How to Have Naturally Healthy Joints
Do you suffer from painful, stiff joints? Are you finding you can’t do the things you enjoy because of joint pain? Have you put it down to the wear and tear of ageing?
Joint pain, inflammation, stiffness and poor flexibility, collectively known as arthritis, affect over nine million people in the UK, yet they’re not an inevitable side effect of becoming older.
Don’t hang up your running shoes or switch off that online Zumba class before learning how to naturally support your joints.
The Many Faces of Arthritis
There are over one hundred different types of arthritis, the two most widespread being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. They both have distinct symptoms and very different underlying causes.
This type of arthritis is due to wear and tear in the joints. It usually affects weight-bearing joints like knees and hips.
In osteoarthritis the protective layer of cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones becomes worn away, causing pain. Over time, bony spurs may develop in the joints, causing friction. It’s seen as a degenerative disease, becoming worse with age and progressing slowly, although it can occur in younger people due to injury or repetitive movements, and it’s strongly connected with obesity.
Although osteoarthritis isn’t primarily seen as an inflammatory disease, wear and tear can cause as well as be a result of joint inflammation.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is characterised by inflammation because the immune system attacks the joints by mistake. The membrane around the joints secreting lubricating fluid, known as synovial tissue, becomes inflamed.
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis your joints will be painful, swollen, red, hot and stiff, and may develop lumps and bumps. Your symptoms will probably be worse in the mornings or after you’ve been inactive for a while.
Rheumatoid arthritis can come on suddenly; it usually attacks smaller joints like fingers and toes and often affects younger people. It can also cause symptoms all around the body, such as fatigue
You might be wondering why your immune system would attack something so vital as your joints. There’s a genetic aspect to any autoimmune disease, but this tendency seems to be sparked off by environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle, bacteria or viruses, which can all affect immune function.
Natural Support for Your Joints
Conventional medicine prescribes painkillers or anti-inflammatories to manage the symptoms of arthritis, or steroid medications to calm the immune response. However, neither of these approaches treat the cause of the disease.
Read on for some natural ways to give your hardworking joints a little tender loving care.
Feeding your Joints
- Good nutrition is crucial for joints. Vitamin C, plentiful in fresh fruit and vegetables, is needed for cartilage formation. It’s best to have a regular intake of vitamin C as your body can’t store it.
- Vitamin D is important to regulate inflammation. This vitamin is largely only available from sunshine, so in winter months you may benefit from taking a supplement.
- Omega 3 fatty acids have been used for many years to maintain joint flexibility. They can suppress the production of chemicals causing inflammation, as well as help balance the immune system, making it less likely to attack innocent bystanders such as your joints. Omega 3 is plentiful in oily fish, although flax oil is a good vegan source.
- Ginger and turmeric are two herbs found in research to be effective at reducing inflammation and with it joint pain. Why not enjoy a warming turmeric and ginger latte?
Could Food be Causing Your Joint Pain?
- Some people find foods containing a toxin called solanine can trigger arthritis symptoms. Solanine is found in vegetables belonging to the nightshade family – potato, aubergine, peppers and tomatoes. Because these foods are otherwise important in a healthy diet, don’t avoid them without checking whether they’re contributing to your symptoms. You can do this by removing them from your diet for a period of time before reintroducing them while monitoring how you feel. It can be helpful to do this type of elimination diet with the support of a practitioner.
- Eating a lot of red meat, particularly processed meat, has been linked to an increased likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
- Refined sugar is associated with a whole range of negative health effects. A certain type of sugar called high fructose corn syrup or HFCS used in many processed foods and soft drinks has been linked with increased inflammation and arthritis symptoms.
Using Nutrition and Lifestyle to Support your Joint Health
Functional Medicine always looks for causes. Testing can reveal how your gut health is affecting how your immune system is treating your joints, and specific foods and supplements recommended to reduce inflammation and support joint health. Meanwhile, stress on your joints can be reduced by achieving a healthy weight, with appropriate exercises to strengthen your joints and improve flexibility.
To make your first steps towards better joint health, contact me today