Congratulations! You’ve already made the important decision to invest in your health by seeking out a regenerative approach to your orthopedic care. Next, you might be wondering if there is anything that you can do to ensure that you get the most out of your investment.
The answer is yes, in fact, there is quite a lot that you can do to enhance your treatment. Regenerative therapies in many ways are not passive, as they require a healthy response and immune system in order to properly support the entire process both before and after your treatment day, and a healthy response must be supported by healthy choices leading up to your treatment and beyond.
Here are some of the lifestyle adjustments you can make in order to enhance your response and overall outcome from a regenerative medicine treatment for a joint or spine pain problem.
1. Avoid Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)
These can be over-the-counter such as Motrin and Advil (ibuprofen) and by prescription such as Naproxen. All come with an alarming label warning from the FDA and many associated risks, such as fatal strokes, gastrointestinal bleeding, and sudden-death heart attacks. If you are taking NSAIDs, you’ll be directed to stop taking these high-risk drugs starting at least one week prior to your regenerative injection procedure, but even if you aren’t preparing for a procedure, you may want to consider finding an alternative to these drugs such as curcumin and other natural supplements. Talk with your doctor about an alternative that is safer for your overall health.
2. Avoid Steroids
High-dose steroid drugs are used for many things and like NSAIDs they can come with many unwanted side effects. One unfortunate side effect you should know about especially if you are preparing for a bone marrow concentrate cellular treatment is that steroids are toxic to stem cells. High-dose steroids may come in the form of an injection into an arthritic knee, to relieve chronic back pain from a herniated disc, or may be taken orally for the treatment of things like asthma and pain problems alike. You may know the oral version as prednisone and the injectable version as cortisone and/or dexamethasone. Steroids in all forms may be powerful anti-inflammatories, but they can have similarly powerful negative side effects and cause more problems. I’ve written another blog that describes these potential dangers in more detail here. Talk with your physician about an alternative that is safe for your stem cells and overall health.
3. Avoid Statin Medications
These drugs are associated with muscle pain and damage, fatigue, memory issues, and increased diabetes risk, and haven’t been shown to be great at protecting against heart attacks.
Statins may include atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol XL), lovastatin (Altoprev), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor, Ezallor) and simvastatin (Zocor, FloLipid). If you are taking a statin medication, talk with your physician about an alternative. After clearing it with your physician, stay off of statins starting at least one week prior to your procedure.
You are what you eat – and so are your cells!
There are some common nutritional supplements that may be beneficial to stem cells or cartilage, and/or may help manage inflammation in the body in a better way than NSAIDs ever could since they enhance rather than suppress the body’s natural processes.
These include the following:
Vitamin D3 – can help our stem cells in a number of ways. Studies have shown they can reduce the aging of our stem cells; help our stem cells differentiate, turn into other types of cells, and make our stem cells healthier. They are also critical for keeping your bones, heart, and immune system healthy. I recommend a supplement that combines vitamin D3 with vitamin K2. Vitamin D3 combined with vitamin K2 ensures that calcium is absorbed easily and reaches the bone mass while preventing arterial calcification. Separately, K2 regulates normal blood clotting, and D3 supports a healthy immune system and muscle function. Also, without D3 and K2, calcium cannot do its job effectively. Vitamin D3 ensures that calcium is absorbed easily and K2 activates the protein, osteocalcin, which integrates calcium into bone. If you live in the Greater Seattle area where we have less sunshine during the winter months, chances are you’re vitamin D deficient. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels to make sure you’re optimal before having a regenerative medicine procedure.
Vitamin C – is necessary for the growth, development, and repair of all tissues in the human body, making it an essential supplement if you’re undergoing any regenerative treatment. Vitamin C is involved in many body functions, including wound healing, the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth, the formation of collagen, absorption of iron, and the proper functioning of the immune system. Vitamin C also helps our bone marrow stem cells by promoting their proliferation, and/or increasing their numbers.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis are two common disorders that affect your musculoskeletal system. Studies indicate that Omega-3s may be helpful in the treatment and management of osteoarthritis. Omegas can also improve bone strength by boosting the amount of calcium in your bones, which could lead to a reduced risk of osteoporosis. A very high-quality omega supplement such as fish oil may help reduce high triglyceride levels, as well as make your exercise more effective. Omega-3 fatty acids found in high-quality supplements can also reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory cytokines, and studies have consistently observed a connection between higher omega-3 intake and reduced chronic inflammation, reduced long-term chronic joint pain, and even improved grip strength. Caveat: there is a lot of junk fish oil available on the grocery store shelves. Make sure your chosen omega supplement (be it plant-based or fish oil) is a high-quality one in order to enjoy the previously mentioned benefits.
Curcumin – has been shown to upregulate bone formation and suppress oxidative stress, alleviating bone loss. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties that may help alleviate pain symptoms naturally. For this reason, I often recommend that my patients reach for curcumin instead of NSAIDs whenever possible.
Zinc – is considered an essential nutrient, meaning that your body can’t produce or store it. For this reason, you must get a constant supply through your diet and/or through supplementation. Zinc is required for numerous processes in your body, including but not limited to wound healing and immune function. This mineral plays a critical role in collagen synthesis, and inflammatory response, and it is necessary for proper healing and is so much so that it is commonly used as a treatment for burns, certain ulcers, and other skin injuries.
Bioavailable Antioxidants – Food is medicine, and what we eat plays a significant factor in promoting a healthy inflammatory response as well as our body’s natural regeneration cycles. Antioxidant-rich foods support both a healthy inflammatory response and boost natural stem cell growth. Berries such as blackberries, goji berries, pomegranate, blueberries, and raspberries all help improve superoxide dismutase (SOD), which is a powerful enzyme that is full of inflammation-reducing flavonoids and is excellent for reducing oxidative related stress, which is a vital factor in preventing joint pain. You can incorporate more bioavailable antioxidants into your diet by eating many servings of a wide variety of vegetables and fruits each day, or you can supplement using a whole food plant-based supplement such as Juice+.
Resveratrol – is a plant compound that acts as an antioxidant. Most people associate resveratrol with purple grapes and red wine, but another way to incorporate resveratrol is through supplementation or consuming whole foods such as blueberries. Several studies have shown that resveratrol protects cartilage and helps stem cells differentiate and proliferate. Some of you may be familiar with this concept through the late Dr. Michael Brown’s pre-treatment protocols which specifically included eating 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries in the weeks leading up to a stem cell therapy to help with the proliferation of stem cells. While whole foods are fantastic, it’s nearly impossible to get the amount of resveratrol you would need in order to garner its health benefits specifically to cartilage through food alone, so supplementation is suggested here especially if you’ve already experienced some cartilage loss or damage.
5. Check your hormones
We often associate hormones with libido, but did you know that those experiencing imbalanced hormones, particularly low testosterone, may find that they have a harder time recovering from injuries and physical stress, and as a result may experience more joint pain? If you’re feeling like you have less energy than you once did, and noticing that you don’t recover as you used to from high-impact physical activity, you may want to get your hormones checked. I often advise my patients to seek out a functional medicine specialist for this since the average primary care doctor may consider you to be in the “normal” range, but there is certainly a difference between that and “optimal”. Many Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) in the area specialize in hormone optimization and functional health, which goes beyond the standard and helps people feel their best.
6. Reduce Sugar Intake & Triglycerides
First, let’s define “sugar.” This can be anything from white table sugar to starches such as pasta, bread, and rice. All of these foods convert to glucose in the blood. When combined with a sedentary lifestyle, all of this sugar produces an excess of insulin, causing a metabolic syndrome, which can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. Sugar has also been shown to decrease the regenerative potential of stem cells and is also a food source for cancer and other chronic diseases. Low-glycemic diets such as the “Slow Carb” or the “South Beach” diet are a good idea because they help to slow insulin release and control blood sugar. One should note that artificial sweeteners that contain aspartame are extra terrible since they act like real sugar in your body as they activate the same toxic chemicals sugar produces in the body. In this case, fake sugars still cause your body to release insulin, which drops your blood sugar, which then causes excessive insulin production which is the main cause of a metabolic syndrome. In addition, artificial sweeteners cause stomach issues, mess with your microbiome, and are associated with a greater risk of stroke and dementia.
Another effect of consuming more sugar than your body burns for energy is high triglycerides. When you eat carbohydrates that you don’t use for energy, your body stores them as triglycerides for later use. If you regularly consume more carbohydrates than you can burn, your triglycerides can become high which increases heart disease risk and high blood pressure and are also related to metabolic syndrome and weight gain. Lab studies have also shown that stem cells grow poorly in patients who are obese or have high triglycerides. Pay attention to what you’re feeding your cells and ask your doctor to test your triglycerides. It’s ideal to bring them down to the “normal” range before any cellular treatments.
We all know that regular exercise is important for our overall health and wellbeing, but a number of studies show that exercise may actually improve your stem cells. Physical activity is linked to the activation, mobilization, and differentiation of various types of stem cells and may improve tissue regeneration and function, especially in muscles. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to try to increase your activity and do more than you’re currently doing in the weeks leading up to your regenerative injection treatment.
8. Intermittent Fast
Did you know that up to 50% of our total energy is used to digest the food we eat? During a fast, however, this energy is freed up from the digestive process and can instead be used to regenerate cells. After 24-36 hours of fasting, sick or weak cells are driven into cell death through processes called apoptosis and autophagy. This is a natural process in which the body’s cells clean out any damaged or unnecessary components, and then they are taken apart and recycled into new cells. The average human adult loses 50 to 70 billion cells each day through apoptosis, but this rate is strongly increased by fasting, followed by a sharp increase in stem cell production and activation. The number of new stem cells and the level of HGH (the human growth hormone) significantly surge during days 3-5 of a fast and then decline again. Research has shown that during that time of increased stem cell generation, large amounts of new white blood cells are produced, thereby strengthening the immune system too. Talk with your physician about a fasting protocol that might work for you based on your health profile and treatment timing.
9. Shed the extra weight
Many of us have gained the “Covid 15”– or more, and this extra weight is not helpful for joint pain conditions (or your overall health – but you know that already). If you need help in this department, we want you to know that we have expanded our services and now offer extremely effective weight loss protocols as an add-on to support your orthopedic care. Feel free to inquire about these services at your next visit, or give us a call.
If you follow these tips, I know you will have a better outcome from your regenerative medicine treatments, and you’ll feel better (and perhaps look better) too.