Joint Pain Pt.2 – Fire Starters of Inflammation

September 18th, 2016





“Joint pain, bloating and foggy thoughts are not imagined symptoms, They’re the result of improper diet. Make eliminations. Start with wheat, then dairy, then sugar. These are the most inflammatory foods.”

 – Nancy S. Mure



Last week (click here if you missed it) we looked at some of the physical connections that contributed to joint pain. While that went some way to explaining how joint pain can occur, it is not the whole story.




So, if we move on from last week and put aside causative factors like physical traumas, years of wear and tear, sporting injuries, accidents, repetition strain injuries and scar tissue from operations, what might be some of the less obvious causes of this annoying, painful and even crippling problem?


Low-grade inflammation – the hidden trouble maker


This is a subject that has been touched on before by the blog (check here) and it surfaces again in this series for good reason.


The single biggest reason for pain in the joints is inflammation


While bone and joint surfaces can become inflamed through mechanical friction – particularly in cases of bone on bone contact due to disk degeneration – there are more insidious, systemic causes of inflammation.


The root causes of low grade inflammation are many and varied. Once it affects the joints however patients and doctors alike tend to be so distracted by those symptoms that the bigger picture behind them is ignored.



The mucosa – low grade inflammation link




The mucosa – that slimy surface covering the digestive tract, urinary tract, ear, nose and throat to name a few – is somewhat of a battleground. It represents our immune system’s first line of defence against incoming attack from substances (collectively called antigens) that could compromise our health. In normal health, most of these battles go unnoticed by us.


When there is irritation to the mucosa either through an overload of threats to our immunity or by it being hindered from doing its job properly, these otherwise isolated battles can spread out into our system like a bush fire.


If it ends up in the still waters of the joints it can be very hard to remove again. This is only one reason why it is so important to maintain a healthy mucosa. After all, along with blood, the mucosa represents our immunity.


So, what might be some of the ways we can unwittingly compromise the functioning of our mucosa?



Fire starters




  • A diet high in sugar
  • Processed foods containing many preservatives, irritating chemicals and sugar analogues (glucose, dextrose, maltodextrin and the like)
  • Gluten – found in flour products like bread, biscuits, pastries, cakes, pizza and pasta; oats; beer; and many sauces where gluten has been added like soy and those found in canned foods


Most of us know that refined sugar does not do our health any favours. It is linked to a myriad of health issues from tooth decay to obesity and diabetes. In the context of joint pain it is its role in creating an irritating, acidic environment in the gut.


As we have seen, irritated intestinal mucosa produce more mucus to protect itself which provides a gateway for other problems. That is, we cannot absorb nutrients we need and our inflamed intestinal walls can let in substances they should not.


Processed food play a similar role but introduces a whole raft of chemicals that, while useful for economic gain, have no place in a healthy body.



A sticky situation




What do all these factors have in common?: They create irritation and inflammation that the mucosa must defend against. The most common way the mucosa defends its delicate, pink membranes against raised acidity and inflammation is to create more mucus.


This causes its own problems however. The microvilli of the mucous membrane in the small intestine in particular absorb nutrients into the blood. This is made more difficult when these membranes are clogged in a flood of mucus. The result is a feeling of being ‘starved in the midst of plenty’ resulting in increased sugar and carbohydrate cravings – which of course continues the cycle of irritation and inflammation.



Immunity, low-grade inflammation and the joints





Many of the byproducts of the above scenarios eventually find their way to the joints. These usually take the form of crystallisation. Think of the joint capsules as quiet estuaries to the side of flowing rivers or oceans. Once particles drift into them they can have a hard time getting back out into the flow again.




Different types of crystals cause different kinds of joint inflammation:


  • In normal healthy functioning, hydroxyapatite crystals, for example, makes up bone mineral and the matrix of teeth. They also can crystallise on joints, tendons and ligaments. They feature particularly in shoulder joint and rotator cuff injuries.
  • Uric acid crystals feature in gout
  • Calcium pyrophosphate crystals contribute to so-called ‘pseudo gout’ symptoms


Crystallisation can gather in the synovial capsule or in cartilage. When it finally enters the joint capsule our well-meaning immune response attacks it (via our phagocytes) causing rapid and painful inflammation.





The most common Western medical treatment for such situations is local injection of cortisol or the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). All of these have their downside however in the form of various undesirable side effects.


If that wasn’t bad enough these sneaky crystals bury themselves in the cartilage and connective tissues to remain even after the acute inflammation has been medicated away. In other words, all the medication in the world will not help if we do not address the cause coming from our diet via our chronically irritated and inflamed intestines and compromised, self attacking immune system.


To summarise this section: If you suffer from chronic joint inflammation and pain and are serious about putting an end to it then give the following tips a strict, one month trial:


  • Eliminate all white sugar from your diet
  • Eliminate all gluten from your diet
  • Eat predominantly alkaline causing foods such as fresh, organic fruit and vegetables; garlic and spices like turmeric; vegetable juices featuring cucumber, celery and berries in particular.
  • Get out in the fresh air, sunshine and salt water where possible.
  • Exercise. If walking is difficult try aqua aerobics, swimming, cycling or light resistance training.
  • Supplements like celery seed capsules and omega 3






The gluten question


This leaves an oft misunderstood substance and its effects on the body: gluten. There is a lot of (sometimes intentional) misinformation about it too. 1


With that in mind, take a look at the video below for a primer about how gluten begins a chain of negative outcomes in the body – including joint inflammation and pain. For those with short attention spans, you can hear a summary of gluten’s effects around the 17.30 minute mark.



As a side note, one does not need to have coeliac disease or inflamed joints to avoid gluten. Those swollen belly, flatulence, intestinal discomfort, slimy mucous and minor allergies, weight gain, fuzzy head, headaches and poor concentration, sweet cravings after eating and other seemingly innocuous symptoms are not just unavoidable parts of life – they are a cause and effect consequence of our everyday habits and choices and our body’s reaction to them.


As they say in the horror movies, “The call is coming from inside the house.”



Nature versus nurture


Next week, in the third and final part in this short series on joint pain, we will take a brief look at the role of genetic predisposition to joint problems. Of course, we inherit much more than DNA from our parents. They often help shape our world view too – for better or worse – and how we experience and react to the ups and downs of life.


That of course will bring us to the role of our own mind in all of this. The constant, shifting vibratory waves of thoughts and feelings are like software programs. We can hurt and heal ourselves with them so it is a good idea to understand how they interact with our body.



Till another Monday brings us answers to the burning questions,



This is not surprising as the food processing industry is a huge business with a well-funded media lobby. A mass desertion of its customer base because of gluten in its products is not good for that business. A bit of well placed propaganda is often all that is needed to create confusion and apathy. After all, it worked very effectively for Big Tobacco for decades regarding the effects of smoking or Big Oil regarding climate change to name just a few historical examples. The moral here is to not depend upon others to look out for you and your health.


© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:


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