Looking after our joints is not just something for the elderly. Those who do a lot of sport may find their joints hurt with intense or repetitive exercise. For some people it’s the repetitive work related activities which can cause joint pain. There are also specific joint conditions that people suffer with, of which Osteoarthritis is the most common. It is estimated that at least 8 million people in the UK suffer with this form of arthritis, which occurs from wear and tear of the cartilage. The second most common form of arthritis is Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joint. Another common joint condition is Gout, caused by urate crystals in the joints. So what can we do to support our joints?
Firstly, let’s look at what a joint is made up of:
Within a joint we have:
- Ligaments, which connect two bones together and are made up of tough fibres.
- Tendons, made up of collagen fibres, which attach muscles to the bones.
- Cartilage, which is made up of collagen, elastin and chondroitin sulphate.
- Synovial cavity, which surrounds the joint. Synovial membranes produce synovial fluid, which has a lubricating function and helps to act as a shock absorber. Within this synovial fluid is hyaluronic acid, which helps retain moisture and lubricate the joint.
As we age our bodies lose the ability to repair cartilage and we also start to lose collagen.
Where there is pain in the joint, there will be inflammation, so reducing that inflammation is key, which can be done through diet and specific supplements, if required.
Whatever the reason for the joint pain, the following dietary advice will apply:
10 Top Dietary Tips:
- Increase foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids – such as oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel). For vegetarians and vegans flaxseed oil is a good source. Omega 3 is well known for its anti-inflammatory action.
- Include other healthy fats – nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados and coconut oil
- Eat black/blue/purple colour berries -they are a good source of flavonoids which have strong anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Include spices such as Turmeric and Ginger– for their anti-inflammatory properties
- Include Pineapple – contains an enzyme called bromelain, which has anti-inflammatory properties
- Include Garlic – contains high levels of sulphur which makes up a large percentage of connective tissue (eg ligaments and tendons)
- Include Vitamin C rich foods – such as blackcurrant, red and green peppers, kiwi, orange, strawberries, broccoli, kale, pineapple, Brussel sprouts. Vitamin C is needed to make collagen.
- Reduce saturated animal fats – from red meat and dairy. Too much of these promotes inflammation.
- Consider if certain foods are a problem – especially the Night Shade Family: peppers (including chilli peppers and paprika) potatoes, aubergines and tomatoes. For some people these foods can aggravate symptoms of arthritis. Gluten, which is a common allergen, may also be a problem for some. Food intolerances cause an inflammatory response so need to be addressed.
- Stay hydrated! –joint cartilage needs to stay hydrated to function well! Dehydration may exacerbate joint pain.
What else can we do?
- Keep to a healthy weight. Any excess weight puts more stress on weight bearing joints, (especially the knees) and the spine.
- Exercise. It helps to strengthen the muscles around the joint, making the joint more stable, as long as the exercise is not too intense or repetitive.
- Wear supportive shoes! – It sounds simple but it’s important for supporting the joints, especially when doing a lot of walking or exercising.
What can we take?
Here are some supplements that have traditionally been used to support joint health and joint pain.
- Omega 3– is well known for its anti-inflammatory actions. Omega 3 contains DHA and EPA. Look for a product with levels of EPA around 740mg or for a good level of anti-inflammatory support.
- Glucosamine – a major component of joint cartilage, it also helps form elastin and collagen. Glucosamine sulphate has been widely used in studies, usually at a dose of 1500mg, and has been shown to prevent cartilage degeneration and improve joint pain.
- Chondroitin Sulphate – is also a component of cartilage. Supplements often include this alongside glucosamine. Clinical studies have shown that chondroitin (alone or in combination with glucosamine) has reduced pain in people with osteoarthritis.
- Collagen – a key component of cartilage, that’s needed to keep joints flexible. We lose collagen as we age.
- MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) – this is a key component of cartilage. It also helps in the reduction of inflammation.
- Turmeric – contains curcumin, shown in studies to reduce pain and inflammation
- Ginger – a natural anti-oxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
- Rosehip – has anti-inflammatory properties and naturally contains Vitamin C, which is needed for collagen formation. Rosehip contains a component called GOPO which may support joint health. The registered product GOPO has been shown in trials to reduce joint pain and stiffness.
- Devil’s Claw – a traditional herbal remedy used for joint and muscle pain, and rheumatism.
- Boswellia – (Frankincense) – traditionally used to support pain relief and studies have shown it to be of benefit in those with joint problems.
- Hyaluronic Acid – found in the synovial membrane, to help joint lubrication.
- Vitamin C – needed to produce collagen, an important part of the cartilage.
Cherry concentrate – Montmorency cherries are rich in anthocyanins which have been shown to help lower uric acid levels and reduce the risk of gout attacks. These cherries also have anti-inflammatory properties, which supports joint mobility.
Come in and talk to us if you’d like advice on any of the products mentioned or if there are any other health issues you’d like support with. We offer mini and full Nutritional Therapy consultations! Click here for more information.
A final thought:
If your joints are hurting when you come in, please take a seat on one of our stools and we’ll talk to you while you’re sitting down!
This information is intended as a guide only and is not intended as medical advice. Please check with your medical or healthcare practitioner if you are on any medication before taking any supplements, especially if you are on blood thinning medication.
- Arthritis Research UK
- A. Vogel
- Higher Nature
- Cherry Active
- Cam-Mag.com (Feb 2017) – pain and mobility: the arthritis double-whammy that nutrition can help fix