You work hard, they work hard. Your joints prop you up, give your body structure. Keep you moving. We never give it a second thought… until, that is, they’re giving us jip.
This can happen at any age; in our teens (‘growing pains’ and sports injuries), 20s and 30s (response to training, hard physical work, the beginnings of some wear and tear), 40s (peak bone mass is reached, and now you have to maintain it), 50s (when your muscles start to lose mass) and beyond. The truth is, taking care of your joints should be a life-long goal. But where to start?
Inflammation is common in joint conditions so increasing your intake of foods with anti-properties may be helpful. There are a few that you can try; antioxidant-rich foods like nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables and colourful fruits. There is some research on cherries (in concentrate form) and management of the inflammation of joint conditions such as gout.
Many naturopaths suggest that over-consuming of food which are high in arachidonic acid (found in red meat and dairy) which can increase inflammation, which is why diets that are designed to help manage inflammation might reduce these or cut them out.
As well as this, recommendations can include avoiding adrenal stimulants such as coffee, tea, sugary and processed foods as holistic practitioners aim to reduce systemic (whole body) stress and inflammation. Of course, the general health advice (including that from Government) and all nutritional practitioners collectively is that you should eat foods that are high in antioxidants, and aim to have at least 10 portions of fruit and vegetables in your diet every day. This might be a challenge for you, but there are so many studies which show that populations that eat diets rich in fresh fruit and vegetables have lower incidence of common conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes (together making up what they call ‘metabolic syndrome’. Packing your diet full of fruits and vegetables really will do you some good and, these days, smoothies and blends are proving not only popular, but a daily way of getting your diet packed full of antioxidant nutrients and fibre. Just one note: If you have any digestive conditions, please check with a practitioner before you add in lots of fruit concentrates, as an over-load of fruit sugars can create gut disturbance in some. It’s all a question of the levels that are right for you.
Supporting cartilage and staying well lubed
If joints could have WD40, a tin-manish top up of lubricant, many of us would have better working joints. What you don’t know, is that the body tries it’s hardest to make sure that we’ve got enough of our own natural joint lubricants in the form of glucosaminoglycans. You might have guessed, from the name, that glucosamine sulphate goes, in part, to make these and is the reason why glucosamine is so popular for people wanting to maintain healthy joints, tendons, muscles and ligaments. It’s also a key component of cartilage and helps form elastin and collagen and helps the body to naturally repair itself if damage has occurred. If you’re interested in research studies on glucosamine, there are many research papers online that can help you to understand it’s function in joint health. The same is true of chondroitin, which helps to support the fluid between the joints (synovial fluid), helping to cushion the joint and help the joints to work smoothly.
Sometimes, joint health formulations also include MSM (Methyl Sulphonyl Methane), which is essential for the production of amino acids such as methionine and cysteine, needed for the production of collagen. MSM also relieves inflammation and improves blood flow to the joints. Why not ask in your health store for more information about joint health formulations.
Oily – omegas
Mention joints, and it’s likely that someone will tell you that they’re taking fish oils. These are a rich source of omega 3 oils, and can be taken as Cod Liver Oil (which also includes vitamin A and D), or fish oil supplements, most often from mackerel and sardines, and are taken from the fleshy parts of the fish. Potency is variable, so do make sure that you choose a supplement that’s suitable for you, in terms of appropriate intake, and if you’re unsure, then you can ask a health practitioner to advise you. Omega 3 oils can also come from seed oils such as help, or algae, so ask your health store staff about vegetarian and vegan forms too.
Collagen – not just for the ladies
If you thought that collagen is just for the ladies, think again. This amazing biochemical structure is made for body engineering, and the joints are one body system that really benefits.
Collagen protein found in large amounts in cartilage, discs, tendons and helps to cushion the ends of bones so that our joints can move smoothly and comfortably. These days collagen comes in many forms; powders, capsules and drinks. There is emerging evidence that collagen is a useful nutritional addition to any sports regime, helping in the nutritional management of joint and muscle recovery and repair.
There’s a bit of a myth that minerals are more important for women, when it comes to joint health, due to the extra demands of pregnancy, and the influence that female hormones have on joint structure which can result in joint fragility throughout ageing.
But this doesn’t mean that we don’t have to overlook minerals, and mineral-based eating, or joint health formulations are every bit as important for men.
While calcium may be the most abundant mineral in bone, many other nutrients are required for its absorption and incorporation into the bone matrix. Magnesium and vitamin D are especially required for calcium absorption but bones also need vitamins B6, C, K Folic acid, manganese, boron, silicon, zinc and copper for their health and strength. To ensure you get the correct balance and dosage of these nutrients look for a specific bone health formula in addition to eating a wide range of whole foods and getting at least 20 minutes of sunlight daily.
Here’s the rub
If you’ve had a hard day and your joints and muscles are letting you know about it, then there are some health store products that can help you to massage them. Containing essential oils, and sometimes pungent and purposeful ingredients such as camphor, these rubs, and the action of using them, helps to release tightened muscles, encourage blood flow and, well… help you to feel that you’re doing something proactive to ease the day away.