When your joints hurt, it´s easy to think: "I´ll be allright soon, it´s not worth going to the doctor – I´ll just add a little ointment or maybe a warming patch. In a few days, I´ll be right as rain." Sound familiar?
Well, sometimes, a laissez-faire attitude to joint pain can have serious consequences, especially if it´s us over 50. When pain in the joints becomes a daily companion, it´s time to get an expert opinion.
Think about arthrosis.
If you feel like your joints are being pierced continuously with a thousand hot needles, you might be suffering from arthrosis. Unlike gout, where uric acid builds up in the joints to cause pain, it´s your cartilage that´s to blame in arthrosis.
What happens to your cartilage in arthrosis? Medical experts now assume arthrosis doesn't just result from age-related mechanical wear. Rather, new medical research suggests arthrosis is caused by micro-injuries to the cartilage, including cartilage dysfunction, bone fractures, bacterial inflammations or gout. These can go unnoticed in the body for a long time until something triggers them – the wrong movement, physical overexertion or trauma can often activate dormant arthrosis pain.
The trigger activates an enzyme that targets your cartilage, causing it to gradually degrade while the bone underneath thickens. Left unchecked, your cartilage stops protecting the bone ends, and they begin to rub against each other.
Detached cartilage particles then irritate the synovial membrane, creating an overproduction of synovial fluid that, when healthy, supplies your cartilage with nutrients. The joint swells, becomes hot and inflamed, and... ouch.
Cartilage abrasion can occur in any joint, but it most commonly affects knees, hips, fingers and hands. This wear and tear can manifest itself in morning stiffness, restricted movement, swelling and stress pain. You´ll likely feel pain after resting for long periods.
Once osteoarthrosis has begun its destructive process, it can be challenging to treat. Orthodox treatments as anti-inflammatory drugs or physiotherapy can alleviate superficial symptoms, but they don't combat the source of pain. Only limited regeneration of the cartilage between the joint head and acetabulum is possible.
But it's not all doom and gloom. There are things you can do to counteract the onset of osteoarthrosis!
What to do about joint pain.
So how can you avoid becoming completely paralyzed by pain at some point in the future? There is really only one reasonable answer: a change in diet! It´s one of the simplest, most effective ways to combat arthrosis. And it's not just about carrying superfluous kilograms – a study in online specialized magazine Scientific report shows: a diet full of excess sugar and saturated fatty acids can actively damage your joint cartilage and bones by increasing your body´s inflammatory reaction.
To blame is Leptin, a hormone fat cells produce that promotes inflammation and puts you at higher risk for heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular diseases and arthrosis. When you consider how many hidden sugars and fatty acids are on our supermarket shelves theses days, it's clear to see why joint pain and osteoarthrosis are on the rise.
Of course it's easy to suggest cutting out alcohol as a first step, and cigarettes, too. Actually, with a little self-discipline, these cartilage killers are the easiest to eliminate from your life because you don't really need them for survival.
Changing your eating habits can be more difficult. Giving up the rich meals, fatty meats, frozen or fast foods, cakes and sweets you love is a hard ask, especially when you're already feeling less than stellar. But treating yourself to these foods has left its mark and may now be feeding your arthrosis. And, if it can make a massive difference to your level of joint pain, it's worth a go.
Fortunately, many foods and natural dietary supplements can support you to set yourself on the right course while you tweak your eating habits. And when you start eating cartilage-supporting foods, you can experience a real leap forward in joint health that gives you the impetus to continue with your diet.
Six tips for eating your way back to joint health:
- Get into the habit of active shopping. Being mindful about what goes into your supermarket trolley can be the quickest way to jumpstart your pain-free diet. Start by avoiding any products with long carbon chains, like those found in palmitic acid (C16), which the food industry likes to use as cheap palm oil in margarine, nougat and nutty spreads. Fatty acids are also found in stearic acid or C18, as a component of animal fats, and myristic acid or C14 – which has a negative effect on cholesterol. Also you should keep your hands off of anything with artificial flavor enhancers like MSG (monosodium glutamate) and pay attention to sodium nitrite, high-fructose corn syrup, carrageenan and trans fat. All these can be triggers for inflammations, diabetes, heart diseases, cancer and weight gain.
- Use coconut oil for frying and cooking. It contains short-chain and cartilage-friendly lauric acid. Also check out contained in linseed, rapeseed and walnut oil – the omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect in your fight against inflammation.
- Replace meat with fresh, fatty fish. Mackerel, tuna and salmon contain plenty of good omega-3 to help soothe inflamed joints. Reducing your red meat and egg intake also decreases pain, because it reduces your consumption of polyunsaturated arachidonic acid – a leading suspected cause of joint inflammation.
- Eat more antioxidants. Vitamins E, A and C, carotenoids, selenium, zinc, copper and iron are superheroes in the fight against joint inflammation, and Mother Nature provides them aplenty in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and good vegetable oils.
- Fast now and then. Intermittent fasting can help inhibit acute inflammatory pain – however, make sure you check with your doctor first.
- Give your body the nutrients it needs to fight inflammation. Prescription painkillers may relieve superficial joint pain, but they're not side-effect free. Try natural remedies for a longer fix: Glucosamine and chondroitin, MSN, astaxanthin and hyaluron are all completely natural active ingredients known to regenerate cartilage. When optimally combined with a healthy diet, they mesh together like the gears of a well-oiled machine that works to decrease joint pain. Have a look at these capsules containing all the good stuff as a supplement to your normal healthy diet.
Everything in moderation.
Changing your eating habits is easier if you treat yourself to a cheat day. You don't have to give up all your favourite foods all of the time. Enjoy a good steak or a piece of cake, but make them the exception, not your everyday norm. Or replace your red meat with lean chicken or turkey, or even rabbit and kangaroo – all are much less fatty while still providing enough protein on your plate.
Finally, a few words on the importance of movement in osteoarthrosis. As long as you take care not to put too much strain on your joints too quickly, you can improve muscle strength and promote greater joint mobility with light exercises for your knees, hips, shoulders, hands and fingers. Have a look at our fitness and health aids for more ideas on how to implement pain-reducing activities into your daily routine.
Take your joint health into your own hands today. Stop surrendering to a fate full of pain.
Editorial office for nutrition: rk