By: Dr. William Wong, ND, PhD.
So, you’ve been training for years; you think you know your body better than anyone else and you have a considerable list of accomplishments in sports. All sources of pride. But lately the aches have been creeping in. They’ve been coming on sooner and lasting longer than you remember. Lately on your runs there have been some occasional sharp pains from deep within the knees. The bursa sac under the kneecap is swollen just enough that you cant see your patella tendon on one side. And your shoulders! Sometimes you want to dog paddle when you should be crawling, never mind about it getting caught when doing a lay up shot or (forbid) it clunking in and out of joint when you’re getting the groceries out of the trunk! Sound like you yet? If not it soon will be. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.
No, not me – never me, you exclaim! (There’s the pride again). Yep, you. There are only so many times you can red line a car down a gravel road and you’re getting close to what we in the health profession call “the limitations of matter”. As a generation we Boomers have been more active than any generation previous. Our folks may have survived the Great Depression and fought in the Second World War but after they got home, work is the only thing they did. They wore themselves out being cogs in the industrial machine. And what do they have to show for it? Flabby weak bodies, strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s and social security… We’ve perceived the problem and have been running away from those images ever since. So what do we have to look forward to? Well a good many of us will never have to worry about the ravages of old age! We’re not going to live that long!
It’s just an observation; it may just be the patient population I’ve been dealing with the last few years, and I’ve got no hard stats to back up these observations but I think we’re dying faster than our folks did. I’ve seen diseases I had not expected to see in our generation until we were well into our 60’s come up and hit boomers hard in their early 40’s! Since the 1960’s we’ve been burning the candle at both ends and the middle. From sincere activism and serious partying we dove head long into work. To obviate the effects of flying desks or assembly lines we played hard. On top of that we attempted to be super parents. We have faced more stress in one year than our ancestors faced in a lifetime. It’s taken its’ toll and it shows; in our joints (and elsewhere). Some of us look as bad as our parents did at our age. I’m grateful to say though that most of us don’t, but we sure feel like we should! So how do we deal with the effects of overusing our bodies for so long? How can we make our natural equipment last longer? And most important of all, how do we strengthen and support our faded over zapped immune systems? If we’ve been at sports and exercise for a while, then we’ve trashed out our immune systems as a consequence. (1).
Lets start with the obvious: muscles when over used will rebuild given rest and the proper therapeutic exercise. Rest, that’s the key word here no more training every day of the week! For every day of hard training there are 2 to 3 days of immune suppression following! On another matter, muscles need definite nutrition to heal them from the repeated micro injuries incurred while training, and no I don’t mean they need just protein, they need different stuff than that.
Joints are another matter. The manic over exercise craze will be the greatest single source of future knee replacement and shoulder reconstruction patients for orthopedic surgeons. The days when you could shake it off and keep on going are gone, or soon will be.
Low to mid level wear at joints can be dealt with nutritionally. With joint wear the body wants to shield the injured area from further insult so it splints the joint with swelling and pain thus attempting to restrict the range of motion (ROM) of the joint. Along with that the system attempts to feed nutrients to the injured area and speed healing by greatly increasing the blood flow to the joint thus causing the redness and sometimes the throbbing that often times accompanies the swelling.
We need to think of a joint as having two sides – an outside and an inside. Inside of the joint we have the gliding surfaces of the articulation, which are made up of hyaline cartilage. This smooth shiny cartilage is hydrophilic, it loves water. Not only is the hyaline smooth and slick but also it absorbs the mucous like synovial fluid into its surface creating a virtually frictionless bearing. When compression forces squeeze the joint ends closer this fluid gets forced out from in-between the surfaces and cartilage touches directly on cartilage. Over time and with repeated use the sections of the cartilage that do touch will wear. Flat spotting, grating and even fracturing occur. Improper tibial rotation angles, knock-knees, bow legs and excessive Q angles all contribute to knee problems and accelerate wear. (The Q angle is the line drawn from the origin of the Rectus muscle at the front of the thigh, down through the patella tendon to mid kneecap and the turn the tendon takes at mid kneecap to get to it’s attachment on the Tibial Tuberosity. An angle of 20 degrees or greater is too much. These patients will tend to have greater knee wear as well as a tendency to patella dislocation).
As for the shoulder, can you think of any joints more used than your poor shoulders. For years you’ve been doing what the muscle heads in the exercise magazines have told you is the “all fired greatest stuff” for building bigger delts, wider lats and slab like pecs. The problem is those muscle heads didn’t have a clue as to the science of biomechanics and the years of behind the neck pulldowns, and wide grip pull-ups have micro trauma’ed your rotator cuffs into macro trauma. Those behind the neck shoulder presses that were supposed to give you that wide look have instead has torn your supraspinatus muscle. Don’t believe me? Try this test…Stick your arm out in front of you to shoulder level. Now point your thumb down towards the floor as if you are pouring a soda. Have someone place their hand atop your wrist and apply some downward pressure, not a lot but enough to keep your arm from going any higher. You them push up against their resistance. Do this test out to the front then out to the side. Didn’t know you had that pain in the back of the shoulder did you?
As for benches, flys and dips; what about that chronic pain at the front of the shoulder just under the anterior delt and leaning towards the chest. Strum the middle of the anterior delt deeply with your thumb. Start at the margin of the pec and pull towards the outside. Hurts doesn’t it?
Now those are just the signs of overuse and injury to the outside of the joint, on the soft tissue. What about the stuff inside? What have the years of pounding your knees, grinding your shoulders and pushing all of the other joints of your body done to that smooth sponge like gliding surface?
The hyaline was formed early in life from something called mucopolysaccharides. Your body stopped making the stuff somewhere during or after puberty. Now, the inside of the joint has no blood supply. The articulating surfaces are fed directly by the mucous synovial fluid which gets it’s supply of nutrients through the joint capsule membrane from the blood supply on it’s outside. If we still made these mucopolysaccharides our joints hardly ever wear. But we don’t so they do. Nutritional science has the answer – and you’ve likely heard of it by now; Chondroitin and Glucosamine. These mucopolysaccharides are well absorbed and travel through the blood to where they get taken in by the areas that need it. (With the Glucosamine HCL being better absorbed than the Glucosamine sulfate). A rehab patient of mine underwent two shoulder surgeries. In the first there was considerable wear present at the ball joint (glenoid). A year later after having been on the glucosamine for some months he needed a second surgery to correct things improperly done in the first. Pictures attest to the difference in the hyaline of the glenoid. Where there was once spotted wear there was now a clean smooth hyaline layer! Neat stuff. Now to something you haven’t heard about – Systemic Enzymes.
Dr.Max Wolf M.D. and Ph.D. times 7 of Columbia University is widely acknowledged as the father of systemic oral enzyme therapy. (1). Wolf found that as we age or are under stress our bodies own production of enzymes is depleted. Age related changes he said are directly attributable to depletion of enzymes. Systemic enzymes differ from digestive enzymes in that the tablets are taken in between meals so that the constituents can be absorbed into the blood stream and do their work there instead of expending their action on digesting food. With 40 years of use and over 160 peer reviewed verifying studies behind it, systemic enzymes are the second best selling over the counter preparation in Germany. When a joint or any soft tissue is injured or infirm the body creates irritants called Circulating Immune Complexes. It’s these complexes that cause the inflammation of joint capsules, bursae, tendons, muscles, blood vessels, internal organs etc. These complexes also are responsible for autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus. In those conditions a large build up of the complexes attack the joints or muscles, respectively thinking these to be foreign invaders. Enzymes eat Circulating Immune Complexes. (2).
In eating away at the substances that cause inflammation, its pain, swelling and redness are reduced. As a consequence pain is relieved. Nifty! But for athletes the other actions of systemic enzymes are just as important. These enzymes are antifibrotic. “Over expression” of Fibrin and Fibrinogen create the matrix in the blood vessels for arteriosclerotic plaque. Systemic enzymes control this over expression and eat away slowly at established plaque. Systemic Enzymes are also used in Europe to fight thrombosis, blood clots deep in the veins. (3). Isn’t cardiovascular health why most of us started exercising in the first place! Now science has found that a little critter called a C- reactive protein is the cause of inflammation in blood vessels and can possibly lead to heart disease. Two things destroy C-reactive proteins: aspirin and systemic enzymes. Aspirin use has side effects the natural enzymes do not. (4). According to the Wall Street Journal, April 20 1999, 20,000 Americans die from aspirin, ibuprofen and that whole class of Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs. That means that more Americans die every year from aspirin and its related drugs than die from Aid’s!
The enzymes are also a great blood cleaner. In eating away at Circulating Immune Complexes, necrotic derbies and fibrin in the blood these actions reduce the viscosity of blood by removing the gunk. This is a different mechanism for reducing blood viscosity than aspirin. (5) To anyone who exercises or plays a sport, thinner blood means improved circulation to working muscles and increased micro circulation. Most folks walk around with blood that’s as thick as catsup! (6). Folks who exercise make that worse by the dehydration they suffer. Many endurance athletes make things worse still by taking the drug EPO which in order to have greater numbers of red blood cells to move oxygen around with. EPO was invented for cancer therapy patients suffering from extreme anemia. It was never meant to augment the hemoglobin count of athletes. Mainly triathloners, tennis players and cyclists use this drug. They have also been dying of blood clots caused from using this stuff!
Systemic Enzymes, the best of which is the product VitalZym, help the body to recover faster from exercise, preventing micro trauma from becoming macro trauma. In cases of injury, VitalZym is used by pro athletes to reduce the effects of injury and speed healing. European sport physicians have found that recovery times are cut dramatically. (8).
Now we come to something that over exercises and endurance athletes are seriously lacking in – an immune system. It is common knowledge in exercise physiology that for each day of heavy training there are two to three days of immune suppression to follow. If you tag too many workout days together, as we manic compulsive boomers tend to do, then in time the immune system becomes completely trashed. There are numerous cases of marathoners coming down with chronic reoccurring infections because they don’t have anything in their bodies to fight bugs for them. VitalZym to the rescue! The front line soldier of the immune system is the white blood cell. These guys have little hands around them called FC receptors. These hands tear apart nasties and then pick up the derbies for deposition. As long as it takes them to get rid of the junk they are holding is as long as it’s going to take them out of the fight. Systemic enzymes eat away at the derbies the FC receptors are holding enabling the white blood cells to return to combat earlier and in greater numbers.
Another principle to remember is that immunity begins in the bowel! The balance of pH, good bacteria and it’s colonizing medium hold the reins to increasing the bodies’ ability to fight off infection. Another European product enters the scene here, inulin from Jerusalem artichoke. This sweet fiber firstly creates a situation where the bowel has the right amount of moisture. Too much moisture leads to mold, too little to constipation. Then the inulin helps good bacteria to re -colonize the gut by providing a colonizing medium for them. Good bacteria feed off of the inulin and proliferate. In a conversation with Dr. Monika Kreiger, Professor at Leipzig University and the worlds leading expert on the function of inulin, the fiber inhibits the growth of bad bacteria by “cutting off the arm they use to attach themselves to the bowel wall”. Further in controlling yeast she asserts that the inulin “surrounds the candida buds and carries them out of the bowel”. By lowering the bacterial and yeast load of the intestines the entire body breathes a sigh of relief in not having to deal with those nasties behind absorbed and carried throughout the body. By the inulin creating a haven for the good bacteria the positive actions of these on life are enhanced. Inuflora is the best brand of Artichoke Inulin.
When we think of supplementing and sport we usually think of performance enhancement products. The supplements covered here don’t so much fit that bill as they fall into the category of maintenance supplements. Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you; that thought goes for your internal gear as well as your external ones! These supplements can extend an athlete’s career, and minimize the damaging effects of training. Along with our daily doses of vitamins, minerals and the like, the mucopolysaccharides and systemic enzymes and inulin should be part of our daily maintenance and health programs. Now lets cover the stuff to stay away from to maintain out bodies instead of breaking them.
- A lot of Running – Remember Dr. Ken Coopers admonition that anything over 3 miles 3 times a week is done for “reasons other than fitness”.
- Treadmills – These bio-mechanically really don’t simulate running and actually uses the opposite muscles creating a lot of lower back pain. Think of it; in real running you are propelling yourself across a surface, in treadmill running you are keeping yourself from falling on your nose! Difference in muscular action. While the lungs and heart might not be able to tell the difference, your hips and back sure can. If they can’t run, you can’t run. Keep that in mind.
- Cycling – Men in Holland have a greater than 25% rate of impotence and sterility. The reason; those silly skinny bicycle seats! They press on the prostate and the spermatic tubes and swell them to all get out! There’s a reason why prostate cancer runs high among committed male cyclists.
- Behind the neck pull downs. If you value your rotator cuffs stop this inefficient exercise. Replace the Behind the Neck Pull downs with Front Pull downs, (palms facing you hands shoulder width apart, bar pulled to below the chin). This is a vastly superior exercise with double the range of motion at the shoulder and since it is bio-mechanically superior it produces nearly double the strength. Most folks who train have what we call in biomechanics an anterior / posterior (front to back) imbalance. Your upper and middle back is supposed to be stronger than your chest or at least equal to it. Can you lat pull down as much as you can bench press? Didn’t think so! Not many folks can and yet the latissimus are three times longer, two times thicker and have a better bio-mechanical attachment onto the shoulder than the pectorals do! So why are you stronger in the front than in the back? The answer is easy. For years you’ve been doing those dumb bodybuilding pull downs because of what the inexpert experts said.
- Another horrible exercise is the Behind the Neck Shoulder Press. The delts stop working at 90 degrees of abduction. That’s about the starting position for this exercise! So what are you really working here, your upper back some, your triceps a lot your delts act as fixators, muscles that support the joint and allow movement to happen but they do not act as prime movers or even agonists (in other words the delts don’t do much here at all). What this exercise will do is to wreck the rear of your rotator cuff.
- Most folks over 35 should not do full bench presses. Anterior shoulder tendinitis is a leading cause of lifters not being able to keep working out their upper bodies. Half bench presses with the elbows being brought only to level with the ribs and not below it is all that should be done.
Supplement wise here’s the scoop:
- VitalZym systemic enzyme – 3 to 5 tablets or capsules 3 times a day forever.
- Arthitol ES, GlucosamineHCL, Chondrotin, MSM, Vit. C, Calcium, Tumeric and Boswelia) – 4 tablets a day. Both of these are from World Nutrition 1-800-548-2710
- InuFlora, from naturally Vitamins – 2 teaspoons of the powder a day.
For more info on Dr. Wong, go to http://www.totalityofbeing.com/EssentialsPage.html
- Wrba H., Pecher O.: Enzymes A Drug of the Future. Page 13. Pub. By Eco Med. Germany in English 1998.
- Ibid. Page 37.
- Thrombenbildung und Thrombolyse. Med. Welt 39 (1988), 277.
- Ridker PM., et al: Inflammation, aspirin and the risk of cardiovascular disease in apparently healthy men. The New England Journal of Medicine, 1997; 336(14): 973-979, 1014-1016.
- Ernst E., Matrai A.: Orale Therapie mit proteolytischen Enzymen modifiziert die Blutrheologie. Klin. Wschr. 65 (1987), 994.
- Jager H., Popescu M., Samtleben W.,Stauder G.: Hydrolytic enzymes as biological response modifiers (BRM) in HIV-infection. San Marino Conferences _ Highlights in Medical Virology, Immuneology and Oncology, Volume 1 San Marino, 1988, 44, Pergamon Press, Oxford, New York, Beijing, Frankfurt, Sao Paulo, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto.
- Worschhauser S.: Konservative Therapie der Sportverletzungen Enzympraparate fur Therapie und Prophylaxe. Allgemeinmedizin 19 (1990), 173.