When it comes to treating the pain and inflammation caused by arthritis, a whole-body approach is the best plan of attack. Taking drugs to help minimise the discomfort of symptoms is sometimes necessary, but with a multi-faceted holistic approach that takes into consideration diet, lifestyle and supplements, many people find great relief. Below are some ways in which you may be able to fight joint inflammation and ease the debilitating ache.
Chondroitin sulfate – Nutritional support for strengthening joints, ligaments and tendons. Chondroitin is a natural substance found in the body and chondroitin supplements are usually made of animal cartilage. Chondroitin is believed to help draw water and nutrients into the cartilage, keeping it healthy and sponge-like. Scientific studies have suggested that glucosamine and chondroitin taken in conjunction with each other are helpful in the treatment and management of some joint conditions.
Essential fatty acids – Essential fatty acids help to increase the production and activity of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins that help to control arthritis pain and inflammation. Fish oils are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil; DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). EPA and DHA can both reduce inflammation, which causes swelling and pain.
Glucosamine sulfate – Glucosamine sulfate is very important for the formation of bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and synovial (joint) fluid. Supplementation of glucosamine sulfate can also be helpful to keep joints lubricated with beneficial fats.
Vitamin E – A powerful antioxidant that protects the joints from damage by free radicals and can help to increase joint mobility.
Herbs – Alfalfa contains all the minerals essential for bone formation, and may be helpful for arthritis. Boswellia, an Ayurvedic herb, is important for reducing inflammation. It also helps restore blood vessels around inflamed tissue. Devil’s Claw is another herb that research suggests may be able to help reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
Turmeric – Turmeric contains the active component curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. It is good for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Turmeric can be included in the diet, but to ensure the therapeutic dosage is achieved to help with the symptoms of arthritis, some people may like to consider supplementation.
Maintain a healthy weight – Carrying extra kilos places extra stress on joints and ligaments. So, if you are overweight, you may like to consider losing some weight to help ease the pressure on your joints and consequently reduce the pain caused.
Regular exercise – Regular exercise helps to strengthen muscles that support joints and keep joints flexible. Aim for at least 30 minutes of gentle exercise most days. You may like to consider trying joint-supportive activities such as swimming or tai chi.
Head outdoors – The action of sunlight on your skin promotes the production of vitamin D. Low levels of the ‘sunshine’ vitamin are associated with osteoarthritis. Try and head outside without sunscreen in the morning or late afternoon (when the sun is less intense) for 15 minutes. Don’t forget to eat vitamin D-rich foods such as; oily fish, eggs and beef liver.
Rest when necessary – Listen to your body and learn to know the signs and symptoms that signal you need to take time out to rest your joints (pain, redness, stiffness, swelling, fatigue).
Healthy Fats – It is essential that our bodies are nourished daily with healthy fats, including those from oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds, coconut and pasture-fed animals. Omega 3 fatty acids are particularly effective at fighting inflammation in the body.
Pineapple – Consider eating fresh pineapple frequently. Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, is excellent for reducing inflammation. To be effective, pineapple must be fresh as canning and freezing can destroy enzymes. Approximately 1 cup of fresh pineapple per day is ideal.
Sulfur – Consider eating more sulfur-containing foods such as; asparagus, eggs, onions, garlic. Sulfur is needed for the repair and rebuilding of bone, cartilage, and connective tissue, and it also aids in the absorption of calcium (an important mineral for bone and joint health).
Eat the Rainbow – Eating a variety of fresh fruit and veggies will mean your diet is full of potent antioxidant vitamins, which fight free radicals and reduce the damage caused by inflammation. Stars of the show include kale and broccoli, which contain a compound called sulforaphane that research has shown may protect joints from damage.
Ginger and turmeric – Both of these warming spices contain potent anti-inflammatory compounds and can be consumed daily to enhance joint health.
Elimination – Elimination of potentially allergenic foods (or even just foods that you may be intolerant to) has been shown to offer significant benefit to some individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. If you feel that certain foods may be aggravating your condition, consider talking to a qualified Nutritionist or Dietician to be guided on the best way to reduce or eliminate certain food groups from your diet.
Natural anti-inflammatories, potent antioxidants, a healthy lifestyle and inflammation-fighting foods are key ingredients when it comes to the ultimate recipe for joint health.
Please consult a health professional before taking any new herbs or supplements.