Run, Dance, Sew, and Garden: Good Joints Until You're 110
QUESTION: I have a friend who can't walk, and because of this challenge, I see how much it limits things in life that he wants to do and enjoy. I want to start taking care of my knees and joints before it's too late. How?
Google joint health or arthritis and you'll find all sorts of ads and articles on joint injections, supplements, and potions you can take to help your achy, painful joints! You'll also read plenty about supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, which many studies have found to be effective at protecting and providing nutrients for healthy joints.
But moving away from popping pills and powders, what can you do??
First, consider that it's not just "getting old." There may be some underlying causes, including autoimmune disease, thyroid issues, or reaction/intolerance to certain foods. Ordering simple lab tests through your doctor may be able to able to confirm these root causes.
LEVERAGE TWO MAJOR CONCEPTS TO MAKE YOUR JOINTS HAPPY TODAY
1. The joint swells when it's inflamed (hello immobility and pain!). Slash inflammation.
Reduce inflammation to maintain healthy joints. When it's swollen, or inflamed, this could cause increased friction in and around the joint - and this can be extremely painful, achy, or add difficulty in moving.
So, reducing inflammation is a critical step to eliminating joint swelling and ultimately wear on the cartilage and lubricating joint fluid (called synovial fluid).
The less inflammation, the less friction and stress on the joint.
Reduce inflammation in the entire body.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to reduce inflammation locally (besides steroid injections, which may only have a temporary effect), so that means a low inflammation diet is important for turning down the fire in your entire body!
A low-inflammation diet also protects against chronic disease, since prolonged inflammation can be a root cause of chronic conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and even brain degeneration.
What does a low-inflammation diet consist of?
Lots of colorful veggies, quality proteins, and healthy fats.
Removes inflammatory foods that could aggravate the joint and contribute to whole-body swelling:
Processed foods - pasta, noodles, breads, cookies
Vegetable oils - corn, soybean, canola, safflower
Gluten - the protein commonly found in wheat
What about supplements?
Turmeric, or curcumin, is a seed-based spice that comes in supplement form and has been researched in its ability to reduce inflammation and also protect the body from environmental toxins (like heavy metals, chemicals, etc.).
While a teaspoon of turmeric can add some nice kick to a curry dish, you'll need a higher dose than what you can reasonably enjoy in food, in order to be effective. Note, a supplement is not a magic bullet -- it may not be effective as "doing the work" with an low-inflammation diet to support.
2. Bearing weight increases strength of joints, bones, & connective tissue. Exercise!
Research is showing that weight-bearing activity - i.e. exercise & strength training - builds the strength of the joints, bones, and connective tissues very effectively. Exercise isn't just about looking good... we need it to stay functional for years. And we already know that sitting and a sedentary lifestyle is the new smoking.
One Harvard research study that included almost 300 people found that the men and women who did the most vigorous weight-bearing exercise had the healthiest and thickest cartilage in their knees. This study that spanned almost 15 years and analyzed participants' exercise habits and joint symptoms. Their MRI scans proved that exercise was the most common factor tied to healthy, mobile knees.
Care Strategy: Exercise daily -- and it doesn't have to be a big production.
Try these ideas:
Going for a walk
Lifting light weights
Sneaking in a few repetitions of dips, lunges, squats, etc.
If you're a traveler, a resistance band is a great investment!
Ride a bike to run your errands (maybe take your next date on a scenic bike ride?), plant some basil in your garden, or dance in your living room for 15 minutes. You don't need to be a gym rat to reap the benefits!
As an added benefit, exercise speeds up that process by providing the body more oxygen to do its job. Oxygen is absolutely necessary for tissue building and repair!
Have you tried these strategies? What are some of your secret weapons for healthy joints?