Although numerous supplements lay claim to the title of “Best Supplement for Connective Tissues“, the truth might surprise you. As always, the best thing you can do for any health condition is not to put too much faith in much-hyped supplements, but instead, base your entire diet and way of eating around whole foods. By the way, this is great advice even if you do not have a health “condition“!
If you have read through any of Destroy Chronic Pain, you have come to realize that although the connective tissue problems that I deal with each and every day in my clinic are not typically caused by inflammation, they definitely attract inflammation. This is important to know, because frankly, most people (doctors included) do not understand tissue injury, nor do they understand the corresponding inflammatory process that follow it.
In a nutshell, “Inflammation” is a group of chemicals that reside naturally inside of your body’s cells. When cells die, they rupture their contents, including these inflammatory chemicals, into the extra-cellular fluid (the fluid that is outside of the cells). When tissue injury occurs, there are a lot of cells dying and rupturing their contents. The greater the tissue injury, the more inflammatory chemicals get dumped into a given area. Although these inflammatory chemicals are absolutely vital for healing; too many of them can wreak havoc, actually causing excess scarring and adhesion (not to mention pain). And this is just the beginning!
WHAT’S AT THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM?
TISSUE INFLAMMATION -vs- TISSUE DERANGEMENT
If you want to understand the most current model for treating injuries to the ELASTIC, COLLAGEN-BASED CONNECTIVE TISSUES, you have to understand the following sentence. The suffix “itis” means inflammation. The suffix “osis” means degenerative or deranged. To get a better handle on this concept, listen to what one of the world’s leading tendon researchers said almost a decade ago.
“Tendinosis, sometimes called tendinitis, or tendinopathy, is damage to a tendon at a cellular level (the suffix “osis” implies a pathology of chronic degeneration without inflammation). It is thought to be caused by micro-tears in the connective tissue in and around the tendon, leading to an increased number of tendon repair cells. This may lead to reduced tensile strength, thus increasing the chance of repetitive injury or even tendon rupture. Tendinosis is often misdiagnosed as tendinitis due to the limited understanding of tendinopathies by the medical community.”
Tendon researcher, Dr. GA Murrell from an article called, “Understanding Tendinopathies” in the December 2002 issue of The British Journal of Sports Medicine.
As you can tell, this concept of “osis” as opposed to “itis” is nothing new. The medical community has known since the late 1980′s that problems with the ELASTIC, COLLAGEN-BASED CONNECTIVE TISSUES are rarely caused by inflammation (itis) alone, but are instead caused by a derangement or degeneration (osis) of the tissue. These “osis‘” are usually caused by trauma or overuse. This is why the receipt or E.O.B. from your doctor visit will rarely have on it a diagnosis of tendon(itis), but will instead say, “tendon(osis). If you have read our page on TENDINITIS, you already understand all of this. If you have not read this page, go back and read it — it has pictures that are truly worth a thousand words!
BUT HOW DOES THIS ALL AFFECT ME?
If you are one of the individuals who has spent significant time suffering with chronic DEEP SOMATIC PAIN that is the result of injuries to ligaments, tendons, muscles, fascia, or bone, you already know how it affects you! Doctors have been, and still are, knowingly treating connective tissue problems using a model that was scientifically outdated decades ago. Instead of dealing with the “osis“, they are stuck in a time warp treating “itis“. They typically use things like anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDS, and Cortico-Steroids that actually destroy collagen-based tissues! Again, tissue injury is not caused by inflammation, it attracts it!
Is this to say that inflammation should be ignored? In the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 9, “God Forbid!” But, if your doctor is treating you with drugs that attempt to control these inflammatory chemicals, you are covering symptoms (“itis“) without ever addressing the underlying cause (“osis).
One of the many dirty little secrets of modern medicine is that anti-inflammatory drugs actually cause connective tissues to heal improperly (weaker and less elastic by 30 to 40%). They also cause liver problems, kidney problems, cardio vascular problems, and GI bleeds as well. Let’s not forget that at least 30,000 – 45,000 deaths per year in America can be directly traced back to these very medications. Gulp! (See our ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEDICATIONS PAGE).
SO DOC, WHAT DO I DO?
If you are already eating an ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET, the single most important supplement to take for Chronic Pain of any type; and particularly those that involve DEEP SOMATIC PAIN caused by injury to the elastic, collagen-based connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscles, and fascia), as well as bone, is Pharmaceutical Grade Fish Oil (PGFO). Current research shows that Joe-Average American is getting about 1/30th of the Omega Three fatty acids that are required by the body for optimum health. Hold on. I doubt that you picked up on that the first time, so I will repeat it. Current research shows that the average American is getting about 1/30th of the Omega Three fatty acids needed to maintain health.
Omega Three fatty acids are incredibly anti-inflammatory. They help people not simply with whole-body inflammation (see our SYSTEMIC INFLAMMATION web page), but they attack local inflammation as well. Our number one selling supplement for the last decade and a half has been Pharmaceutical Grade Fish Oil (PGFO). I would love to tell you that the majority of our patients take it because they have read the research and realize that controlling inflammation is good for everything from heart conditions, to bowel troubles, to depression, to skin problems, to mental acuity, to colitis, to diabetes, etc, etc, etc. The truth is, PGFO is good for anything that ends with “itis” (inflammation). Far and away, the reason that most people take our PGFO is because it helps them with the pain and dysfunction of arthritis. ARTH (joint), ITIS (inflammation).
OK DOC, I HAVE DEALT WITH INFLAMMATION. WHAT’S NEXT?
The next step is to get some specific nutrition into the injured area so that the tissue actually has the raw materials available to repair and regenerate injury to the elastic, collagen-based connective tissues. Standard Process makes a wonderful product called Ligaplex (LIGAPLEX I for acute, LIGAPLEX II for chronic). Whole Food Vitamin C (not the fake 500 or 1,000 mg per tablet stuff) is critical for healing any kind of connective tissue. Ligaplex has this and other vitamins / minerals / nutritional complexes in it.
Because most of these tissues that we are discussing, attach or “anchor” to bones, a good calcium supplement is in order as well. For you ladies that are being sold Bone Density Studies in order to get you started on the so-called “bone building drugs” —- drugs that actually cause osteoporosis; pay attention! Most calcium supplements are crap! (can I really say that on my own website?) American women get more calcium than the women of any other country in the world —- yet we have the highest rate of osteoporosis. Do you detect a snow job taking place?
Standard Process makes a product called CALCIFOOD (wafers or powder). It is the only product like it on the planet —- a cold-processed, whole-bone, bone meal supplement. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME WITH CALCIUM ALONE! (especially if it comes from rocks or shells). I realize that this web page is specifically for dealing with nutritional supplements for the elastic connective tissues, but ladies, please check out our OSTEOPOROSIS PAGE. Bone is a load-bearing Connective Tissue that is important in our discussion because it provides the attachment or anchor points for the other connective tissues — particularly tendons.
As strange as it sounds, digestive enzymes can play a huge part in cleaning up scar tissue. The part of the enzyme complex that breaks down proteins is called a Proteolytic Enzyme. These Proteolytic Enzymes actually attack scar tissue (which is made of deranged collagen proteins). I have a whole paper I can send you on digestive enzymes upon request.
Another great line of products consist of Glucosamine Sulfate, Chondroitin, and MSM. Don’t waste your time (or money) buying these products separately. We carry a product that has them all-in-one. It also contains about a half dozen anti-inflammatory herbs. Although Glucosamine is critical for people with cartilage problems (a load-bearing connective tissue), it is also good for the elastic connective tissues that have to deal with tensile (pulling) forces.
Still another supplement that is excellent for cartilage, as well as the ELASTIC, COLLAGEN-BASED CONNECTIVE TISSUES, is Powdered Collagen. There are many forms of this stuff on the market that all claim to be better than the next. You can take Knox Gelatin (pure hydrolyzed collagen) and get similar results.
Get your Vitamin D from sunlight when you can.
For more information on supplementation, go to www.DoctorSchierling.com