By Michael A. Smith, MD
This is where cartilage comes into play. It’s the perfect substance for smooth, near friction-free motion. Cartilage is mainly comprised of type-2 collagen, the primary protein found in your in your joints, along with water and other small molecules.
With age, wear-and-tear on your joints erodes the cartilage, exposes collagen and narrows the joint space. The exposed collagen is attacked by your immune system leading to high levels of inflammation. The process just described is what doctors call osteoarthritis — the age-related degradation of joint cartilage and bone. A similar process occurs in rheumatoid arthritis as well.
Chicken Broth is NOT an Old Wives TaleDespite the fact that half of all prescriptions for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen are written for osteoarthritis, those drugs do nothing more than transiently blunt the pain. They have no long-term impact on the disease itself.1
In the year 2000, scientists discovered that chicken soup actually inhibited the attraction of immune system cells called neutrophils to the site of inflammation.2 Overall, this eases inflammation and inhibits cartilage destruction. With additional studies, the researchers were surprised to find out that it wasn’t the vegetables in chicken soup that provided benefit, but it was actually the broth.
So what’s providing the benefit in the broth? Collagen. Let us explain.
Collagen Creates Immune ToleranceIngesting chicken collagen diminishes the immune attack against exposed collagen in your joints. Immunologists call this “immune tolerance.” We think that’s pretty cool.
Still more remarkably, 14% of those patients taking collagen achieved complete remission of the disease, an unusual finding for any form of treatment. Similar results were obtained in a much larger trial of 274 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis.4
The Harvard group also studied patients with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Ten patients supplemented with type-2 collagen for 12 weeks.5 Eight patients responded to treatment, experiencing average significant reduction in swollen and tender joints. Importantly, no serious adverse events were reported.
Collagen Eases Pain Better than Traditional SupplementsOther studies have shown that oral type-2 collagen is superior to the combination of chondroitin and glucosamine sulfate.6,7 Also interesting, however, are findings that show combining oral collagen with glucosamine and chondroitin is the best approach for reducing pain and increasing joint function.6,7
Chicken, Bacon, and White Bean Soup RecipeThis recipe comes from the home cooking section at About.com. It makes a hearty meal in a bowl. Make sure you plan ahead to soak the beans overnight, or save yourself some time and used drained canned beans. If you use canned beans, reduce the simmering time to 15 minutes and add the beans along with the chicken and bacon at the end.
- 1 pound dried white beans, such as white kidney (cannellini) or great northern, rinsed and picked over
- 1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch wide pieces
- 2 cups chopped yellow onions
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 2 Tablespoons minced shallots
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 quarts chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
- 3/4 pound diced cooked chicken
- 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
- Put the beans into a large pot or bowl. Add water to cover by 2 inches and soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. Then drain. (For a quick soak, bring the beans and water to a boil over high heat and cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to stand for 1 hour. Drain.)
- Fry the bacon in a heavy medium stockpot over medium-high heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift onto paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pot.
- Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots soften, about 1 minute.
- Add the beans to the pot along with the stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
- Stir in the chicken and the reserved bacon and heat through. Remove and discard bay leaves.
- Ladle into warm bowl and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
- Int J Med Sci. 2009;6(6):312-21.
- Chest. 2000 Oct;118(4):1150-7.
- Science. 1993 Sep 24;261(5129):1727-30.
- Arthritis Rheum. 1998 Feb;41(2):290-7.
- Arthritis Rheum. 1996 Apr;39(4):623-8.
- J Vet Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Dec;32(6):577-84.
- Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 2002;22(3-4):101-10.
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