The human body has over 600 muscles, some of which are connected to the joints via tendons. Together, muscles and joints mediate everyday activities such as walking, gardening, sitting, and running. Joints are supported by a muscular framework and protected from the impact of movement by cartilage. Daily activities can put a strain on joints over time, leading to inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
Muscles also lose strength as we age, weakening support around the joints, which leads to weight shifting that can cause joint misalignment and added pressure on joints. When a joint loses muscular support, becoming misaligned or restricted in movement, there is increased risk of injury to that joint from that added weight and pressure.
The body responds to injury by sending chemical signals from the site of injury. Immune cells responding to those signals invade the site of injury to clean up the damage, and these immune cells trigger inflammation. The inflammatory response usually involves an increase in local blood flow (this is why a site of inflammation may be red & warm), pain from sensitized nerves, and swelling from leaking capillaries. All these events help drive joint discomfort and a loss of mobility.
Activated local cells, as well as invading white blood cells release a variety of enzymes and chemicals as part of this inflammatory process. Some of these chemicals are free radicals referred to as Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) or Reactive Nitrogen Species (RNS), depending on their chemical structures. These free radicals are indiscriminate in their damaging effects, and we now know that if left uncontrolled, they make a bad situation worse and more prolonged.
A quick primer: ROS are reactive chemicals containing oxygen that alter the oxidative state of other molecules. Reactive Nitrogen species do similar things but are nitrogen based. Finally, free radicals are reactive chemicals that have an unpaired electron. Why is this important? Well electrons love to spin around the nucleus in pairs. Think of them like dancing partners and electrons hate to dance alone. Hence, molecules that are free radicals like to pair up the electrons by either donating them or receiving one from another chemical. Sounds kind of innocuous but it can really change the structure and form of both “dance partners”.
Where are these reactive chemicals made? Well, mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses of the cell that make ATP (the currency of energy), produce free radicals, but usually under tightly controlled conditions. Then the white blood cells that invade a tissue during inflammation, make stacks of different ROS, RNS and free radicals as they clean up the injury site and fight off infection. Some of the favorite chemicals produced by these granulocytes are hydrogen peroxide and bleach, the same ones you use to clear out stains or keep your pool clean.
In the mitochondria, ROS is produced as a byproduct of aerobic respiration (this means you “burn” nutrients as fuel together with oxygen to make energy). Normal levels of ROS can be neutralized by the body’s own antioxidants (ex. SOD and catalase), but weakened or misaligned joints are more prone to joint stress, wear and tear, or injury. It is all a state of balance. One must clean up the damage but this process needs to be controlled and short lived. Because once the initial clean-up after injury is done, then it’s time for additional repair steps. The body manages this repair with a variety of antioxidant defenses, and by making sure that the inflammation is acute (short term) and not chronic (long term).
Inflammation is the body’s response to an injury. Although inflammation helps protect the body the real problem arises when the short term actions persist, and then you have chronic inflammation. Here repair is circumvented and degenerative conditions may result.
So, with chronic inflammation you have continuous ROS/RNS/Free radical production that overwhelms defenses and alters tissue structure e.g. as in Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Nitric oxide (NO) is produced by an enzyme (eNOS) in the inner cells lining blood vessels (endothelium), and plays a major role in regulating local blood flow and blood pressure. During inflammation, a normally dormant enzyme (iNOS) dominates. The gene for this enzyme is normally silent or dormant, but the gene becomes activated during inflammation or infection.
There is a significant transformation when iNOS is activated, and it centers on the amount of nitric oxide that is produced. The active iNOS enzyme produces NO in large quantity, only limited by the availability of substrate (L-arginine). Antioxidant defenses are overwhelmed and large amounts of new toxic species are formed including smog (NO2 and N2O3), peroxynitrite and lipid peroxides. The creation of vast amounts of these new RNS-type free radicals can contribute to both inflammation symptoms and cause tissue damage contributing to chronic inflammation.
These reactive nitrogen species (RNS) are the main reasons why nitric oxide goes from useful functions to causing significant damage. In this case oxygen and nitric oxide are chemical parents that have troublesome children.
So how does one make sure that the important acute inflammatory response does not transcend into chronic inflammation, persisting unabated? This is where we change our focus to DNA and our genes. Cells are not using every gene at once, otherwise how would you tell a skin cell apart from say, a liver cell? No, each cell has its own “software program” which genes to activate at different times.
In chronic inflammation, the switches that control which software program is playing gets stuck. The cycle of acute inflammation does not get switched off, like a broken record, it replays the same tune. We know these switches and how they control which genes are ON or OFF, and in the case of inflammation they are turned on by oxidants and free radicals. On the flip side, antioxidants and free radical scavengers can turn them off - flip the switch.
Chronic inflammation can be managed using these natural antioxidants and free radical scavengers to restore the genetic software to the normal setting, switching off the program for inflammation.
In response to injury and the presence of ROS, the body produces a variety of antioxidant defenses. However, the amount and types of antioxidants produced may become insufficient as we age, making us fall short of the antioxidant levels needed to overcome the harmful effects of ROS, RNS and free radicals.
A wide variety of antioxidants are present in the market today including, Vitamin CoQ10, dietary polyphenols and the most powerful of all Natural Astaxanthin. Natural Astaxanthin has been shown to reset the master gene switch for inflammation, NF-kB. This switch is left permanently ON by a burden of oxidants and free radicals. Natural Astaxanthin, by suppressing this signal, is able to turn the switch off and by doing so, genes that are part of the chronic inflammatory response are also reset.
Natural Astaxanthin helps muscle mitochondria use nutrients in a way that produces energy more efficiently. This efficiency reduces the buildup of lactic acid and results in better energy production, better endurance, and supports recovery of muscles after exercise.
When coupled together with exercise, natural Astaxanthin also helps in the improvement of muscle weakness, strain and stress and muscle soreness in the cases of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, Tennis Elbow and Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is caused when the median nerve that runs through the forearm to the wrist and the muscles surrounding the nerve are weak due to overuse or a fracture. Subjects with Carpel tunnel syndrome reported experiencing less pain on taking Natural Astaxanthin compared to the pain level reported by those who did not take natural Astaxanthin.
Tennis elbow is the swelling of tendons in the elbow and the arm. It is caused due to the same repetitive motion and/or repetitive gripping which causes strain and stress on the muscles. Subjects who took Natural Astaxanthin reported less pain levels and better mobility when compared to those who didn’t take Natural Astaxanthin.
Joints and the muscles surrounding them have a close functional interaction, and injury to one can affect the other. When injured, the body illicits an immune response leading to production of ROS at the site of injury. Injury also causes swelling and inflammation. If left unchecked the ROS and inflammation can exacerbate and prolong swelling. The body’s natural antioxidants may become overwhelmed in such a scenario, unable to keep excess free radicals in check. So, the body needs additional extrinsic support to overcome ROS buildup and inflammation in the form of antioxidant supplements.
Natural Astaxanthin neutralizes free radicals, improving the overall health of joints. AstaReal® Astaxanthin also supports muscle function, and together with exercise, natural astaxanthin can help support the muscular framework that contributes to strong and healthy joints, allowing you to keep moving and live a healthier life.
1. Bioastin, a natural astaxanthin from microalgae, helps relieve pain and improves performance in patients with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), Yael Nir and Gene A. Spiller, A Study report, 2002.
2. Effect of daily use of Astaxanthin on symptoms associated with Tennis Elbow. Gene A Spiller, Antonella Dewell, Sally Chaves and Zaga Radkidzich. Health Research and Studies Center, CA.
3. Astaxanthin Clinical Trial for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Andrew C Fry, The University of Memphis. Funded by Cyanotech Inc. 2001.
4. Muscle Weakness in Rheumatoid Arthritis: The role of Ca2+ and free radical signaling. Takahashi Yamada et.al, EBioMedicine, 2017.
5. Suppressive effects of astaxanthin against rat endotoxin-induced uveitis by inhibiting the NF-κB signaling pathway. Suzuki, Y. et al., Experimental Eye Research 82 (2006) 275-281.
6. Astaxanthin improves muscle lipid metabolism in exercise via inhibitory eﬀect of oxidative CPT I modiﬁcation. Aoi, W. et al., Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 366 (2008) 892–897.
7. Food functionality of astaxanthin-10: Synergistic effects of astaxanthin-10 intake and aerobic exercise. Fukamauchi, M. et al., Food Style 21, October 2007, Vol.11 No. 10.
8. Sports Performance Benefits from Taking Natural Astaxanthin Characterized by Visual Acuity and Muscle Fatigue Improvement in Humans. Sawaki, K. et al., Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicine. 2002, Vol. 18(9): 72-88.
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