Patients often want to know, especially before a treatment, how to make their stem cells healthier. After well over a decade of orthopedic stem cell experience, we have a solid handle on how to answer these questions, and we’re passing them on to you today. So let’s review 8 ways you can improve the health of your stem cells.
To Improve the Health of Your Stem Cells
1. Give Up Sugar
Sugar includes not just the table sugar we are so familiar with but much more, such as what follows:
- White sugar and brown sugar (sucrose)
- Certain fruits and juices (fructose)
- Starches (e.g., pasta, bread, etc.)
- Artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame)
Once consumed, sugars convert to glucose in the blood. Research has shown that when glucose is reduced, adult stem cells in cell culture live longer.
A word on artificial sweeteners: Switching to artificial sweeteners isn’t a good idea as they behave like real sugar in the body, activating the same chemicals real sugar does, dropping blood sugar, and overproducing insulin. So not only have these fake sugars also been shown to lower the quality of stem cells, they also feed metabolic syndrome, wreak havoc in the gut, and may even increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and stroke.
If you are preparing for a stem cell treatment, get off the sugar and switch to an Atkins (or similar type) diet two or three months or so before your treatment.
2. Reduce Calories
Weight gain is rampant in America, and the percentages of those with obesity just keeps rising. Our obsession with overeating doesn’t play well with stem cell health. The good news, if you fall into this category, is that we’ve seen that restricting calories, even for a short period of time, can improve our stem cells.
If you are preparing for a stem cell treatment, reduce calories by 20% at least a couple of weeks prior to your stem cell procedure.
3. Reduce Triglycerides
When we take in more carbohydrates than our body can burn for energy, the unused carbs are placed in storage as triglycerides. Regular overconsumption of carbs can cause our triglycerides to become very high, which increases the risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. We have observed that in our patients with high triglycerides, stem cells don’t grow well in culture.
If you are preparing for a stem cell treatment, have your triglyceride levels checked. If they are high, reduce sugar, carbs, and calories to lower triglycerides prior to your treatments.
4. Lift Weights and Add Aerobic Activity
Research found that more-active older animals have healthier stem cells that make more bone. Muscle stem cells have also been shown to increase with exercise. More specifically, those who lift weights have better muscle stem cells.
If you want to label your activity level, we have an easy way to describe these levels (see this stem cell improvement link for more detail and exercise examples):
- Boulder Active, named after Boulder, Colorado, America’s most fit city, indicates those who exercise 8 to 12 hours a week. The intensity level would be more extreme and it would be difficult to hold a normal conversation during workout.
- American Active, named after the standard American active lifestyle, would be regular workouts a few times a week, such as hitting the gym for a run on the treadmill.
- Couch Potato is self-explanatory, a primarily sedentary lifestyle where regular exercise is rarely to never worked into the equation.
If you are preparing for a stem cell treatment, you need to push your activity levels to American or Boulder Active. Couch Potatoes should work toward American Active; American Actives should work toward Boulder Active. Challenge yourself to do more. If you have health problems that limit your activity, adapt (e.g., light pool workouts) and do what you can.
5. Take Supplements
Let’s summarize some nutritional supplements that may provide benefits for stem cell or cartilage health.
Vitamins C and D
Vitamin C can benefit our bone marrow stem cells as it promotes proliferation and increases quantity. D vitamins benefit our stem cells by reducing stem cell aging, helping stem cells differentiate (become other cell types), and promoting stem cell health.
Curcumin not only alleviates bone loss by suppressing oxidative stress but also upregulating bone formation. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory and performed very well in our lab at providing benefits to mesenchymal stem cells.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
We’ve seen over and over again that glucosamine and chondroitin provide arthritis relief by protecting cartilage and reducing cartilage loss. There are many more studies on this, but here are a few you can review:
- Glucosamine and chondroitin perform just as well as prescription Celebrex for arthritis.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin together are potent anti-inflammatories.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin together preserve cartilage.
Studies have suggested that resveratrol not only provides cartilage protection but also helps stem cells proliferate and differentiate. Resveratrol also helps keep blood sugar under control, which can benefit those needing to cut sugar (see number 1 above).
If you are preparing for a stem cell treatment, taking a supplement such as the Regenexx Advanced Stem Cell Support Formula, which contains all of the ingredients above, is another step toward healthy stem cells.
6. Avoid Prescription Meds if Possible
Time and time again, we see patients with stem cells that won’t grow because of a medication that is toxic to the stem cells. Simply stopping the medication, if possible, is the answer to this problem; however, the list of do-not-take medications is too long to cover here, so this will need to be discussed with your physician.
If you are preparing for a stem cell treatment, talk to your interventional orthopedic doctor about what medications you are taking. He or she will likely recommend stopping any medication that can hurt stem cells a couple of weeks before and after treatment.
7. Avoid Steroids
Among many other problems and side effects, high-dose steroids are also very toxic to stem cells. One study found that they make stem cells unable to differentiate into bone by what can only be described as “flipping a switch” in the cell.
If you are preparing for a stem cell treatment and are taking steroids (oral or injection), talk to your physician about an alternative anti-inflammatory that is safe for stem cells, and wean yourself off these terrible drugs at least a few months before treatment.
8. Low Oxygen for Stem Cell Growth
At low oxygen levels, stem cell grow thrives; however, differentiation (turning stem cells into other tissues) of stem cells is better in normal oxygen levels. So exposure to both is a good idea.
If you are preparing for a stem cell treatment, spend a little time in a location with a high altitude.
This is the advice we give patients to help maximize the chances that a stem cell treatment will be successful. Check out the free downloadable book by Dr. Pitts, Nutrition 2.0, for more information. Whether you are preparing for a stem cell treatment or not, the 8 points outlined above should not only improve the health of your stem cells but your overall health in general.