Hyaluronic Acid

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Are hyaluronic acid supplements effective against joint pain?

HA acts as an antioxidant and modifies inflammation. In joints, it cushions and lubricates. Levels of HA in joint fluid can be significantly reduced in people with osteoarthritis. So the substance (extracted from rooster combs or made by bacteria in a lab) is sometimes injected into joints to reduce arthritis pain and improve function.

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database says that HA is "possibly effective" for osteoarthritis when injected, though results have been mixed. It's also injected as a facial filler.

More dubious is the use of oral HA, available in gel caps and liquid forms. The supplements are touted to treat arthritis and delay aging (the "key to the fountain of youth"). They are said to promote healthy skin, stabilize vertebrae in the spine, promote recovery from sports and so on.

There are different sources and types of HA, with different biological effects. It's unknown which, if any, supplement might work. The only published human research we could find was a 2008 study that gave an HA supplement to people with knee osteoarthritis. It was very small and had questionable findings. And aside from some animal research, it's uncertain whether the substance is even well absorbed, much less that it makes it to the intended part of the body.

In 2010, the FDA warned one company that it was illegally marketing HA products as drugs and making unsubstantiated health claims. Be aware that some HA supplements also contain other questionable and potentially harmful ingredients.

A tincture is a liquid extract of an herb. Tinctures are made by soaking an herb in menstruum (solvent) such as alcohol or glycerine. The menstruum extracts the chemical constituents of the plant. The herb material is removed from the menstruum, usually several weeks later, once the medicinal properties of the herb have been extracted into the alcohol. Tinctures are more potent than teas, so they provide more medicinal strength. Tinctures can be made of one herb or a combination of herbs. Tinctures are taken to normalize body functions, improve the immune system, and treat illnesses. Some uses are colds and flus, urinary tract and upper respiratory infections, irritated tissues, pain relief, gastrointestinal health, cardiovascular health, hormonal balance, and menstrual irregularities. Keep tinctures in tight, light-resistant glass containers and avoid exposure to direct sunlight or high heat.

The naturopathic doctors prescribes remedies based on an individual's unique symptoms or characteristics. This means that two people who have the flu may receive different remedies because their symptoms are different. It requires training and skill to determine the appropriate remedy. When the appropriate remedy (called the similimum) is given, it can produce powerful and effective results. Homeopathy is used to treat all forms of acute and chronic illness and injury and is safe for children, pregnant or lactating women, and the elderly.

People often refer to a condition as a food allergy, when it actually is a food sensitivity. Food allergies are generally easy to determine through allergy testing or history of immune response. Food sensitivities can be more difficult to determine because reactions can be delayed (up to 48 hours) and/or more subtle. Also, it can be difficult to determine which food is actually causing the symptom, or if the symptom is caused by food or another pathological condition. Food sensitivity symptoms are many and varied. They include headache, diarrhea, constipation, sinus congestion, sore throat, and joint pain.

Food sensitivities can be more complex than just a symptom. When a food that is not tolerated is eaten, the stomach and intestines can become inflamed. Because of the inflammation, the lining of the gastrointestinal tract can develop little openings that bits of undigested or partially digested food can pass through. This is referred to as "leaky gut syndrome." When these particles enter the bloodstream, the body's immune system recognizes them as foreign and attacks them. Thus, an immune response is initiated at this point, but it is still not identified as a true food allergy.