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Rude Wonders

Ask away: independent health store advice on healthy joints and bones

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Mary Wedel, owner of An Tobairin in Bandon, Co Cork

Having healthy bones and joints is crucial for an active and healthy life, but often customers ask us for help with aches and pains that are limiting their movement and lifestyle. Bone is living tissue that is in flux throughout our lifespan, and is constantly being broken down and built up. Calcium, magnesium, vitamins D, C, K and boron are vital for strong bones.

Milk is often the first food that comes to mind as a dietary source of calcium, although yogurt is a more easily digested and less acid-forming dairy option. Luckily nature provides calcium in lots of delicious forms more suited to those of us who are lactose intolerant or who choose a vegetarian or vegan diet. Leafy green vegetables, legumes, sesame seeds, chia seeds and almonds are all naturally alkaline sources of this vital mineral.

The magnesium in leafy greens, brassicas, nuts and seeds is a vital co-factor in calcium absorption. Raw cacoa is a delicious and rich source of magnesium – supercharge your morning smoothie with it, sprinkle it on your breakfast or use it to create your own delicious and decadent snacks.

For bone health, an adequate intake of vitamin D is no less important than calcium. With the exception of those who eat oily fish daily, few of us meet our food requirement for this vital nutrient. It can be made by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight in the summertime, but Irish sunlight even at the best of times is not a reliable source.

Collagen is the cement that holds the bone matrix together and without it we would quite literally fall apart. Vitamin C is essential for the formation of collagen and we need to keep our levels up. Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes) are the first foods that spring to mind as sources of Vitamin C, although it is available in abundance in dark coloured vegetables (beetroot, broccoli, peppers) as well as delicious berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackcurrants). Other foods providing nutrients vital for bones are boron-containing avocados, raisins, prunes, walnuts and leafy green sources of Vitamin K.

Inflammation busters

Adding regular oily fish or vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as flax, hemp and a little olive oil to your diet will benefit creaky joints. Keep your diet as alkaline as possible by adding plenty of leafy green vegetables and making the most of the anti-inflammatory benefits of sulphurous vegetables such as leeks, onions and garlic. Lots of spices such as chilli, ginger and turmeric will add to the armoury of inflammation busters. Add celery, parsley and dandelion to encourage kidney function and aid increased urinary output, which will help the body to remove waste products more quickly and efficiently from the joints.

Natural help

Theoretically we can provide all the nutrients we need for healthy bones through diet, with the exception of Vitamin D. We need to keep a close eye however on the source and quality of our food, using organic, chemical-free and local sources whenever possible. Even with the best will in the world it is sometimes difficult to meet all our requirements. This is particularly true during periods of elevated nutrient requirement, such as rapid growth during childhood, in puberty and during menopause.

We often recommend occasional supplementation for bone health paying close attention to the suitability, quality and forms of supplements. Supplements will be of little help if your digestive system fails to break them down and absorb the nutrients on offer.

Glucosamine is often recommended to aid mobility and flexibility as it is a major constituent of cartilage found between the ends of the joints. 1,500mg is generally recognised as the optimal daily intake in cases of joint wear and tear. Other supporting nutrients include chondroitin and MSM, organic sulphur, hyaluronic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, nettles, celery or Montmorency cherry and regular exercise to stimulate the lymphatic system.

Who's who and what’s what at An Tobairin

Mary Wedel has been running health stores in Bandon, Co Cork for over 16 years and opened An Tobairin (meaning ‘little well’) in its current location in the centre of the town 10 years ago.

“Our customers come into town to visit us,” says Mary. “We have a broad range of customers including young couples with children, older people who want to maintain their health, a growing number of health-conscious teenagers looking for healthy snacks for studying to feed their bodies and brains, and people into sports and exercise.

“What we stock in An Toibairin has changed over the years and is very much driven by customer demands. Being an independent means that we can order stock in if a customer asks for it and see it is it popular.

“I think Bandon must be the porridge capital of the world because we sell a lot of very big bags of organic oat flakes. Many of our customers are big bakers and buy ingredients such as xanthan gum, different types of flour, nuts and seeds such as sesame and sunflower in big bags from us. Anything that can be added to breakfast such as linseeds, chia seeds, açai berries and blueberries do well.

“There is a local organic goat farm who supply us with organic raw goat’s milk, butter, yogurt and cheese twice a week, all of which are popular. We also sell sheep’s cheese, non-dairy ice-creams and other products.

“We have sourdough and soda spelt bread and rolls delivered from a local bakery, a full range of eco household and baby goods and are growing our Irish-made natural beauty lines. I have big plans to install a juice bar in the store and look forward to that.”

Visit: An Tobairin, 79 South Main St, Bandon, Co Cork
Look for: Regular food tastings of locally-made high quality products. Check out Fionnuisce therapy centre (meaning ‘clear water’) which is behind the shop and holds sessions in a number of therapies includng acupuncture, Chinese medical herbs and reflexology among others and classes in yoga and t’ai chi.
Speak to: Alison Kingston, nutritional therapist; Tanya Murphy, yoga practitioner.

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