Healthy joints are a key to living a life free from discomfort. But when your joints hurt, it can interfere with your freedom by preventing you from doing all the things you love to do, and that can cause frustration. The good news is that you can start enjoying a more active life, starting now.
There are many different types of joint issues that can lead to discomfort and leave you unable to live your normal life.
If you experience joint discomfort, if you have joint tenderness, stiffness, a loss of flexibility or even a limited range of motion, you are not alone. In fact, 50 percent of the population faces the daily challenge of poor joint health.
Most do not realize how important nutrition is and how it can improve the way they feel. Changes to joint cartilage can cause an ever-increasing degeneration of that tissue unless this condition is treated.
What Is Cartilage?
Cartilage is a firm, slick tissue that allows joints to move with minimal friction. It’s your cartilage that allows bones to pass over and across one another.
In poor joint health, the surface of the cartilage becomes rough, and this leads to discomfort. As a result, the cartilage becomes more vulnerable to damage, and the cartilage degeneration process is set in motion. When it wears down completely, you’re left with bone rubbing on bone. This leads to a situation where you have discomfort, stiffness, decreased mobility and often a lot of creaking whenever you stand up or sit down.
Through wear and tear, the cartilage wears out in certain joints—primarily the hip, knee, lower back, neck and hands—and this leads to stiffness, discomfort and eventually almost total immobility. Joint discomfort and health factors are age, obesity, genetics and the overuse from work or sports.
It is important to note that the human body is a highly efficient self-healing and self-regenerating machine that promotes optimal health if given the proper tools. Unfortunately, many people lack the information necessary to help care for their joints and so they suffer needlessly.
There is a wide range of options available to help relieve discomfort and to maximize joint health and function.
Lose Weight To Promote Joint Health
Weight matters when it comes to joint health. One of the best moves to prevent or reduce joint pain is to keep your weight in check. Perhaps the most important recommendation for individuals suffering from arthritis is that they achieve and/or maintain normal body weight.
Losing weight can go a long way in reducing pressure on the joints. Even a modest weight loss of 5 or 10 pounds can provide immediate and long-term health benefits.
Being overweight or obese greatly increases the risk of joint pain, especially in the knees. Carrying extra weight increases stress on the joints. A striking force of three to six times total body weight is exerted across your knee when you walk. Being just 10 pounds overweight increases the force on your knee by 30 to 60 pounds with each step. Every pound of weight you lose means four pounds less stress and pressure on your knees, every step you take.
Excess weight, itself, is inflammatory and can contribute to joint pain in other areas of the body. Overweight men and women who lose weight gain relief from stiffness and pain.
Having a balanced, nutritious diet is an important part of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and helps to bring about not just healthy joints, but overall optimal health.
Keeping your weight in check helps reduce:
- pressure on the joints,
- joint pain and resulting inflammation,
- the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and
- the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Exercise Is Key To Healthy Joints
Did you know that exercise is one of the most effective non-drug treatments for reducing the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis? Regular exercise helps to lower the chronic inflammation and pain of unhealthy joints.
Strengthening surrounding muscles will support and protect the joint, and physical activity helps improve and maintain joint mobility and aids weight reduction efforts. The top activities for people suffering from achy joints are swimming, cycling and moderate strength training —all of which put a little stress on the joints.
If you don’t drive a car, the car is going to last a lifetime, but if you don’t drive a body, it’s going to break down early. The more you use your body, the longer it lasts and the longer it works. And this certainly applies to your joints.
Reducing your movement can weaken muscles, and this adds to joint problems, as well as affecting posture and creating additional problems. Moving your body is a key to healthier joints.
Smart Exercises That Work Best For Joint Pain
Aerobic Or Endurance Exercise
Strengthening your heart and lungs are important to keeping up the energy necessary for a quality life and to help reduce or prevent excess weight. Choose low-impact exercises that increase the heart rate for a prolonged period of time, for example, cycling, walking or using an elliptical machine.
The stiffness, pain, and swelling associated with arthritis can markedly reduce the range of motion or flexibility of joints. Stretching or flexibility exercises help maintain normal joint function by promoting and preserving joint mobility.
Strong muscles help keep weak joints stable, reducing pain and protecting them against further damage. Many people with arthritis avoid exercise because of joint discomfort. Using weights, machines or your own body weight can help build your muscles, which can lead to less discomfort.
Walking is an effective low-impact exercise that will help rebuild joints. Cartilage gets its nutrients through the action of compression and decompression of each step; this allows the cartilage in the joint to rebuild.
Regular cycling is effective in helping prevent osteoarthritis and its painful effects. Cycling is also an activity that can help improve knee joint mobility and stability.
Water exercises are typically performed in a large pool. Aquatic therapy is easier and gentler on joints because of water’s buoyancy taking some of the pressure off the painful joints, while providing cardio and resistance training.
Depending upon your abilities, mild to moderate exercise is best. Low-impact exercises, like walking, cycling or using an elliptical machine, are smart choices.
Note: Consult your physician or physical therapist for an exercise plan to reap optimal joint and health benefits.
Super Foods That Stop Joint Inflammation
Your diet is a critical key to healthy, pain-free, flexible joints. Many stores have a variety of products with super foods that can help you eat better for joint health. Eating certain nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water can help to relieve inflammation, aid flexibility and possibly even prevent further damage to the joint.
Inflammation plays a major role in joint cartilage deterioration. It makes sense to have a diet rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients and low in foods that make inflammation worse.
Researchers have found a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytochemicals supply the body with powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients. These foods are commonly part of a Mediterranean-style diet of fish, olive oil, macadamia nuts, avocado and coconut oils, fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds and beans.
Foods rich in the kind of antioxidants plentiful in most vegetables and fruit may help reduce tissue damage from inflammation.
Cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, cod or sardines, are high in omega-3s and have been shown to be particularly beneficial. Researchers have found that oleocanthal (a key compound in extra virgin olive oil) has a significant impact on inflammation and helps reduce joint cartilage in the same way ibuprofen works.
Superfoods that are rich in inflammation-fighting free-radicals include green tea, berries, fatty fish, extra-virgin olive oil, red grapes and apples, garlic, onions, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, as well as turmeric and ginger.
Avoid inflammatory foods, such as sugar, because they create inflammation in the body. Also, keep away from foods that contain dangerous trans fats or excess saturated fat.
Consume Omega-6 Fat In Moderation
The majority of Americans eat excessive amounts of the essential and healthy omega-6 fat. This fat is necessary and healthy if eaten in moderation and in a good balanced with inflammation-reducing omega-3 fat. However, in the typical American diet loaded with fast food, processed, packaged and junk foods, omega-6 fats are abundant, and this creates an imbalance of these two healthy fats.
An important element in reducing joint pain is balancing these two fats by removing excess omega-6 fats (in the products listed below) and introducing more joint-healthy omega-3 fats.
Avoid Foods High In Omega-6 Fat
- Salad dressings
- Corn oil, vegetable oil, soy oil, peanut oil
- Snacks: corn chips, tortilla chips, potato chips
- Fast food
- Deep fried foods
- Cookies, candies, cakes, pastries, muffins, crackers
- Processed cheese or spreads
Foods High In Omega 3 Fats To Add
- Fatty, cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines or mackerel
- Grass-fed (free-range) red meats
- Free-range poultry
- Milk, butter, and cheese from grass-fed or pasture-raised
- Eggs from pasture-raised chickens or omega-3-fortified eggs
- Flax seeds and oil
- Chia seeds
Which Supplements are Essential to Joint Health?
If you have poor joint health or joint discomfort, supplements are an important element in maintaining healthy joints. It takes more than just a healthy diet to acquire the nutrients necessary to have good joint health and flexible joints. Your diet and the right supplements are partners in creating joint health.
Follow a diet high in nutrient-dense foods combined with specific supplements (always check with your primary care doctor first) to achieve the ultimate in joint health.
Top Supplements For Optimal Joint Health
Glucosamine is highly effective in helping reduce joint discomfort and cartilage protection while at the same time helping your joints to move better. Glucosamine appears to help support joint comfort and mobility.
Chondroitin can help reduce joint discomfort while slowing down the progression of issues related to poor joint health. Chondroitin also helps keep cartilage healthy, and it is even more effective when combined with other supplements, such as glucosamine.
It is a supplement that contains a trademarked glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate combination. Together as an oral dietary supplement, this compound is commonly used to help reduce joint discomfort.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) helps promote your health by strengthening your body’s ability to make its own antioxidants.
MSM is a highly effective option for people who want to help reduce discomfort and improve their joint health. MSM is an essential nutrient for joint tissue because it helps ensure a healthy connective tissue matrix of cartilage, tendons, and ligaments
Turmeric is rich in a potent antioxidant called curcumin. Curcumin helps reduce the tissue irritation that causes discomfort. For many people, turmeric has been shown to be as effective as ibuprofen, without side-effects.
S-adenosyl-L-methionine, or SAM-e, occurs naturally in the body and is highly effective in helping reduce the joint discomfort.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the wear and tear of the joints. These fatty acids help prevent enzymes from damaging joints.
Omega-3 fatty acids trigger a series of key reactions that help reduce joint discomfort and strengthen tendons. Another key benefit is that taking daily fish oil supplements typically helps joint sufferers to decrease use of NSAID drugs, such as ibuprofen.
Vitamin D may play a significant role in joint health. Research shows a link between lack of vitamin D and joint discomfort. Although vitamin D is found in some foods, it can be hard to get an adequate amount from your diet.
Note: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.