Kim McDermott, Wellness Manager
This article was originally published in our July, August, September Field Journal.
It’s been said we’re only as old as we feel. And how we feel has a lot to do with the health and flexibility of our joints as we age. Healthy joints can determine our level of independence in the later decades of life; simple tasks like climbing stairs and dressing are dependent on joints that work well. Healthy joint function is key to staying active and agile, which in turns helps us to feel young at any age.
In simple terms, a joint is the area between two or more bones that allows for movement —such as knees, elbows and hips. The bones are connected by ligaments and tissues such as cartilage. When it comes to healthy joint function, two things are paramount: keep your weight within a healthy range and keep moving! Weight management is important because research shows that every extra pound of excess weight creates an extra four pounds of pressure on the knees. That means a person carrying an extra 10 pounds is putting an extra 40 pounds of pressure on their knees. Ouch!
Joint components such as cartilage have little or no blood supply, so the absolute best way to maintain strong and healthy joints is to keep them flexible and moving. Movement lubricates the joint and brings needed nutrients for healthy function and maintenance of the tissues. Regular exercise keeps the muscles, ligaments and bones strong, which in turn helps stabilize the joint. There are many kinds of exercises that strengthen joints, and which type you choose to do depends on the physical shape you’re in and your overall health.
Fitness experts recommend balancing low and high impact cardio training to strengthen muscles and protect joints. However, if you suffer from joint pain or arthritis, low impact cardio exercises like swimming, elliptical machines, stationary bikes or walking are often your best bet. Yoga, tai chi and pilates are also excellent forms of exercise to increase flexibility and reduce mental stress as well. Remember to warm up all muscle groups before exercising and stretch afterwards to increase flexibility. Strength training with weights helps create denser bones and strengthens muscles, which in turn will assist with joint stability. This is especially important for older adults, as stronger muscles and joints translates into better balance and help prevents falls.
Joint pain is often associated with inflammation, so eating a diet that keeps inflammation levels in check is important. Focus on an anti-inflammatory diet that includes lots of fresh fruits and veggies, olive oil, nuts, dark leafy greens and vegetables from the cruciferous family, lean dairy products, poultry and fatty fish. It’s best to avoid foods that increase inflammation including sugar, alcohol, processed foods made with white flour and refined grains, high amounts of saturated fats and trans fats.
Supplements also have a role to play in joint health. Supplements that have anti-inflammatory properties can assist with pain relief and overall joint function. They can be a healthier option than NSAIDs, which have the potential to cause complications when taken long term.
The Following Supplements May Help Support Healthy Joint Function:
- Glucosamine sulfate helps stimulate the manufacture of glycosamino glycans that provide the structural framework of cartilage and also attract water to the joint.
- Some studies have shown improvements may generally be seen after 2-4 weeks of use.
- Glucosamine can be taken alone or in combination with chondroitin, which provides the building blocks for the body to produce new cartilage.
Found in every tissue in the body, it is present in high concentrations in the fluid that surrounds the joint and acts as a lubricant and shock absorber in the joint.
Fish or Krill Oil
Omega-3 fats, like those found in fish and krill oil, or a vegan friendly algae form, provide anti-inflammatory support.
Curcumin’s components help block inflammatory pathways helping to reduce pain and swelling.
Also known as Indian frankincense, this herb has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to help with pain and swelling.
Another anti-inflammatory herb that has been used for pain relief. Use fresh or dried in capsules.
Evening Primrose or Borage Oil
These supplement oils both contain the fatty acid Gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which supports healthy joints.
Type 2 Collagen makes up 60% of the cartilage tissue. Taking collagen can help with the structural support of cartilage tissue.