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Keep on moving

Nutrition for healthy joints, bones and natural pain relief

"Joint and bone health are taken for granted in our younger years but, as ageing takes its toll stiff, tight, immobile joints can wreak havoc on our bodies and our lifestyle,” says Gerald Colfer from health store Only Natural in Wexford. “Healthy nutrition and regular physical activity are key to maintaining strength and flexibility, as well as bone density to keep osteopenia and osteoporosis at bay. There are both foods and supplements that can help maintain healthier, pain-free joints and bones.”

Your bone-friendly diet

Your diet can be leading to inflammation in your body, and this can lead to increased bone and joint issues. Make sure you have enough alkaline foods such as fruit – bananas, avocados, grapes, pears and apricots; vegetables – beetroot, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, kale, pea and sweet potatoes; oils – olive, avocado and coconut; nuts and seeds – almonds, cashew, linseed, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower; cereals – millet and quinoa; fermented soya such as tempeh; green powders such as spirulina, wheatgrass and chlorella.

“Oily fish like sardines, mackerel and mackerel eaten three to four times a week are a great source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils EPA and DHA,” says Gerald Colfer. There are also some wonderful fish oil supplements in health stores.”

It’s wise to limit meat consumption to good quality produce from your local butcher once or twice a week, and going meat-free and concentrating on plant-based protein sources such as quinoa and tofu will reduce the acidic load further. Try to reduce refined sugars, processed foods, corn, grains, animal products, caffeine and alcohol.

Cut back on caffeine-rich drinks such as coffee and black tea and introduce green tea, white tea, rooibos tea and herbal teas.

Reducing inflammation

“The health of our joints can become compromised over time with wear and tear and chronic inflammation,” says nutritionist Pauline Cox BSc MSc who works with Wiley’s Finest. “Long-term inflammation can cause tissue damage and breakdown, with swollen, painful joints. Reducing inflammation can lead to a reduction in pain and restoration of normal function.

“Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils have been shown to be an effective means of lowering inflammation in the joints,” she continues. “Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids reduces pro-inflammatory markers and cartilage-degrading enzymes. This effect has been researched on individuals with inflammatory joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. It may also be beneficial in maintaining healthy joints and preventing the bony changes seen in osteoarthritis, through its anti-inflammatory properties.”

What about supplements?

“Bear in mind that adding in supplements should be only as an enhancement to healthy lifestyle choices,” says Gerald Colfer. “Ask yourself if your diet is rich in wholefoods and anti-inflammatory compounds? Are you exercising enough? Do you stretch? Are you drinking plenty of water? It always helps to address the obvious issues like diet, weight and lifestyle factors, but after that has been done the use of appropriate supplements is often the cherry on the cake which guarantees the way back to a life without pain.

“Turmeric is a powerful spice rich in a chemical compound called curcumin which has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Use it liberally in foods or try a supplement version. Vitamin D is necessary for bone and muscle functions and may even carry anti-inflammatory properties of its own. It is known as the sunshine vitamin, but sadly many of us are low in it.

“Glucosamine and chondroitin form part of the cartilage which is what stops your bones from rubbing against each other. Without it pain and inflammation ensue. Glucosamine sulfate is a supplement commonly taken to improve joint pain. Furthermore , when taken long-term, it may slow down the narrowing of your joint space, a sure sign of osteoarthritis. Chondroitin helps to build cartilage and is often combined with glucosamine.”

Bathe and massage away pain

“Soaking in an Epsom salts bath rich in magnesium and other minerals, can ease muscle and joint pains, even temporarily,” says Gerald Colfer. “Self massage using essential oils like arnica, black pepper and rosemary can also ease inflammation and pain.”

Look for these ingredients

Ask your local health store for a bone-friendly supplement as there are a variety on the market. Supplements may contain calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, zinc, boron, protease, lipase and amylase. Other good ingredients are turmeric, ginger, black pepper and hyaluronic acid.

Other supports for bones and joints:

  • Boswellia – pain relieving, anti-inflammatory.
  • Bromelain – an enzyme that supports the digestion of protein which is needed to repair damaged tissue.
  • Calcium – vital for healthy bones.
  • Collagen – builds cartilage in the joints which deteriorates as we age.
  • Devil’s claw and sigesbeckia tablets – may relieve muscle aches, joint pain and backache.
  • Magnesium – vital for healthy bones, it encourages the body to absorb calcium.
  • Omega-3 – has anti-inflammatory properties and aids in lubrication and suppleness of joints.
  • Vitamin B12 – keeps homocysteine levels down, an amino acid linked to bone fracture.
  • Vitamin C – essential for collagen production.
  • Vitamin D3 – aids calcium absorption in the body.

Did you know?

Silicon dioxide, also known as silica, is a combination of silicon and oxygen. This trace mineral is found in the human body, plants and drinking water. It can help build strong bones by supporting the formation of collagen fibres. You can take a silica supplement, and also stinging nettle which is a source of silica that helps rebuild connective tissue over a period of time.

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