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Is Arthritis an inevitable part of growing older? Support your joints with our Top 10 Tips...

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability and chronic pain in Australia (Arthritis Australia, 2012) and in the BodyNatured clinic we see evidence of this on a daily basis. Our clients come to us for support with the pain, stiffness and inflammation associated with arthritis and I'm pleased to say that there is a lot that we can recommend to help. Through a combination of dietary changes, nutritional supplementation, lifestyle elements, including Pilates exercises and Bowen treatments, we are able to provide clients with a holistic programme to support joint health and help manage symptoms.

Arthritis is an umbrella term for conditions that involve inflammation of the joints. There are over 100 different type of arthritis, including, Rheumatoid arthritis, Gout, Ankylosing spondylitis and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE or Lupus). In this article we focus on the most common form of arthritis worldwide, Osteoarthritis.

So, what is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis has sometimes been referred to as a condition of joint 'wear-and-tear' caused by continuous use, or trauma to the joints, which results in their progressive degeneration, and the loss of cartilage at a rate that is faster than what the body can rebuild it. Latest research however, also points to inflammation and inflammatory proteins playing a role in the development and progression of osteoarthritis through degradation of the cartilage matrix (Katz JD, et al. 2010). So, although 'wear-and-tear' is a major factor, mechanical stress on the joints is not the only driver in osteoarthritis and there are now links being made to other inflammatory and metabolic conditions like insulin resistance, thyroid and hormonal factors.

The role of the cartilage in a joint is to act as a shock absorber. Without it the space between the joints narrows and the bones start to rub on each other causing pain, swelling and loss of joint function and mobility. Bone spurs, or bony growths may also develop as the body tries to compensate for the loss of cartilage by growing more bone to try and stabilise the joint.

What are the symptoms?

The hands and the weight-bearing joints like the hips, knees and spine are the joints most often affected and it is these that are under greatest stress from weight and use.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis range in severity from person to person and can include:
  • Deep aching pains localised to specific joints. This pain is present with movement and resolved with rest.
  • Stiffness after rest.
  • Tenderness and swelling of the joint.
  • A 'grating' sound upon movement of the joint.
  • Bone deformities in the later stages.

Who gets Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is one of the most frequent causes of pain, loss of function and disability in adults. It affects 1 in 13 people in Australia and is most common in those above 40, or in younger people who have suffered a previous injury or trauma to a joint.

Risk factors include:
  • genetic predisposition
  • obesity
  • injury to a joint complex (even despite surgical repair)
  • osteoporosis
  • overuse of joints through occupational activity or certain sports

Osteoarthritis and Ageing

Osteoarthritis is often regarded as an inevitable part of the ageing process and indeed the incidence of osteoarthritis does dramatically increase with age, due in most part to the cumulative effects of joint use, combined with age-related changes in our ability to repair the joint collagen matrix and increased oxidative stress as we age.

However, research suggests that early intervention can not only delay the onset of osteoarthritis but that it can sometimes prevent onset in the first place (Arthritis Australia, 2012).

Our 10 Top Tips to Support Joint Health

There are many things you can do to support healthy joints and reduce your risk factors for osteoarthritis. The focus of early interventions is to slow the rate of joint damage, reduce inflammation and pain and encourage a healthy regeneration of the collagen matrix that is required to support healthy cartilage.

Read here for our Top 10 tips to support healthy joints:
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
There are many studies linking obesity as one of the most important risk factors for osteoarthritis from both a biomechanical perspective, due to the excess weight placing stress on weight-bearing joints, but also as it is associated with a state of low-grade chronic systemic inflammation which plays a role in cartilage degradation and impairing its regeneration (Guilak F. 2011). Maintaining a healthy weight is key in reducing the risk of osteoarthritis.

2. Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet
Eating foods that are anti-inflammatory and avoiding those that can cause inflammation in the body has shown to have significant beneficial effects in osteoarthritis (Murray M & Pizzorno J. 2012). Typically, a Mediterranean type diet is a good example of an anti-inflammatory way of eating as it includes abundant plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds and minimally processed, seasonal, locally grown foods. Fish and poultry are the main meats and olive oil is the main source of fat. Red wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts. It is also important to remove or minimise foods that can lead to inflammation, for example, those high in arachidonic acid like red meat and dairy, as well as wheat which can be inflammatory in some individuals and sugar which creates blood sugar spikes and overproduction of insulin which can lead to inflammation.
3. Load up on Antioxidants!
A high intake of antioxidant nutrients, especially vitamins C and E can provide defence against tissue injury, reducing the risk of cartilage loss and slowing progression of osteoarthritis up to threefold (McAlindon TE, et al. 1996). Vitamin C also helps build cartilage.
Think berries like blueberries and raspberries, broccoli, kale, spinach and other dark leafy greens, citrus fruit, sunflower seeds, almonds and avocado.

4. Spice things up with Ginger and Turmeric.
These herbs are specifically powerful in inhibiting inflammation and can support improvements in pain and swelling.

5. Daily Bone Broth. Bone broths are made from simmering bones for a long period in order to draw out the minerals and nutrients they contain, including collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate which are beneficial for joint health.

6. Good Fats are your Friend. Omega-3 fats help to lubricate joints and reduce inflammation. Foods high in omega 3 essential fats include oily fish such as salmon, anchovies and mackerel, chia seeds and flax seed oil.

7. Nightshade Plants? Just checking…..
It is thought that the alkaloids in the nightshade family of plants, including tomatoes, peppers eggplant and potatoes can inhibit normal collagen repair in the joints or promote inflammatory degeneration of the joint (Murray M & Pizzorno J. 2012 & Langley S. 2011). If you suffer from osteoarthritis symptoms try eliminating these foods for a couple of weeks to determine if this makes a difference for you.

8. Try Pilates!
Pilates exercises increase the circulation of blood and nutrients to the joints, which is needed for the production and repair of cartilage. Pilates also helps to build and maintain muscle strength and flexibility, taking the stress off the joints and improving range of movement. It also enhances balance and coordination, reducing the risk of injuries. Studies show evidence of Pilates decreasing pain and improving the quality of life in people with osteoarthritis (Najafabadi MT, et al. 2014). At BodyNatured we offer group Pilates classes, or we can tailor a programme around your needs and work with you one-on-one to help you achieve your goals faster.

9. Bowen Therapy treatments
Bowen Therapy may be beneficial on many levels and clients have reported relief from symptoms of osteoarthritis after Bowen treatments. We believe there are many possible factors that could drive this. Firstly, the Bowen Technique helps the body to recognise imbalances and realign itself while we know that misalignment of joints creates joint stress and can increase the risk of osteoarthritis (Murray M & Pizzorno J. 2012). A Bowen session can set the body into a state of relaxation, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body to rest, digest and recover. We believe that this is the optimal state in which the body can be to heal itself.
Certain Bowen procedures can help to increase circulation and joint mobility which could assist with proper hydration and delivery of nutrients to the joint capsules, resulting in the availability of the materials needed to repair and support joint health. Contact us at BodyNatured to book a Bowen Therapy treatment and see for yourself.

10. Supplement support
There are many supplements that can support joint health. Contact us or another health professional to advise you on which supplement is right for your needs and what form and dosage would be most effective. Some of the supplements we recommend for joint support and osteoarthritis include:

  • Glucosamine – this is a natural proteoglycan, a building block of cartilage and is manufactured from oyster and crab shells. It is thought that supplementing with this can increase cartilage production in the body and in a number of studies it performs better than anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications in relieving the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. A cautionary word is that blood glucose may need to be monitored when supplementing with glucosamine as it can impact insulin resistance and blood glucose levels.
  • Vitamin D – low vitamin D is linked to higher loss of cartilage and increasing the progression of osteoarthritis (Katz JD et al. 2010). You should have your levels checked before supplementing.
  • Curcumin – is the active compound from Turmeric and has strong anti-inflammatory effects (Murray M & Pizzorno J. 2012).
  • NZ Green Lipped Mussel extract - has been seen to relieve joint pain due to its anti-inflammatory effects (Ulbricht C, et al. 2014).
At BodyNatured we treat individuals, not diseases. Remember that the above are general recommendations for joint support, however, each individual is unique and how one person may experience osteoarthritis can be very different to the next.

We recommend that you come and see us at BodyNatured so that we can tailor a programme to suit you. We look forward to hearing from you.
Yours in good health, naturally! Victoria x

Sources:

Arthritis Australia. 2012. 'What is Arthritis?'. Available at: http://www.arthritisaustralia.com.au/index.php/arthritis-information.html. Accessed: 28th August 2016.

Cruz-Ferreira A, Fernandes J, Laranjo L, Bernardo LM, Silva A. (2011). 'A Systematic Review of the Effects of the Pilates Method Exercise in Healthy People'. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Vol 92; Issue 12; pg 2071-2081. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003999311004126. Accessed: 28th August 2016.

Katz JD, Agrawal S & Velasquez M. (2010). 'Getting to the Heart of the Matter: osteoarthritis takes its place as part of the metabolic syndrome'. Current Opinion Rheumatology. September; Volume 22; Issue 5; pg 512-519. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20592604. Accessed: 28th August 2016.

Langley S. (2011). The Naturopathy Workbook. The College of Naturopathic Medicine. UK.

McAlindon TE, Jacques P, Zhang Y, Hannan MT, Aliabadi P, Weissman B, Rush D, Levy D, Felson DT. (1996). 'Do antioxidant micronutrients protect against the development and progression of knee osteoarthritis?'. Arthritis Rheumatology. April; Volume 39; Issue 4; pg 648-656. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8630116. Accessed: 28th August 2016.

Mercola.com. (2015). 'Is Bone Broth the New Super Food?'. Available at: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/02/23/bone-broth-superfood.aspx. Accessed: 28th August 2016.

Murray M & Pizzorn J. (2012). The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Atria Paperback. 3rd Edition. New York.

Najafabadi MT, Mahdavinejad R & Ghasemi GA. (2014). 'Comparison of Isometric and Pilates Exercises on Knee Pain and Quality of Life in Women with Knee Osteoarthritis'. Asian Discipline of Multidisciplinary Studies. Vol 2; No 3. Available at: http://ajms.co.in/sites/ajms2015/index.php/ajms/article/view/235. Accessed: 28th August 2016.

Sarris J & Wardle J. (2012). Clinical Naturopathy. Elsevier. Australia.

Ulbricht C, Chao W, Costa D, Nguyen Y, Seamon E, Weissner W. (2014). 'An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Green-Lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration'. Journal of Dietary Supplements. Vol 6; Issue 1. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221902045_An_Evidence-Based_Systematic_Review_of_Green-Lipped_Mussel_Perna_canaliculus_by_the_Natural_Standard_Research_Collaboration. Accessed: 28th August 2016.



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