This post was originally written for and published on MarthaStewart.com.
Joint troubles can be rooted in anything from age to athletics. But whatever the cause, these all-natural remedies can help you nip joint problems in the bud. Whether you’re experiencing the inevitable effects of aging, dealing with an existing medical condition, or you are athletically inclined, your joints may “act up” from time to time causing you pain, discomfort or stiffness. Here are 10 holistic approaches to joint support.
Rich in minerals that are extracted from the bones which are used to make the broth (chicken, beef, pork, and fish), homemade bone broth made in the traditional style (without the addition of artificial additives such as MSG) can be a nourishing, nutrient-dense food. Not only does the broth contain minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium but it also provides gelatin, an important nutrient for healthy joints.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
We keep hearing about the benefits of these beneficial fats but they are more than just cardio-protective and brain-boosting agents. Cold water fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel are a perfect addition to a healthy joint regime helping to balance out the pro-inflammatory nature of omega-6 fatty acids present in oils that tend to be over consumed in the American diet. Introduce more of these fish into your meals or consider taking fish oil supplements to help reduce markers of inflammation in the body and to help lubricate the joints therefore reducing stiffness and pain.
Inside the joints are synovial fluid and ensuring that this fluid isn’t dissipating is one simple way of protecting these crucial body parts. Dehydration can affect skin health (wrinkles) but the effects can also be seen as joint stiffness and pain. Synovial fluid, acting as a lubricant, and cartilage supporting joints rely on water and other nutrients to help provide proper cushioning. Adequate intake of water can help to offset some of the natural depletion that takes place with aging.
Hyaluronic acid is a substance present in various tissues throughout the body, supporting joints, skin and eye health. This constituent of synovial fluid becomes depleted as we age so it is critical to replenish it so that normal joint functioning can be restored. Supplemental hyaluronic acid has been shown to help the body produce more of its own, helping to promote collagen production in the body while simultaneously lubricating the joints.
This spice is being studied more and more these days and is proving to be a renowned superfood and effective, safe, and natural anti-inflammatory alternative to NSAIDs. Curcumin, an active compound found in turmeric, is attributed many of the researched health properties, particularly for joint health by regulating the inflammatory process. Cook with a powdered spice or for more therapeutic dosing take it in supplement form. It has been shown to have better bioavailability in the body when consumed with a fat, which acts a carrier.
Yoga provides both mental and physical benefits to those practicing it while also not stressing the joints the way other types of exercise may, making it a perfect workout for those suffering from joint pain. “The practice of yoga asana allow the muscles to soften and relax creating ease on the joints. Yoga is a low impact exercise for the joints as it creates fluidity and mobility in all areas of the physical body,” says Ashley S. Paulson, Certified Family Health Coach & Yoga Instructor.
Arnica Montana is a popular homeopathic remedy made from a flower in the sunflower family. It is most widely used in a topical form (gel or cream) applied to bruises, swollen joints or muscles, and on stiff or painful joints. It aids in reducing inflammation, bruising, and therefore easing pain caused by overuse, strain or minor injuries. Feeling stiff after a workout or from sleeping the wrong way? Give it a try and see for yourself if it works.
This may sound weird but it’s more popular than you would think! Floating, also referred to as sensory deprivation, involves floating in a “pod” or large tank filled with high concentrations of magnesium water, usually at a spa. Soaking a symptomatic body part in epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) can be effective in managing pain, swelling and soreness. Besides the mental and stress-relief benefits of floating, another perk is that the entire body is submerged in the pool of water (rather than just a single body part) allowing full contact with the magnesium salts, helping to decrease inflammation throughout multiple joints, while also relaxing the whole body.
Cherries contain antioxidants such as anthocyanins which are plant compounds known to protect the cells against oxidative damage and possibly prevent certain age-related diseases. In a 2013 study published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, tart cherry juice demonstrated a reduction in C-reactive protein (a biomarker for inflammation in the body) as well as provided symptom relief for patients who presented with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis.
Eliminate Food Triggers
There are two types of arthritis, osteoarthritis which is a degenerative condition (wear and tear) and rheumatoid (RA) which is believed to involve an autoimmune component. From a nutrition stance, there are certain foods which may provoke symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases such as RA. Try eliminating gluten, dairy, eggs, and/or vegetables in the nightshade family such as eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes while working with a nutritionist or naturopathic doctor to monitor progress and symptoms.
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I am a nutrition educator/consultant and not a physician. As such, I do not diagnose or treat disease, rather I support lifestyle balance and health with my work. Please understand that any information provided on the relationship between nutrition and health is not meant to replace competent medical treatment for any health problem or condition.