Good joint health requires nutrients

Joint pain and stiffness has become a common part of ageing, with an estimated one in three New Zealanders experiencing osteoarthritis (OA).

OA is thought to be a degenerative disease, driven by inflammation, which is why it doesn't affect everyone.

Joints are crucial for mobility and if they become stiff and sore, it can be difficult to keep active.

Joints and their supporting structures allow you to bend your knees, move your hips and turn your head.

Smooth tissue called cartilage, synovium and a lubricant called synovial fluid cushion the joints so that bones do not grind together.

Age, injury, chronic jarring exercise, poor movement patterns and carrying too much weight can contribute to increased cartilage wear which can then lead to joint discomfort, pain and/or bone deformities.

There are seven key movements that are necessary for life and the longer we incorporate these movements into everyday living, the less wear and tear there will be on joints.

These movements are: squat, bend, lunge, push, pull, twist and gait (walk).

Having good body awareness and performing these basic motion patterns well are important aspects to preventing joint degradation.

So what can we do for our joint health?

Keep moving

Joints are often stiff in the mornings as old synovial fluid (which lubricates joints) can accumulate mineral deposits and microbes.

Aim to do 5-10 minutes of movement each morning to allow new fluid to flow into the joint capsule.

This may include yoga, swimming, stretching or a gentle walk.

Cycling can help to strengthen the muscles around joints, especially knees and, like swimming, is not a weight-bearing exercise.

A stationary bike can be a good investment if you prefer to exercise at home.

DietThe fats you eat eventually become the fats that populate your cell membranes and also encapsulate your cells.

These membrane fats become the building blocks that either create or fight inflammation.

Deep-fried foods and pastries are particularly high in trans fats which have been shown to drive inflammation.

Nourishing our bodies each day with healthy fats such as oily fish (salmon and sardines), raw walnuts, pecans, flax seeds and chia seeds is essential.

Some people find reducing their intake of the nightshade family of foods can help with OA.

This includes tomatoes, potatoes, capsicum, eggplant and chilli.

Supplements

Glucosamine is an amino sugar naturally produced by the body.

It is one of the building blocks of cartilage and as we age, our production declines.

Studies show that 1500mg each day of glucosamine can help joint health in a person weighing about 70kg.

Glucosamine is sold as part of a complex, therefore you need a 1990mg glucosamine sulphate complex to provide you with the therapeutic amount of 1500mg.

There are a lot of suboptimal brands on the market that do not reach this level, so check the label when buying and be patient - it takes time to rebuild the cartilage.

Chondroitin is also a natural substance found in the body.

It helps to draw water and nutrients into the cartilage.

Hyaluronic acid also performs this function to a higher degree.

You might like to think of greasing a rusty gate as a similar action.

NEM is the newest joint support ingredient on the market.

If you watched the Rugby World Cup you may have seen the ads on TV with Ian Jones endorsing it.

Egg membrane has a combination of naturally occurring nutrients that when taken daily, can reduce joint pain and stiffness, particularly in the knee joints, from around 10 days.

• The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional.

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