inside arch. They help stabilize our ankles and our arches while walking.

Causes

Peroneal tendonitis could be caused by:

  • Repeated ankle sprains
  • Unsupportive footwear
  • Overuse or overtraining injury
  • Having high arches
  • Having muscle imbalances

Symptoms

Common symptoms of injury include:

  • Pain when pushing off the foot
  • Pain when turning the foot in and/or out
  • Pain and/or swelling at the back of the ankle
  • Ankle instability
  • The area feels warm to the touch

Treatment is the same: rest, ice, elevation, anti-inflammatory drugs or natural supplements, orthotics, and certain stretches meant to help loosen and strengthen the calf muscles and ankle stability. Seek medical advice from a physical therapist or health professional to learn proper stretching techniques for your specific tendonitis foot pain.

Top of the Foot Pain

Extensor tendons are in both our hands and our feet. In our hands they’re the ones on top that help to move our fingers, wrists, and thumbs, and in our feet they connect between the muscles at the front of our legs to our toes. They’re very close to the surface of the skin (you can feel them shift if you wiggle your toes), and thus are all the more vulnerable to injury.

Causes

Extensor tendonitis can be caused by:

  • Too-tight footwear
  • Being on your feet for extended periods of time (fast food workers, nurses, warehouse workers, etc.)
  • Walking or running on uneven surfaces
  • Tight calf muscles

Symptoms

Symptoms of extensor tendonitis may include:

  • Pain on the top of the foot
  • Swelling, bruising, tenderness on the top of the foot
  • Pain that worsens with activity and feels better when at rest

Treatment can involve rest, ice, and pain meds, but it also could be as simple a solution as changing the way you lace your shoes: if too much compression on these tendons is causing your foot pain, lacing shoes loosely, knotting the laces to the side instead of on top, or choosing a new style of footwear could alleviate the pain.

Big Toe Foot Pain

The flexor tendon runs from the lower leg, travels along the inside of the ankle, and attaches to the big toe.

Causes

The causes of flexor tendonitis may be:

  • Overuse of the big toe
  • Injury of the big toe
  • Improper footwear
  • Proper ballet dancing or other flawed forms of dance or sport

Symptoms

Symptoms of this tendonitis may include:

  • Pain deep within the inside back of the ankle
  • Pain in the foot’s arch (distinct from plantar fasciitis)
  • Pain when bending the big toe or on the outer side of the big toe
  • Tenderness anywhere along the course of the tendon

Treatment includes rest, ice, possible pain medications, stretching or massage, physical therapy, and (for dancers especially) taping up the foot to help protect the form and stability of the arch.

Don’t Foot the Bill for Tendonitis

Tendonitis foot pain is well known in sports medicine due to the extra strain put on feet during rapid or prolonged physical activity, but it can affect anyone. Tendonitis symptoms should be well-heeded, as taking care of these twinges and inflammatory reactions early can mean saving yourself from months or years of chronic pain.

Long-term foot pain can derail your exercise regimen and limit your range of motion, so it’s important to seek medical advice or to get a physical exam as soon as possible to rule out underlying medical conditions. The sooner you get the support you need, the more likely you’ll be able to relieve your pain through simple, nonsurgical treatment.

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.

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.

 

The Kidney Flush Diet: Natural Ways to Cleanse Your Kidneys

If you’re looking for a natural way to cleanse your kidneys, look no further than these foods, drinks, and supplements that are scientifically proven to help support kidney function.

If you’ve looked into a liver detox diet or a salt water flush for your colon, you may well be interested in helping the other key component when it comes to waste removal from the body: your kidneys. The kidneys process up to 200 quarts of blood each day, removing waste products along with enough excess water to wash it all away. They also produce three key hormones: renin for regulating blood pressure, calcitriol which helps regulate calcium (as it’s a form of vitamin D), and erythropoietin which is needed to stimulate new red blood cell production in the bone marrow. Your kidneys are vital to your survival, and if you want to help them do their job, you may want to try a kidney cleanse. This article provides the reasoning behind a kidney flush diet and which foods best benefit these twin organs.

Kidney Function

Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs just under your rib cage in your lower back. Along with the liver, they help detox your body and remove waste from your bloodstream, everything from the normal detritus of cellular breakdown and synthesis, to toxins that should never have come to your body in the first place. Kidney health is incredibly important, because you cannot live without the work that they do.

What follows are the ingredients for the kidney flush diet, foods and beverages that contain nutrients especially valuable to kidney health. On top of that however, remember that hydration is the name of the game when it comes to your kidneys: without enough water, the waste kidneys help filter out becomes backlogged and can lead to kidney infection, kidney stones, chronic kidney disease, and even kidney failure and the need for a kidney transplant.

In fact, the cause of kidney stone formation is when substances like oxalate, calcium, and uric acid form into crystals because there isn’t enough fluid available to dilute them and flush them out. To found out how to flush kidney stones naturally and which nutrients help inhibit kidney stone formation, read on.

What's in a kidney flush diet?

The Kidney Flush Diet

The first ingredient in a kidney flush diet is always plenty of water—our bodies are made of nearly 60% water, and it’s needed for everything from brain to blood to every organ in between, including and especially for kidney function. After you’ve got a few glasses of water in you, you’ll want to try these other foods that contain natural kidney health support. Let’s see how they work.

Kidney-Cleansing Foods

Here are the front-runner foods for kidney-boosting nutrients.

1. Cranberries

Cranberries are well-known for being beneficial to the bladder and urinary tract. Not only can they help cure urinary tract infections (UTIs), but they can also help prevent them, and that benefit extends to the kidneys as well.

This study from 2013 found that sweetened, dried cranberries consumed over a 2-week period reduced incidents of UTIs, thus helping to protect the kidneys from a spreading UTI infection.

Include dried cranberries in a salad, a trail mix, or a dessert, and you’ll be doing your kidneys a favor.

2. Seaweed

Brown seaweed can benefit the kidneys, the liver, and the pancreas too. A 2014 study showed that rats who were fed seaweed for 22 consecutive days had reduced levels of damage from diabetes in both their livers and their kidneys.

A little dried seaweed can be eaten as a snack any time, a savory bit of crunch you can easily keep in your pantry, your car, or your desk at work.

3. Grapes

Grapes (along with certain other berries and peanuts) contain resveratrol, the plant compound that makes a glass of red wine beneficial to your heart health. It turns out, as this 2016 study shows, that resveratrol can act as an anti-inflammatory agent in treating polycystic kidney disease.

A baggie of grapes can be easily tossed into your lunch box, or you can freeze your grapes, preserving them longer and turning them into a fun summer treat.

4. Foods with Calcium

What does calcium have to do with your kidneys? Calcium binds with oxalate in the kidneys, preventing it from forming into kidney stones. While it’s true that too much of either one and not enough water intake to dilute them can form kidney stones, high-calcium foods like tofu, almond or soy milk, and fortified breakfast cereals help to balance out the minerals in your kidneys and reduce the risk of kidney stone formation.

5. Beets

Beets are rich in nitric oxide, which not only helps to cleanse the blood, but also contributes to kidney function. The Indian Journal of Nephrology published a 2015 study that revealed a lack of nitric oxide is a contributor to kidney damage, so getting a sufficient amount helps act as kidney support.

Kidney-Cleansing Drinks and Teas

Drink to your kidneys with these kidney-cleansing beverages.

1. Fruit Juices

If you’re wondering how to flush out kidney stones fast, fruit juices might be the answer. Not all kidney stones can be passed safely, so if you suspect you have a kidney stone (the pain will make itself very clear), get medical advice before trying to deal with it on your own.

If it is a matter of naturally passing the stones, melon, lemon, and orange juice can help prevent kidney stones from forming in the future by providing citrate (which can bind with calcium). Increasing your fluid intake also helps clear out kidney stones as quickly as possible.

Make a habit of drinking a glass of fresh juice each day and you’ll be doing your kidneys a great service.

2. Hydrangea Tea

Hydrangeas are not just for landscaping. Those beautiful blooms can also help your kidneys. A 2017 animal study found that subjects given Hydrangea paniculate extract for just 3 days gained more protection from kidney damage, a benefit attributed by researchers to the antioxidant content of the plant.

3. Sambong Tea

A tropical shrub originating from India and the Philippines, sambong (Blumea balsamifera) is a medicinal plant that has been scientifically shown to decrease the size of calcium oxalate crystals, meaning it could help prevent kidney stone formation.

Kidney-Cleansing Supplements

Here are the key nutrients you may want to focus on supplementing with for a kidney flush.

1. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is needed to metabolize glyoxylate into glycine. If there isn’t enough vitamin B6 available, glyoxylate may become oxalate instead, and too much oxalate can lead quickly to kidney stones and block urine flow.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Most American diets are far too high in omega-6 fatty acids, and extremely low in omega-3s. Researchers have found evidence that too high omega-6 levels could lead to kidney stone formation. To correct that ratio, a reduction of omega-6 foods (anything fried in or containing vegetable oils) and an increase of omega-3s is needed. Omega-3 fatty acids can be gained from eating oily fish like salmon or mackerel, or by taking a high-quality fish oil supplement containing both EPA and DHA.

3. Potassium Citrate

Not only can potassium citrate help reduce kidney stone formation, but it also aids in balancing the pH content of your urine. Potassium is also needed to control the electrolyte content of your urine.

Be Kind to Your Kidneys

Your kidneys filter your blood, and one of the best ways to nurture healthy kidneys is to make sure you eat well and avoid gumming up the works as much as possible. Should you have a medical condition that makes kidney function more difficult, consult with a trusted health professional about these and other natural remedies to protect two of your most vital organs.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Home Remedies: 12 Natural Remedies for Pain Relief

Here are the top 12 rheumatoid arthritis home remedies that have scientific backing, proven safety, and can help ease the pain and stiffness of RA either independently or in coordination with your rheumatologist’s treatment plan.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disorder of the immune system characterized by excessive inflammation and pain in the body’s joints. While doctors may prescribe medication to help manage the condition and relieve arthritis pain, some RA symptoms will persist. If you’re looking for rheumatoid arthritis home remedies you can employ yourself—whether they be exercises, supplements, or care devices—this article has a variety of proven therapies that may help relieve your pain.

The Top 12 Rheumatoid Arthritis Home Remedies

While these at-home remedies may not be cures, and most certainly cannot replace your doctor’s advice and guidance, they are nevertheless some natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis you can try on your own to relieve RA’s side effects of stiffness, pain, and discomfort. Some will be simple, like using heating pads and ice packs, while some will involve assistance from others, like acupuncture. If you have any questions about whether these home remedies are appropriate for your circumstances, ask your doctor before trying them, and once you get the go-ahead, find the treatment that works best for you.

The top 12 rheumatoid arthritis home remedies.

1. Heat and Cold Applications

Heat and cold treatments can both help ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, though each one offers unique benefits.

  • Cold compress: Applying an ice pack or other form of cold compress to the affected joint during an RA flare-up can help curb inflammation and joint swelling. It’s recommended that you apply cold for about 15 minutes at a time, taking a 30-minute break in between applications.
  • Heating pad: Heat relaxes your muscles and encourages blood flow to the affected area. By using either a warm, damp towel or a moist heating pad you can avoid any burns that might come from applying heat directly to the skin. A hot shower or warm bath can also act as heat therapy, but it’s recommended that you avoid hot tubs or spas in instances of heart disease, high blood pressure, or pregnancy.

2. Magnet Therapy

Magnet therapies can be found in a variety of forms, from bracelets (designed as home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis in hands) to necklaces, inserts, pads, and disks. They’re often available for purchase at natural food stores. While a lot of the data on the effectiveness of magnetic therapy is inconclusive and difficult to test for objectivity, it’s nevertheless a therapy you could evaluate on your own to see if it works for you.

3. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that is one of the oldest natural pain therapies on record. In acupuncture, super-fine needles are used to stimulate your body along energy pathways known as meridians, with the goal to balance your energy or qi (pronounced “chee”). Acupuncture has been shown to be a beneficial rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and has also been found to help alleviate other chronic pain conditions like back pain and osteoarthritis. If you’re considering this course of treatment, ask your rheumatologist to recommend a trusted practitioner who has worked with RA patients before.

4. Aromatherapy

While this treatment won’t influence your pain levels or causes of inflammation, it may still improve your mood and your stress levels. Your sense of smell is linked deeply with your mood and memory, and some people have found that essential oil therapy and massage improve their feelings of well-being.

5. Biofeedback Training

Biofeedback training involves placing sensors over the patient’s body to monitor the physiological data regarding automatic responses, like your blood pressure and heart rate. This monitoring is done so that a therapist can help train the patient to acquire voluntary control over these functions, and has shown positive application in rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

Biofeedback treatment may include use of one or more of these measuring devices:

  • A galvanic skin response meter: For measuring eccrine sweat gland activity.
  • A thermistor: Used to measure peripheral skin temperature.
  • Electrocardiograms or photoplethysmographs: Meant to measure peripheral heart rate, blood flow, and heart rate variability.
  • Electromyogram (SEMG): For measuring surface neuromuscular responses.
  • A respiratory gauge: Used in measuring breathing patterns, breathing rate, and expired carbon dioxide.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG): Used to measure the electrical activity of the cerebral cortex.

Biofeedback is considered a self-regulatory therapy because it is a tool to increase your awareness of your individual physiological responses in order to change them, reducing symptoms or improving performance as needed in reaction to stressors.

6. Deep Breathing and Yoga

Deep breathing techniques involve taking slow breaths from the depths of your belly, and can help calm your body, relax your muscles, and turn off certain stress receptors. Deep breathing is often a focal point in the practice of yoga, a low-impact exercise method with spiritual roots that was developed in India over 5,000 years ago. Yoga can help ease joint pain, increase flexibility, and release tension in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. If you’re seeking a yoga instructor, try to find someone with experience in guiding people with RA.

7. Exercise

Other types of exercise can help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and increase your joint health. Your doctor may be able to recommend a physical therapist to get your body into a fit enough condition to take on some of the following exercises if you think they might help improve your quality of life. Your physical therapist may recommend:

  • Aerobics: Activities like walking, running, and swimming increase your cardiovascular capabilities and health.
  • Strength trainingStrength training helps to keep the muscles surrounding your joints strong.
  • Range-of-motion exercises: These exercises help to train your joints to move as they should.
  • Balance movesBalance training helps you avoid dangerous stumbles and falls (see the next entry on tai chi for more information).

8. Tai Chi

Tai chi is another ancient Chinese tradition that can serve to increase your balance and strength. Tai chi involves performing slow, deliberate movements in a focused manner, and, like yoga, also includes deep breathing techniques and holding various physical postures. Tai chi is a gentle martial art that teaches you to use your own bodyweight and connection to the earth to increase your strength, and has been shown to help with lower extremity mobility in RA patients, so it’s particularly good to include in home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis in knees or ankles.

9. Massage

Massage is another incredibly old and reliable natural remedy, and modern science still acknowledges that it can help ease pain, especially for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Massage and reflexology have been shown to help manage RA pain and fatigue in patients, and you should be able to get recommendations on a qualified masseuse from your doctor or your physical therapist.

10. Fish Oil Supplements

Studies have shown that fish oil supplements may help reduce pain and joint stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Be sure to consult with your doctor before adding fish oil supplements to your regimen because they could interfere with certain medications and increase the likelihood of bleeding or bruising. The only other side effects some people report are belching, nausea, or a fishy taste in their mouth. If you do choose to try fish oil supplements, know that they contain valuable omega-3 fatty acids that will also improve your body’s fatty acids ratio.

11. Topical Gels, Creams, and Patches

At-home remedies like rubs, heat patches, and warming creams can help alleviate your pain without the need for pharmaceuticals. Many of these products contain capsaicin, the ingredient that makes your chili peppers hot and that studies show can help ease RA pain. However, it’s not recommended to use these products along with an electric heating pad, as doing so could make burns more likely to occur.

12. Turmeric

Turmeric and its derivative curcumin are natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Turmeric is a golden spice often found in Indian and Indonesian cuisine, as well as in many supplements aiming to reduce inflammation and ease pain without use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This traditional medicine has been shown to block proteins that cause inflammation and is commonly used to treat RA.

A quick warning: while some supplements and natural remedies can truly help your condition, a lot of supplemental research is still in the early stages. These natural aids may affect other medications. Check with your doctor before taking even perfectly natural supplements to be sure they are safe for you.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Home Treatments

If you’re looking for RA or arthritis home remedies, there are many safe and effective options to choose from. If you have concern, doubt, or hesitation about these or other natural remedies, contact your rheumatologist, as any expert in the field will have a comprehensive awareness of these practices and supplements. Once you’re cleared to explore at-home options, you may well find the pain-free solution you’re looking for!

Inflammation of the Liver: The Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Learn about the causes and consequences of inflammation of the liver: the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and preventative measures you can take to avoid liver disease and liver failure.

Any health issue that adversely affects your liver has the potential to put your life in danger. Inflammation of the liver is a symptom of many serious medical conditions. We’ll detail these various liver diseases as well as what happens when your liver is under attack.

What Is the Function of the Liver?

The liver is your body’s largest organ, a dark-red gland that is located in the upper right area of your abdomen, just beneath your diaphragm. The bile produced by your liver collects into the gallbladder, located on the liver’s underside, which is itself attached to the small intestine via a bile duct. The manifold functions of the liver also include:

  • Blood filtration and the detoxification of alcohol, drugs, and environmental poisons
  • Converting sugars to glycogen
  • Breaking down and storing fatty acids
  • Synthesizing proteins like albumin (needed for regulating blood volume) and fibrinogen and prothrombin (essential coagulation factors)
  • Disposing of depleted blood cells by breaking them down to their basic components
  • Destroying bacteria filtered from the blood
  • Maintaining the balance of sex hormones (reducing the amount of naturally occurring male sex hormones in women and female sex hormones in men, known as estrogen dominance)
  • Policing the proteins that pass through the digestive system

What Is Inflammation of the Liver?

Inflammation of the liver occurs when your liver cells are attacked by disease-causing agents. The various symptoms that can be caused by liver inflammation, hepatitis, and liver disease include:

Yellowing of the skin and/or whites of the eyes (jaundice) Fatigue
Fluid buildup in the legs and ankles (edema) Itchy skin
A tendency to bruise or bleed easily Dark urine color
Abdominal pain and swelling (ascites) Chronic fatigue
Bloody or tar-colored stool Pale stool color
Nausea or vomiting Diarrhea
Unexplained weight loss Loss of appetite

Not all of these symptoms are as obvious as jaundice, and many could be signs of other conditions entirely, from stomach bleeding to heart failure to Wilson’s disease, a genetic disorder that occurs when copper builds up in the body, affecting the brain and liver. Such non-specific symptoms often make liver failure hard to diagnose, which is particularly dangerous because while your liver is out of commission, toxins could be accumulating in your body and your brain and causing new problems, one of which is liver cancer.

What Is Hepatitis?

The word “hepatitis” specifically refers to inflammation of the liver: from the Greek hêpar meaning “liver” and -itis meaning “inflammation” (as in arthritis, tendinitis, pancreatitis, etc.).

Hepatitis is often caused by either a viral infection or an autoimmune disorder that directs the body’s immune system to target the liver cells because it cannot differentiate healthy liver tissue from harmful invading cells.

There are several types of viral hepatitis, including hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, with hepatitises A and B being common causes of liver inflammation (though fortunately there are vaccines available for both). The following information on these conditions has been sourced from the Mayo Clinic and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Hepatitis A

This highly contagious liver infection is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A is often contracted from contaminated food or water, or close contact with an infected person or object. Mild cases of hepatitis A often don’t require treatment, and most people who’ve been infected can recover completely, with no permanent damage to their liver. Severe cases can persist for several months, however, so getting the vaccine for hepatitis A is encouraged, as is practicing good hygiene to protect against the hepatitis A virus.

If you suspect you were exposed to the hepatitis A virus, an injection of the vaccine or the antibody immunoglobulin within two weeks of possible exposure may protect you from infection. Seek medical advice right away if there’s been a hepatitis A outbreak in your area (in a restaurant for example), if you’ve had close or sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A, or of if you’ve traveled outside the country to areas like Mexico, Central, or South America, or to regions with poor sanitation practices.

Hepatitis B

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) brings on this very serious liver infection. Hepatitis B infection can become chronic (lasting more than 6 months), increasing the risk of liver failure, liver cancer, and cirrhosis (the end-stage of extensive scarring of the liver).

While most adults are able to recover fully from hepatitis B infection, infants and children are more likely to develop chronic hepatitis B. While a vaccine can prevent the infection of hepatitis B, and preventative treatment may help if you receive it within 24 hours after exposure, there is no cure once you are infected. Contracting hepatitis B will mean taking precautions to prevent spreading the virus to others. Hepatitis B can be spread from:

  • Sexual contact: You may contract hepatitis B if you have unprotected sex with an infected person. While the virus is not spread by coughing or sneezing, direct contact with an infected person’s saliva, blood, semen, or vaginal secretions can communicate the virus.
  • Needle sharing: Hepatitis B can easily spread through contaminated syringes and needles, so sharing intravenous drug paraphernalia puts you at a much higher risk of contracting hepatitis B.
  • Accidental needle sticks: Health care workers and anyone else who comes into regular contact with human blood are at a higher risk of exposure to hepatitis B.
  • Mother to child: Pregnant women with hepatitis B can pass the virus to their babies during childbirth. In such cases, the newborn can immediately be vaccinated to avoid infection.

Risk factors for hepatitis B infection include engaging in unprotected sex, needle sharing, working in a health care job that exposes you to human blood, and traveling to certain areas with high hepatitis B infection rates, like Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for everyone, but especially for those who are at higher risk.

Hepatitis C

A viral infection with no preventative vaccine, hepatitis C (HCV) also leads to inflammation of the liver. Traditional treatment of hepatitis C used to involve weekly injections and oral medications with prohibitive side effects, but more recently chronic hepatitis C has become curable via oral medications taken over a period of 2-6 months.

The issue that remains, however, is that people are often unaware that they’re infected until the symptoms of liver inflammation arise, which could take decades to appear. Because of this long incubation, the CDC recommends that everyone born between 1945-1965 (colloquially known as Baby Boomers) get a one-time screening blood test, as they’re in a group that is 5 times more likely to be infected than the rest of the populace.

Acute hepatitis C infection does not always become chronic. Between 14-50% of those infected are able clear hepatitis C from their bodies after the acute phase in what’s known as “spontaneous viral clearance.” Fortunately, hepatitis C usually responds well to antiviral therapy, though there are several distinct types of hepatitis C around the world. While the symptoms and progression of each genotype is the same, the treatment variations depend on the strand. The type 1 genotype is most common in North America and Europe.

Risk factors for contracting hepatitis C include health care work, needle sharing, incarceration, receiving hemodialysis for an extended period, receiving a blood transfusion before 1992, or clotting factor concentrates before 1987. To avoid exposure, it’s recommended to not use illicit drugs, to be cautious about the hygienic practices of tattoo parlors, and to practice safe sex.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is also known as “delta hepatitis,” and is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). It is an uncommon infection in the United States, and only occurs in those who are first infected with hepatitis B, because hepatitis D is an incomplete virus that needs the function of hepatitis B to replicate itself. Hepatitis D is transmitted via intimate contact with infected blood (either percutaneous or mucosal), and can be acquired with hepatitis B (coinfection) or after the fact (superinfection). There is no vaccine for hepatitis D, but it can be prevented by getting vaccinated for the hepatitis B vaccine, because it is a codependent virus.

Hepatitis E

This viral condition is brought about by infection from hepatitis E (HEV), though it fortunately does not result in chronic infection. Quite uncommon in the United States, hepatitis E exists in many other parts of the world, often transmitted through ingesting trace amounts of infected fecal matter through either contaminated water or poor overall sanitation. There is no current vaccine for preventing hepatitis E.

Alcoholic Hepatitis

This condition is the result of drinking too much alcohol over a period of many years, though not all heavy drinkers will develop alcoholic hepatitis. The American Liver Foundation states that up to 35% of people who drink heavily develop alcoholic hepatitis. It remains unclear to researchers why this condition only happens to some heavy drinkers (and a few moderate drinkers) and not to all of them. Receiving the diagnosis of alcoholic hepatitis requires you to immediately stop drinking, as ingesting alcohol will only escalate the condition to life-threatening proportions.

Risk factors that contribute to developing alcoholic hepatitis beyond immoderate drinking include being infected with other forms of hepatitis, being obese, being a woman, or being a person of color (African American or Hispanic), as well as binge drinking and malnutrition—heavy drinkers tend to eat poorly, and alcohol and its byproducts can hinder digestive absorption. Most people who develop alcoholic hepatitis have a history of drinking the equivalent of 7 glasses of wine, beer, or liquor shots daily for over 20 years.

Preventative measures include drinking moderately or abstaining, avoiding viral hepatitis infection, and being careful not to mix medications with alcohol, especially pain relievers like acetaminophen, found in Tylenol, which has its own adverse impact on the liver.

Autoimmune Hepatitis

Autoimmune hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that occurs when the immune system attacks your liver cells. The exact cause has never been scientifically pinpointed, but genetic and environmental factors appear to trigger the disease. While autoimmune hepatitis can be controlled via immune-suppressing drugs, if the condition does not respond to medication, it could lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, the need for a liver transplant, and death.

There are two types of autoimmune hepatitis that have been identified.

  • Type 1 autoimmune hepatitis: The most common type of the disease, type 1 autoimmune hepatitis can occur at any age, and is often accompanied by other autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, or ulcerative colitis.
  • Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis: Although it is possible for adults to develop type 2 autoimmune hepatitis, it’s more common in children and young adults.

Risk factors for autoimmune hepatitis include having other autoimmune diseases or a history of certain infections (like the measles, herpes simplex, or hepatitises A, B, and C), being female, or having a hereditary history that suggests a predisposition to the disease.

Liver inflammation: everything you need to know.

What Happens When the Liver Fails?

Because the liver plays a role in processing everything we eat and drink, any liver damage or inflammation is an emergency. Liver failure or hepatic failure is a life-threatening condition that can be either acute or chronic.

Acute Liver Failure

Acute liver failure is a rapid loss of liver function in someone who has no pre-existing liver condition, and is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate hospitalization. Depending on the cause, acute liver failure may be reversed, but often the only cure is to receive a liver transplant.

Causes of acute liver failure include:

  • Acetaminophen overdose: The Mayo Clinic states that acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol.
  • Prescription medications: Certain prescription medications like antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and anticonvulsants may cause acute liver failure.
  • Herbal supplements: Herbal drugs and supplements including ephedra, kava, pennyroyal, and skullcap have been linked to acute liver failure.
  • Viruses: Hepatitises A-E can cause acute liver failure, as well as cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and herpes simplex virus.
  • Toxins: Toxins that can be responsible for acute liver failure include the poisonous wild mushroom Amanita phalloides (aka the “death cap”), and carbon tetrachloride, an industrial chemical in refrigerants, and solvents for waxes and varnishes.
  • Autoimmune disease: Liver failure can result from autoimmune hepatitis, wherein the immune system causes inflammation and injury to healthy liver cells.
  • Vascular diseases of the liver: Diseases such as Budd-Chiari syndrome can create blockages in the veins of the liver, resulting in acute liver failure.
  • Metabolic disease: Certain rare metabolic diseases like acute fatty liver of pregnancy and Wilson’s disease have the potential to cause acute liver failure, though it is an infrequent occurrence.
  • Cancer: Cancer that originates from or spreads to your liver can cause the liver to fail.
  • Septic shock: Massive infection or sepsis can overwhelm the body and severely impair blood flow to the liver, causing failure.

Though there is an extensive amount of known causes, many cases of acute liver failure have no obvious cause, and the complications can be dire, from cerebral edema (fluid buildup in the brain), to an inability of the blood to clot, to opportunistic infections in the blood, lungs, and urinary tract, to kidney failure. While it’s impossible to prevent the unknown causes of acute liver failure, it is nevertheless advised that you get vaccinated, avoid ingesting wild mushrooms, avoid coming into close contact with chemical substances, practice good hygiene, avoid or moderate alcohol use, and stay fit.

Chronic Liver Failure

Chronic liver failure is marked by the gradual destruction of liver tissue over many years.

Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis is the late-stage condition caused by scarring of the liver tissue. Cirrhosis is the result of the accumulation of scars that form whenever the liver is injured by either disease or toxin consumption and tries to repair itself. Cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, and approximately half of those cases are due to alcohol abuse.

Chronic damage to the liver escalates to cirrhosis in these stages:

  • Scar tissue slowly begins replacing healthy functioning liver tissue.
  • Blood flow through the liver is progressively diminished by the encroachment of scar tissue.
  • As more and more normal liver tissue is lost, liver function declines.
  • Ultimately the liver becomes unable to produce proteins, or process nutrients, hormones, poisons, and drugs.

Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (ALD)

Alcoholic fatty liver disease results when fat cells get deposited in the liver, causing it to enlarge, and generally affects those who are both obese and heavy users of alcohol. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is preventable, and usually improves if you can stop drinking. If drinking continues and the condition progresses, it can lead to alcoholic hepatitis or alcoholic cirrhosis, which have all the same symptoms as listed above, plus potentially high blood pressure in the liver, an enlarged spleen, mental confusion, and internal bleeding. Alcohol-related fatty liver disease is the precursor before hepatitis and cirrhosis, and should be treated as an opportunity to halt the progression of liver failure.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is an umbrella term for many liver conditions that affect those who drink little-to-no alcohol. The National Institutes of Health lists other health conditions as common contributors to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, which is another umbrella term for a condition that involves high levels of bad cholesterol, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and large amounts of belly fat. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can also cause chronic damage that progresses towards liver failure.

How Is Liver Failure Diagnosed?

Whatever the underlying cause of liver inflammation and liver failure, medical attention is necessary. Common methods of diagnosis involve blood tests to detect any abnormalities, imaging scans to get a picture of the liver (CTs, ultrasounds, MRIs), or a biopsy. During a biopsy, a small piece of the liver is extracted and examined to determine the extent of any liver damage. If the liver damage is caught early enough and the cause quickly identified, then the liver may be able to heal and recover. Going forward after a successful treatment, there are ways to prevent further liver damage.

How to Prevent Liver Inflammation and Damage

One of the best ways to prevent liver conditions from developing is to limit certain risk factors and increase your overall health.

  • Get vaccinated. Receiving the vaccines for hepatitises A and B helps guard your liver.
  • Beware of contaminated needles. Whether it’s from illicit drug use, medical conditions that require regular injectables (like diabetes), or work as a health care provider, always be wary of used needles.
  • Do not eat any wild plant foods. Consuming wild mushrooms or berries can expose you to toxins and environmental contaminants.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption. Consume no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks for men.
  • Practice safe sex. Using condoms and dental dams helps limit sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating a nutritious plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats helps keeps fat deposits from building up in your liver.
  • Exercise. Staying physically active is a great boon to your overall health, from exercises as low-impact as walking to hitting the gym and taking fitness classes.
  • Lose excess weight. If you are obese or overweight, you can lose weight by reducing the number of calories you eat and increasing the amount of calories you burn.

Amino Acid Treatment of the Liver

On the cutting edge of developing science, amino acid therapies applied to the liver are showing amazing results. Studies have found that amino acid supplements are effective in treating both alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases. One study found that long-term oral supplementation of branched-chain amino acids had positive effects for patients with advanced liver cirrhosis, while another showed that application of those same essential amino acids positively impacted patients with advanced chronic liver disease.

Yet another study revealed that the dysregulation of the branched-chain amino acids is a characteristic signature in adolescents with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, independent of the factors of obesity and insulin resistance. They also concluded that an amino acid disruption could predict an increase in liver fat content over time. For as mysterious as the causes of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can be, scientists have found that disordered amino acids are a consistent marker for it.

Liver Your Best Life

Inflammation of the liver can be both the cause and the symptom of serious liver conditions. The best way to avoid liver inflammation is to live a safe and healthy life and to make sure your essential amino acids are in the proper balance, as they have been scientifically shown to act as both a prevention and a cure for various liver diseases. If you suspect any issue with your liver’s function, visit your doctor immediately, because the importance of your liver is right there in its name: you need your liver to live. Fortunately the liver has the ability to recover and heal itself, so if you take care of it, it can take care of you for a long time.

How to Heal Gastritis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

A general term, gastritis refers to a group of conditions that result in inflammation of the stomach lining. With knowledge of the various causes, symptoms, and available treatments, it’s possible to take control of the situation and both treat and heal gastritis.

Gastritis is a condition that leads to inflammation of the stomach lining. Episodes of acute gastritis may occur suddenly and last only a short time, while chronic gastritis may last weeks, months, or even years. While most cases of gastritis aren’t serious, the condition can occasionally lead to complications, including peptic ulcers and even stomach cancer. But with knowledge of the various causes, symptoms, and available treatments, it’s possible to take control of the situation and both treat and heal gastritis.

Causes of Gastritis

Gastritis can be caused by a number of factors, including damage to the lining of the stomach due to bacteria or viruses or thinning due to age. But by far, the majority of cases are caused by a type of bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori, or H pylori for short.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately two-thirds of the world’s population suffers from H pylori infection. Additional risk factors associated with gastritis include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Stress
  • Bile reflux

Signs, Symptoms, and Potential Complications of Gastritis

Interestingly, many people with gastritis never have any symptoms. In addition, people who are infected with H pylori in childhood may not have any symptoms until they reach adulthood. However, if gastritis symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Upper abdominal pain or burning
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upper abdominal fullness after eating

Symptoms of gastritis may be mild or severe and, if left untreated, can sometimes result in serious complications. Some of these include:

  • Peptic ulcers: Both NSAIDs and H pylori increase the risk of developing duodenal and stomach ulcers.
  • Atrophic gastritis: A complication especially of chronic gastritis, atrophic gastritis leads to destruction of the stomach’s mucosa and can develop into gastric cancer.
  • Pernicious anemia: Gastritis caused by autoimmune conditions can lead to loss of the stomach cells that help the body absorb vitamin B12, which results in impaired production of red blood cells.

If your symptoms don’t improve or worsen or you develop any shortness of breath, dizziness, weakness, vomiting with blood, blood in the stool, or black, tarry stool, see your health care provider right away. These are all symptoms of bleeding in the stomach and require immediate medical attention.

Tips to improve gastritis

Diagnosing Gastritis

While your health care provider will probably suspect gastritis after speaking with you about your medical history and conducting a physical exam, they may also choose to perform additional tests to determine the exact cause and help guide treatment. These tests may include:

  • H pylori testing: H pylori bacteria can be detected using breath, blood, or stool tests. Your health care provider may choose any of these, though the fecal antigen test has been found to be the most accurate.
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series: To perform an upper GI series, you’ll be asked to drink a chalky powder (barium) mixed with water and then undergo an X-ray. The barium coats your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine and absorbs the X-rays, making the organs of your upper digestive tract easier to see.
  • Endoscopy: An endoscopy uses a flexible tube with a lens, passed down the throat, to identify signs of inflammation in the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. If any abnormalities are found, biopsies (tissue samples) may be taken for laboratory analysis.

Treatment to Heal Gastritis

Once the diagnosis of gastritis has been confirmed, treatment will be tailored to the specific cause, though therapy should address any symptoms that are present as well.

In the case of pernicious anemia resulting from atrophic gastritis, B12 injections may be administered to help prevent complications of B12 deficiency.

Symptomatic treatment may also be provided in the form of medications designed to decrease the level of acid produced by the stomach, thereby helping to promote healing of the inflamed stomach lining. These types of medications include proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), H2 blockers, and antacids, such as:

  • Omeprazole (Prilosec)
  • Esomeprazole (Nexium)
  • Ranitidine (Zantac)
  • Famotidine (Pepcid)
  • Alka-Seltzer
  • Maalox

When addressing the cause of gastritis, treatment may be as simple as removing the offending agent, such as alcohol, or, in the case of NSAIDs, recommending a dose reduction or change to another type of medication.

If you’re found to have H pylori infection, you’ll be treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria and decrease your risk of developing complications such as peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. Several natural remedies have also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of H pylori:

  • ProbioticsAccording to a study published in Clinical Microbiology Reviews, probiotics may be helpful in treating H pylori due to their activation of the immune system and direct competition with the pathogen.
  • Green teaStudies have shown that the anti-inflammatory properties of green tea, along with its lower levels of caffeine, may reduce the risk of developing gastritis by 40%.
  • Broccoli sprouts: A study found that daily intake of broccoli sprouts for 2 months reduces H pylori colonization in mice and decreases the risk of complications in both mice and humans.
  • Honey: A study found that honey decreases stomach acid production and aids in the healing of the stomach lining.
  • Nigella sativa (black seed): A study found that a mixture of black seed and honey was effective in treating both H pylori infection and dyspepsia.

While gastritis caused by H pylori, NSAIDs, or alcohol may be rather easily treated with the use of antibiotics (in the case of H pylori) or withdrawal of the offending agent (in the case of NSAIDs and alcohol), the treatment of gastritis resulting from other causes may be more complex. Cases resulting from stress or autoimmune disorders, for example, may benefit from equal parts healing and therapeutic prevention.

The Best Gastritis Diet

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), research has not been able to find a significant connection between a person’s diet and nutritional status and the development or prevention of gastritis.

However, the Mayo Clinic advises several changes to the diets of people suffering from gastritis. These include eating frequent, small meals and avoiding fried, fatty, acidic, or spicy foods.

Other sources suggest that foods known for their anti-inflammatory properties and ability to support immune and digestive system health may be helpful in fighting both the underlying causes and inflammation that characterize gastritis.

When choosing foods to aid in recovery from gastritis and help prevent its return, look for foods high in fiber, lean protein, antioxidants, probiotics, and omega-3 fatty acids. And be sure to avoid substances that irritate your sensitive stomach lining, such as carbonated beverages, coffee, and processed foods.

Tips to improve gastritis

Amino Acids for Gastritis

There’s also a growing body of evidence indicating that the use of certain supplemental amino acids may be beneficial in the treatment of gastritis.

For example, studies have shown that a combination of zinc and carnosine peptide—a substance derived from the amino acids beta-alanine and histidine—is effective against H pylori and has the ability to repair the stomach’s damaged mucosal lining. One study also found that these effects were perfectly achievable with the use of over-the-counter zinc carnosine supplements.

Another study found that the amino acid N-acetylcysteine (NAC) leads to improvements in both symptomatology and endoscopic findings in patients with chronic atrophic gastritis.

In addition, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that the amino acid glutamine has the ability to decrease the inflammation and mucosal abnormalities associated with H pylori infection.

The pain and discomfort of gastritis, when they occur, are never pleasant and shouldn’t be ignored. But with appropriate treatment and the help of your health care provider—who can provide you with tips on everything from reducing stress to eradicating H pylori and supporting the body’s healing process with proper nutrition—symptoms can be alleviated and healing achieved.