Why are we focusing on joints this week?? Because we have over 200 of them in our incredible bodies! Because along with our skeleton, connective tissue and muscles, our joints give us form, hold us together and allow us to move….and our body was designed to move! Also, because we all have them, we all use them and we all torment them in one way or another throughout our lives. Since I am a big advocate of movement for life, how can we not discuss what allows our bodies to move?!
So, whether or not you have “joint issues” now or not, read through because with age, comes many changes and what you do now greatly effects what happens later and there is sooo much to be said for nourishing and protecting our joints now! There is so much to be said and I only touched upon a small portion to get us thinking about our joints more.
I love doing classes on joint health because I feel we are never too young to regain some of that strength, reduce some of that inflammation, and allow our bodies to move more freely and easily. As a health care practitioner, I see too many people stopping doing what they love in life because of joint issues, whether it is pain, swelling or stiffness. As a nurse, I see so many needless surgeries being performed for a quick fix and I hear doctors acknowledging that they are often performing needless joint surgeries, but do so because they do not believe that their patient will change their movement and dietary lifestyle to help themselves. I would love to see this post help at least one person become pain free, avoid an injury or be more able to move freely by making the right chooses.
Throughout life we use and often abuse our joints; we bend, pull, twist, push, jump, run, and swim with our joints. There is a great tendency for us to break them down, often unnecessarily, too early in life, be it through wear and tear, lack of wear and tear, the way we move, the foods we choose or don’t choose, poor posture, injury or trauma, or by allowing too much weight to settle onto them.
The health of our joints is not just determined by the way we use them. Joint health is also determined by what is going on in the internal environment that surrounds them. This internal environment is affected very much so by our diet, lifestyle, and immune system, amongst other things….and these are areas that we have choices in making the right decisions to support them as much as possible.
So this post will address what foods, herbs, supplements, home remedies and moves positively affect our joints. The mission here is to help give you the tools and a bit of knowledge so that you can get back to or continue to do the things you love in life, so much of which revolves around how our bodies move. I am a huge advocate in this mission because I feel it makes for a better society as a whole when people are ABLE BODIED!
Normal joint health begins with a healthy inflammatory response. Joint Health is a complex issue but we all recognize one simple truth and that is …..It is indisputable that a healthy inflammation response is required to maintain normal joint health. The body’s natural inflammatory response affects every major organ system. Suddenly, supporting a healthy inflammatory response takes on whole new meaning.
Prolonged inflammation, caused by a self-destructive lifestyle, is a harmful response that affects your musculoskeletal system, gastrointestinal function, cardiovascular system, vision, and hormone balance. It’s crucial to control inflammation but it’s even smarter to prevent inflammation (In fact, I am a firm believer that inflammation is at the root of essentially all chronic issues/diseases). You can do this through daily movement, stress management, avoidance of certain foods and addition of certain other foods. As we age, cartilage is lost, and this process predisposes the bones that make up the joints to change. In an attempt to address the change, immune cells mount a cellular response that involves inflammation. The inflammation response function in the joints results from the activation of inflammatory enzymes. Numerous other factors can trigger these enzymes, including normal aging, oxidative free radicals, poor movements over and over again and being overweight.
Arthritis literally means: inflammation of the joint. ‘Arthos’ in greek = joint and ‘itis’ = inflammation. We can picture arthritis as swelling, redness, heat and pain caused by tissue injury or joint dis-ease. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis and is also know as degenerative joint disease…..it mainly effects the cartilage of the joint, which is the tissue that cushions the end of the bones in the joint area and acts as a shock absorber. OA occurs when this cartilage in inflamed and begins to fray, wear away and decay…sometimes completely…from a variety of reasons…nutrition and how we move are the two main factors in joint health. Contrary to popular belief, we are now seeing the research and results that show that cartilage (like bone) can actually repair itself (it has been believed for years that it could not)..but repair itself only to a point. It is far more important to prevent this breakdown than try to rebuild after the breakdown.
Reduce overall stress in your life….It’s pretty clear that the body deals with stressors rather indiscriminately, and a high stress lifestyle (no matter the source) is also an inflammatory one.
So another important aspect of nourishing, protecting and/or repairing our joints, and alleviating discomfort is what we feed ourselves and thus our joints. We need to build or rebuild a solid foundation from which the surrounding tissues and blood vessels can rely on. This includes strengthening our connective tissue which supports the joint, strengthening the existing cartilage, reducing inflammation in our bodies and providing the joint with a “clean” work environment to do this…free of waste accumulation…when a joint is stagnant waste loves to settle there causing even more degradation of the good stuff.
- Processed Junk
- Artificial this and that
- Wheat (gluten intolerance is often connected to arthritis and since it is in almost everything, more of us may be a touch intolerant thatn we think)
- Excess grains…stick to quinoa, millet, and barley
- Excess Omega 6 Oils…so skip the corn, vegetable, soy, and canola oils…use butter, olive oil and coconut oil instead
- Excess caffeine
- Excess alcohol
Foods to Eat In Abundance: Food rich in anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants, vitamin c, vitamin E, and Omega 3:
- Berries, cherries, plums, red grapes, citrus fruits, black currants, guava, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, peaches, pineapple
- Allium Family: garlic, onions, leeks
- Cruciferous Family: broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, brussel sprouts
- Leafy Greens: kale, spinach, swiss chard
- Sweet red peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes
- Wild Fish: rich in omega 3 fatty acids for inflammation: salmon, sardines, raw oysters, trout, herring, mackerel….
- Cold pressed oils esp olive oil, flaxseed oil, fish oil, eggs, sunflower seeds, walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, and hazelnuts
- Turmeric: we will discuss more under the herb section, but start sprinkling it on your foods
- Green Tea (over other caffeine sources)
There are many incredible herbs that could be discussed here but I will just focus on a few and the ones I see the most benefit from…hit me up with any questions regarding others and specifics about these herbs, the best form and their dosing.
The main properties of herbs we are looking for include:
Some of the beneficial ‘joint health’ herbs I use:
New Chapter Vitamin company makes an excellent anti-inflammatory blend that works great with joint issues….called Zyflamend. Check it out here: Zyflamend
Make your own Glucosamine!! Check out this video and learn how:
MOVEMENT: Soooo important!!!
Can’t even begin to say enough here!
It is so vital to properly warm up, dynamically, before any movement session to start the lubrication process of our joints. Synovial fluid feeds and bathes our joints in nutrients. Often our joints are starved of vital fluid and thus nutrients from inactivity (ya know that feeling when you’ve been sitting awhile and you hurt when you get up…your joints are dry).
Movement increases flexibility, provides muscle strength and endurance so you can do more of the things you love to do…not to mention in helps with weight reduction which will help take excess pressure off of your joints. Mix up your movement sessions though…chronic cardio, chronic weight bearing moves, chronic anything can increase systemic inflammation….so mix it up!
Go barefoot:. Wearing padded shoes disrupts your natural stride, and going barefoot allows valuable proprioreceptive input so you can intuitively adjust your landing to reduce stress on joints.
Move Dynamically: Check out this video Skye put together awhile back for a some dynamic warm up moves and a joint specific session to get you lubricated and to get that nutrient rich synovial fluid pumping to bathe your joints in goodness!
Bottom line…be kind to your joints so you can keep moving and doing the things you love in life!!