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Dem bones

Aches and pains in the joints and bones are a common problem for many people, but what can you do to alleviate the symptoms?

“Joint health or pain and stiffness is a very common issue that both men and women come in to us about,” says Martha Brennan of Harvest Fare in Blessington, Co Wicklow. “It is generally osteoarthritis, although the odd person with rheumatoid arthritis comes to us looking for a complementary approach. These customers tend to be in their 40s onwards. Also increasingly younger people are having problems from exercise-related issues.”

“We would be asked about several conditions relating to joint and bone health,” says Sian Morgan of Healing Harvest, Kinvara, Co Galway, “but the most common would be osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Some customers have symptoms or are trying to be proactive in preventing symptoms from occurring.”

Alkalising the body

When the body becomes too acidic (caused by lifestyle factors such as diet and environment) this can lead to inflammation and pain, so it’s important to take steps to keep it more alkaline.

“Eat plenty of alkalising foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, wholegrain bread, rice, quinoa and millet, oily fish, raw nuts or seeds and drink eight glasses of water every day,” says nutritional therapist Olive Curran of PPC Eskimo oils.

“Proper hydration is key for joints to ensure basic lubrication and also to help flush out the uric acid crystals that can build up contributing to pain,” says Martha Brennan. “Nettle in a tea, capsule, tablet, tincture or extract is great to help with this, and we have amazing feedback from people drinking tart cherry juice for this kind of pain. Apple cider vinegar as well as green juices are also great for alkalising the system.”

The role of diet

“Diet can play a very important part in symptoms of osteoarthritis,” says Sian Morgan. “Certain foods can increase inflammation in the body. Reducing intake of black tea, coffee and members of the nightshade family (e.g. potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and aubergines) can help with the reduction of inflammation that leads to pain. It can also be helpful to increase essential fatty acids in the diet, through milled seeds, seed oils or oily fish.”

“We always begin with food remedies where relevant,” says Martha Brennan. “So we emphasise leafy greens and nuts and seeds as well as good quality dairy. Everyone knows the importance of calcium and vitamin D for bones, but magnesium and vitamin K2 are critical. There are some great formulas available with all of these vitamins and minerals combined.”

Bone help

“Omega-3 helps calm inflammation by sending anti-inflammatory messages,” says Olive Curran. “I would recommend 2-3 portions of oily fish weekly or taking a high quality omega-3 fish oil daily.”

“It’s hugely important to have enough oily fish or omega 3 rich seeds or nuts,” says Martha Brennan. “If people can’t manage this then we recommend supplements like a fish or flaxseed oil with high level of EPA to reduce inflammation.”

“Essential fatty acids are a key component of a regime to improve joint health,” says Sian Morgan. “These can be taken as capsules or liquid and come as seed oils, or fish or krill oils. There are also anti-inflammatory herbs that can give relief.”

“Many people are using turmeric, either the fresh root in smoothies or juices or the powdered spice in hot drinks, for joint pain,” says Martha Brennan. “We are getting great feedback on turmeric capsules – many brands have it as the only ingredient or part of a formula aimed specifically at joint inflammation.”

“Spices such as curcumin and ginger are excellent at reducing inflammation,” says Olive Curran. “You can use these spices in cooking, make a warm herbal drink to help combat inflammation or take a complex daily to help keep inflammation at bay.”

Many bone supplements contain calcium, magnesium, boron, vitamins D and K,“ says Sian Morgan. “It is important to look at the form in which the minerals are presented in the supplement as some forms are much more easily absorbed into the body than others. Your local health food shop staff will be able to advise you on these issues.”

Natural help for bone health

  • Reduce acidic foods – coffee, tea, sugar, dairy products, fizzy drinks and alcohol.
  • Increase your water intake.
  • Include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in your diet.
  • Try anti-inflammatory foods such as ginger, red onions, olives and turmeric.
  • Vitamin D – promotes the body’s absorption of calcium and phosphorous.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – essential nutrients for bone health and strength.
  • Vitamin B12 – keeps homocysteine levels down, an amino acid linked to bone fracture.
  • Ask your local health store for a bone support supplement containing glucosamine, chondroitin and vitamin C or anti-inflammatory herbs.
  • Bathe in Epsom salts – good for aches and pains.
  • Try swimming or a gentle exercise such as t’ai chi.

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