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April 22, 2024

Unlocking Vitality: Essential Nutrients for Peak Joint Health and Mobility

As we grow older, multiple conditions can become a threat to our normal well-being. This is why we should all prioritise ourselves and our health, especially as we step into our 40s and beyond. I am sure most of us have gone around the alleys of our local health store and have seen supplements related to joint health. The health condition that is responsible for interfering with our normal joint health is arthritis. Arthritis is a broad term encompassing a few different joint disorders, with two prevalent types being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom has reported that there are about 10 million individuals currently diagnosed with arthritis.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN OSTEOARTHRITIS AND RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS?

In osteoarthritis, the smooth cartilage around our joints gradually suffers wear and tear, which results in joint pain and stiffness. Usually, the affected joints are those of the knees, hands, hips, and spine. This condition develops in adults over 40 years and has currently affected about 8 million in the UK alone.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a different condition and an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing inflammation and pain, and can cause substantial damage to the affected joints and to the bones that surround them. Osteoarthritis’s onset is between 40 and 50 years of age and it is estimated that there are over 400,000 affected in the UK.

Unfortunately, both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis reduce the quality of life as normal daily activities cannot be performed to the same extent as before. If you are concerned about the onset of any symptoms, you should be proactive and start prioritising your joint health in order to ensure a vibrant and active lifestyle in your golden years. Similar to many other conditions, arthritis can be managed by regular exercise and incorporating some nutrients which have a key role in maintaining your joints healthy.

Let’s dive deeper into the nutrients and exercise you can incorporate into your life to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis.

TURMERIC: THE GOLDEN SPICE

Tumeric for arthritis

Turmeric is a spice with a gold colour, mainly used in the Middle East and Asia. It is used not only for culinary purposes but is also considered a medicinal herb because of its active compound curcumin, which boasts powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin inhibits inflammation in the body and reduces pain and swelling associated with conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While incorporating turmeric into your diet is beneficial, supplementation can provide a more concentrated dose of curcumin.

Be aware that black pepper enhances the absorption of curcumin by up to 2000% and will allow more of its active compound to enter the bloodstream, thus exerting its beneficial effects throughout the whole body. Therefore, taking turmeric in combination with black pepper will maximise its therapeutic potential because of its increased bioavailability.

Bonus hint from the author:

 A good way of increasing your turmeric intake is by mixing 2 tablespoons of ground turmeric with 1 teaspoon of black pepper in 500 grams of natural yoghurt. You can take a tablespoon of this mixture every day.

GLUCOSAMINE: A BUILDING BLOCK OF HEALTHY JOINTS

As mentioned, cartilage is the smooth and flexible tissue that cushions the joints and glucosamine is a natural compound that plays a key role in maintaining this tissue healthy. Advancing age or joint injuries can decrease the production of glucosamine in the body, leading to joint pain and stiffness. Supplementation with glucosamine is thought to replenish the reduced levels of this compound in the joints, thereby promoting cartilage repair and reducing pain.

Studies on glucosamine sulphate, a form of glucosamine, have reported it has better absorption and bioavailability in the body compared to other forms of glucosamine, suggesting glucosamine sulphate has a higher efficacy for relieving joint pain and supporting cartilage health.

Dietary sources and supplementation:

 Natural food sources like shellfish shells, and bone broth contain glucosamine and glucosamine sulphate, but these compounds are commonly available in supplement form, and indeed many prefer supplementation. This is due to the barriers to achieving sufficient therapeutic effects just through the intake of the listed dietary sources.

METHYLSULFONYLMETHANE (MSM): A NATURAL JOINT HEALER

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring chemical sulphur, found in our bodies and in nature and can be used by people over 40 who want to promote their joint health and maintain an active lifestyle. MSM has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is also believed to contribute to the formation of new collagen in our joints after its natural decline with age.

Dietary sources and supplementation:

 MSM can be found in small amounts in certain foods like fruits (apples, tomatoes, grapes, and citrus fruits like oranges), vegetables from the cruciferous family (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale), legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans), whole grains (wheat, barley, rice), and sulphur-containing animal products (meat and dairy). Be mindful that the concentration of MSM in these sources may not be sufficient for therapeutic benefits and once again, supplementation can be a convenient way to ensure an optimal intake which may help alleviate joint pain and stiffness. MSM is often found in combination with glucosamine or chondroitin in joint health supplements.

 

CHONDROITIN SULPHATE: REVITALISE YOUR JOINTS NATURALLY

Chondroitin sulphate is another molecule that our bodies can produce naturally and is an essential building block of cartilage. Chondroitin sulphate works by attracting water molecules to cartilage, so it maintains our joints lubricated and allows for better shock absorption when moving.

Dietary sources and supplementation:

 Dietary sources include bone broths, cartilaginous meats, and shells from shrimp, crab, and lobster. Similarly to the previously mentioned compounds, it is important to note that chondroitin’s concentration in the aforementioned dietary sources is variable, and it may be challenging to consume sufficient amounts solely through food.

Chondroitin sulphate is commonly available in dietary supplements in combination with glucosamine. The supplements containing chondroitin, glucosamine and MSM offer a combined approach, as MSM produces collagen, glucosamine supports the production of cartilage, and chondroitin sulphate helps maintain its structure and hydration.

VITAMIN C: THE COLLAGEN CATALYST

In the context of joint health, vitamin C supports the production and the effective repair of collagen fibres. Vitamin C also is widely known for its antioxidant properties, thus helping to protect joint tissues from damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation, two processes present in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Dietary sources and intake:

 The Recommended Nutrient Intake values (RNI) for vitamin C in the UK for those aged 19 and above are 40 mg per day, easily obtained from vitamin C-rich food sources like citrus (oranges, lemons, tangerines, lime), tropical fruits (guava, mango, pineapple, papaya, kiwi, and passion fruit), berries, bell peppers, and broccoli.

exercise

Apart from all of the nutrient strategies, individuals suffering from arthritis should also incorporate appropriate exercises to help improve joint flexibility, strength, and overall well-being. The UK’s NHS typically recommends the following types of exercises for managing arthritis.

 

  • Low-impact aerobic and aquatic exercise (walking, cycling, swimming, and water aerobics)
  • Strength Training exercises with light weights or resistance bands focusing on targeting the major muscle groups – arms, legs, back, and core.
  • Flexibility and Range of motion exercises (stretching)
  • Tai Chi (balance)
  • Yoga (meditation)

conclusion

Considering a holistic approach to treating arthritis will allow for better symptom management and will enhance one’s quality of life. Nevertheless, we need to remember that for this purpose, staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, and getting enough sleep are just as important factors as having an intake balance between the introduced key dietary compounds.

Disclaimer: always consult your doctor or health specialist before incorporating any of the listed supplements or exercises. People with gastrointestinal issues or sensitivities should be cautious with black pepper, as high doses may cause gut irritation.

In Health & Wellness

Daria Borisova

FLOW Nutritionist

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