Over time our joints can wear out and many people experience stiffness and pain as they get older. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to support yourself to reduce inflammation and support your natural healing processes. With optimal nutrition we can reduce inflammation, protect cartilage, and ensure adequate levels of nutrients are reaching our bones and surrounding ligaments.
One of the most important things we can do to reduce inflammation is to consume good fats. This means increasing anti-inflammatory omega-3s and decreasing inflammatory omega-6s. Ideally, our diets should contain a 1:3 ratio of omega-3 to 6. However sadly most western diets contain far too much with a ratio of nearer 1:16 of omega-3 to 6. To reduce omega 6, avoid processed vegetable oils like sunflower and corn which are often found in processed foods. Great sources of omega 3 include oily fish e.g. salmon, mackerel and herring which we should try and eat at least twice a week. Wild fish contain a better ratio of fats so choose them over farmed where possible. Baking fish also helps to preserve the fatty acids much better than frying. Grass fed meat also contains omega 3s in the right ratio whilst grain fed meat should be avoided as it has much higher omega 6. Chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds and walnuts are great plant based sources of omega 3 and can easily be added in to breakfast cereals or sprinkled over fruit and yoghurt.
For those struggling to increase their intake, taking a high strength fish oil or flax seed oil can help reduce inflammation and severity of symptoms.
A Finnish study has shown that low serum levels of antioxidants increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. A diet rich in antioxidants can help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation often associated with arthritis and joint pain. The easiest way to up your antioxidants is to eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables. Curcumin found in turmeric is an antioxidant which has found favour recently as it has anti-inflammatory properties which have been shown to have therapeutic potential for the treatment of crystal-induced arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Exercise has been shown to reduce pain and increase physical function in adults with Osteo-arthritis. Of course, this should be appropriate to your fitness level but gentle exercise such as walking and swimming are just as effective. Exercise combined with a supportive diet will help to reduce excess weight which will then help decrease long term stress on the joints.
How can I protect my joints?
Glucosamine plays a role in the building of tendons, cartilage and synovial fluid in our joints. Our bodies ability to produce glucosamine is reduced with age. Supplementing with glucosamine helps our bodies to repair cartilage which may otherwise be damaged in arthritic joints.
Chondroitin is often taken alongside glucosamine as it has been shown to modify joint based pathologies.
MSM has been shown to decrease joint inflammation, improves flexibility and restores collagen production. Research shows that many patients with arthritis, joint pain, stiffness, knee/back problems and a limited range of motion experience a reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life when taking an MSM supplement.
Nutrients that can support joint health
Vitamins that are key to ensuring our joints stay healthy are Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc.
Vitamin D is really important in joint and bone health. Unfortunately, in the UK many of us are deficient as we just don’t get enough sunshine. Only 10% of our vitamin D requirement comes from food so it’s really important to try and get 20 minutes of sunshine per day (without sun cream which blocks our ability to absorb vitamin D). The NHS now recommend that everyone should supplement with vitamin D as we simply don’t get enough. Low vitamin D levels have been shown to increase risk of progression of osteoarthritis. In addition to supporting bone health vitamin D also helps to support the immune system. Women post menopause may also wish to consider taking a vitamin D and K supplement This combination has been shown to support uptake of calcium from the blood to the bone significantly more than supplementing with just D on it’s own.
Calcium and Magnesium
Everyone knows that calcium is important for bone health. However, supplementation of calcium on it’s own has been shown to make no difference. It needs to be taken alongside magnesium as the two work together. Magnesium is involved in the structural building of bones as well as in the transportation of calcium across cell membranes. Rich food sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables, dairy, almonds and sardines. Magnesium-rich foods include dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. A great combo product is Osteoguard which contains Calcium and magnesium along with Vitamin D and K.
Zinc is vital to support tissue growth and repair. It also helps to support the immune system and can be found in seafood, meat, wheat germ, nuts and seeds.
Devils claw is a great pain reliever for those suffering osteoarthritis. Boswellia also reduces pain by inhibiting inflammatory mediators and improving blood supply to the joints. We stock a lovely product by Pukka which contains Turmeric, Boswellia, Ginger and Red ginseng – ideal for someone with arthritis. Ginger is a well-known anti-inflammatory which can be used in the culinary form and is often seen in combinations with many of the above in products aimed at reducing inflammation.
Unfortunately due to the long term use of NSAID’s (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen and steroids for pain management, we can find ourselves with damaged gut flora. This begins to show itself as new digestive symptoms from bloating to IBS and as a result we may begin to feel we have some issues with foods that we didn’t have previously. This is where food intolerance testing and some gut healing work with a registered and clinically trained Nutritional Therapist can be invaluable. As you can see HERE , those with musculoskeletal problems experienced a 64% moderate to high benefit.
It’s a complex subject but as ever, come and chat to us and we will help you unravel some of the challenges you’ve been having with your joints.
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Simopoulos, A.P., 2002. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy, 56(8), pp.365-379.
Heliövaara, M., Knekt, P., Aho, K., Aaran, R.K., Alfthan, G. and Aromaa, A., 1994. Serum antioxidants and risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of the rheumatic diseases, 53(1), pp.51-53.
Jackson, J.K., Higo, T., Hunter, W.L. and Burt, H.M., 2006. The antioxidants curcumin and quercetin inhibit inflammatory processes associated with arthritis. Inflammation Research, 55(4), pp.168-175.
Golightly, Y.M., Allen, K.D. and Caine, D.J., 2012. A comprehensive review of the effectiveness of different exercise programs for patients with osteoarthritis. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 40(4), pp.52-65.
Reginster, J.Y., Neuprez, A., Lecart, M.P., Sarlet, N. and Bruyere, O., 2012. Role of glucosamine in the treatment for osteoarthritis. Rheumatology international, 32(10), pp.2959-2967.
Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Zhang Y, Kiel DP and Felson DT (2005) Positive association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and bone density in osteoarthritis. Arthritis and Rheumatism, 53: 821–826.
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