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Keep on moving

Nutrition for healthy joints, bones and natural pain relief

Sore joints and bones can make life truly uncomfortable, and can be caused by a number of factors including age, diet and lifestyle. Making lifestyle changes, taking natural supplements and adapting your diet can all make a big difference to the pain and discomfort you experience.

Your bone friendly diet

The modern diet can be lacking in nutrients and include too many sugars – this can increase inflammation in the body which leads to bone and joint issues, but there are options we can choose to help our bodies. "Oily fish like sardines 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 from health store Only Natural in Wexford. "There are also some wonderful fish oil supplements in health stores."

Make sure you have enough alkaline foods such as fruit; vegetables; oils – olive, avocado and coconut; nuts and seeds; cereals – millet and quinoa; fermented soya such as tempeh; green powders such as spirulina, wheatgrass and chlorella. Try to reduce refined sugars, processed foods, corn, grains, animal products, caffeine and alcohol. Introduce green tea, white tea, Rooibos tea and herbal teas.

"Dietary choices are incredibly important to support bone integrity," says Alice Bradshaw DN Med, head of nutrition education at Terranova Nutrition. "Protein and calcium along with vitamins D, K and omega-3 fatty acids are some of the key nutrients to emphasise in a diet focused on building and maintaining better bones."

"What we eat plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy bones and joints throughout our life," says Eleanor Faulkner, BSc, a nutrition advisor at Viridian Nutrition. "Eating a balanced diet containing a variety of colourful and nutrient-dense foods will help to provide the body with key nutrients to help build, repair and maintain healthy bones. Adding foods to the diet containing calcium, vitamins D and K2 will help as these are essential for bone growth. Calcium is found in abundance in milk, yoghurt and nuts and vitamin D is mostly obtained from sun exposure on our skin during the spring and summer months. In the diet, vitamin D can be found in small amounts in fish like salmon and tuna and fortified foods like some cereals or orange juice."

Reducing inflammation

"One of the most important factors for controlling inflammation is having a diet that supports healthy blood sugar balance," says Alice Bradshaw. "Processed, refined carbohydrates (including sugar, grain-based products, etc) are rapidly broken down in the body into sugars, which disrupt blood sugar levels and promote excessive insulin production and contribute to chronic inflammation. Individual food intolerances and allergies may also exacerbate inflammation within the body; the most common of which are dairy, grains, gluten and soy."

"Avoid foods that trigger inflammation and consuming products that may potentially decrease bone density," says Eleanor Faulkner. "These are often found in processed foods, sugar and trans fats. Instead consider plant-based ingredients such as turmeric which has been used for centuries to treat and maintain good joint health; it contains the active compound curcumin, which has strong anti-inflammatory actions. Boswellia, ginger and white willow can also reduce general inflammation and are all available in supplement form."

What about supplements?

"Ask yourself if your diet is rich in wholefoods and anti-inflammatory compounds," says Gerald Colfer. "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 can be considered.

"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. 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."

"Calcium is central to bone health and supplements are often paired with magnesium, a mineral which is involved in bone formation and the strengthening of bones," says Alice Bradshaw. "Vitamin D3 promotes calcium absorption. Vitamin K2 directs calcium to the bones and teeth. Zinc, manganese, boron, vitamin C and silica also play important roles in supporting the formation and stability of bone tissue.

"Turmeric and ginger have a long history of use for helping joints. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils or vegetarian friendly sources like flaxseeds are associated with healthy joint mobility."

Collagen for bones and joints

"As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen is the glue that holds your body together," says Eleanor Faulkner. "This critical protein gives structure and support to connective tissues including your skin, bones, ligaments, tendons and the cartilage that protects your joints. Some studies suggest that collagen supplements may help to improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce overall joint pain.

"Collagen is made up of amino acids which can be sourced via a fermentation process made from non-GMO corn, providing necessary co-factors for the body to make collagen. A vegan collagen supplement consists of 18 amino-acids found in type 1 human collagen."


"Daily habits and general lifestyle will influence your joint health," says Eleanor Faulkner. "Doing regular weight-bearing exercises will help the absorption of calcium into the bones and will help to strengthen the muscles around the joints to keep them healthy. Gentle exercise like walking and aerobics can help the bones and joints along with higher impact exercises such as skipping. Maintaining a healthy weight will ensure there is no unnecessary excess load on the joints, and avoiding lifestyle habits like smoking and drinking alcohol will help to reduce inflammation."

"Managing stress is perhaps the most powerful intervention for dealing with inflammatory health conditions," says Alice Bradshaw. "Incorporating helpful tools such as breathwork, or meditation as well as maintaining positive work and personal relationships are all important stress-management strategies."

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