Supporting joints and connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments, fasciae and other collagen-dependent tissues such as skin are vital to staying healthy, active and pain free. (Supporting bone health will be discussed HERE.)
The National Institute of Health (NIH), National Institute of Artritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, describes a joint as “where two or more bones are joined together. They can be rigid, like the joints between the bones in your skull, or movable, like knees, hips, and shoulders. Many joints have cartilage on the ends of the bones where they come together. Healthy cartilage helps you move by allowing bones to glide over one another.”
There are many things that can affect overall joint health. Direct injury to a joint is obvious. But over time, chronic inflammation, wear and tear and many diseases (especially those associated with inflammation and/or autoimmune disorders) also take their toll.
NIH reports “Joint replacement is becoming more come. More than 1 million Americans have a hip or knee replaced each year.” This does not account for any of the other many joints such as the shoulder. In addition to the surgery (and associated risks), patients undergo a hospital stay that can range from few days to several weeks in an intermediate-care facility and physical therapy generally for several months. Though joint replacement is usually successful in increasing mobility, wouldn’t it be nice if one could avoid all of that?
As with most everything health related, Benjamin Franklin had it right when he said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Here are a few tips on how best to support joint health.
One of the best things you can do for your joints is to keep moving. When planning what to do, remember that lower impact activities apply less stress to joints, thus there is less risk for impact-related injuries.
Proper body mechanics, i.e. posture and positioning during activities and even during rest, place a pivotal role in helping to avoid injury to both joints (and associated cartilage, tendons and ligaments) and muscles.
Protection from harsh, repetitive activity. Lower impact activities apply less stress on joints, and thus less risk for impact-related injuries.
NOTE: Further information on these and other individual supplements, their benefits, potential risks and tips on usage can be found at Second Pillar: Supplementation.”
The following nutrients support all forms of collagen dependent tissues including cartilage (found throughout the body, generally associated with bone joints), tendons (connect muscle to bone), ligaments (connect bone to bone), fasciae (enclose muscles and organs and connect muscle to muscle). Skin and the Gastrointestinal Tract is also especially dependent on healthy collagen. There is evidence to show that collagen also assists in strengthening hair and nails.
Dehydration effects the whole body, including the protective fluids that protect and improve joint function.
Of the many various types of protein found in the body, the majority is collagen, approx. 30%. Collagen can breakdown with age or in conjunction with certain medical conditions. It is considered the glue that holds the body together and is found in muscle, bone, skin and all connective tissues of the body. Consumption of and synthesis of collagen are vitally important to joint and connective tissue health.
Dietary Sources: Gelatin is an excellent way to contribute the building blocks of collagen.
* TIP: Sipping hot gelatin can often help sooth a sore throat or an upset stomach.
Gelatin — Sweet: A tasty treat for many, gelatin (like brand name Jell-O) is an excellent source of collagen. It can be consumed in its traditional cold form or as a hot drink. (To serve hot, follow mixing directions of your favorite flavor but serve hot instead of chilling. NOTE: you cannot re-liquefy Jell-O-like products after it has been chilled.) Gelatin is generally high in sugar so look to sugar-free versions if you are diabetic or eating low-carb/ketogenic.
Gelatin — Savory: Since gelatin is a combo of peptides and proteins derived from cooking collagen-rich foods such as skin, bones and connective tissues from beef, pork and chicken, you can also enjoy gelatin in a non-gelatinous, savory form. Don’t discard nutrient-rich juices from cooked meats, especially meats containing bones (referred to as bone broth or bone stock), because it is full of liquefied gelatin. Yes, all that juice (or soft gelatin if it has been chilled) at the bottom of that rotisserie chicken container counts too. Use it to make a hot beverage to sip, for flavoring other dishes or for making delicious soups. You can make your own bone broth (check out this thorough tutorial), or purchase what is referred to as “bone broth.”
** THOSE WITH A PORK ALLERGY OR INTOLERANCE: The majority of gelatin is derived, at least in part, from pork. Consequently, “most” processed foods that contain gelatin are pork-based. There are a few Kosher approved gelatins that are certified pork-free. Pork is also be hidden in a variety of other foods you would never consider. These include specialty (low-fat / no-fat) dairy items including butter, spreads, cheese (especially parmesan and most all processed cheeses including Kraft singles and Velvetta), fresh and frozen yogurt and ice cream; bread products, canned biscuits, crackers, certain potato chips; cereal, especially those with marshmallows (most all marshmallow products), frosted shredded wheat; Rice Crispy Treats, candies gum and even mints like Altoids. These hidden pork and pork bi-products can cause undue and seemingly unexplainable GI issues that can wreak havoc on pork-sensitive individuals. Since Jews and Muslims are prohibited from eating “unclean” items such as pork, looking for Kosher certified items can assist in picking truly pork-free products. Click HERE for an excellent resource.
Supplementation: A good Collagen supplement should contain not only a high-quality sourced HYDROLYZED form of Collagen, but also essential amino acids that help with the absorption and utilization of the Collagen. Arthred is a trademarked product used and labeled by several other companies. For each 10.5g serving of Hydrolyzed Collagen, Arthred contains 10g Protein and an Amino Acid Composition boasting 18 of the 20 amino acids required by humans. Powder collagen allows for ease of use in drinks, shakes and smoothies. Since several companies use the exact same formula and active ingredient, cost truly becomes the deciding factor. The cheapest brand of Arthred I have found is from Source Naturals, available at several retailers such as Vitacost, Swanson and iHerb.
VITAMIN C (ASCORBIC ACID):
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient. Unable to be synthesized from other sources and being water soluble, it must be contributed to the diet on a regular basis to maintain adequate levels. Collagen synthesis is dependent on the action of Vitamin C in the body. The overwhelming importance of this supplement can be seen in Scurvy cases (caused by Vitamin C deficiency). The body literally begins to fall apart. Joints fail because cartilage and tendons are too weak to hold them together, blood vessels rupture, gums ulcerate causing tooth loss, the immune system fails and death ensues. However, contributing Vitamin C to the diet can prevent and even reverse these effects.
Dietary Sources: Papaya, Strawberries, Pineapple, Kiwi, Oranges and other Citrus
Supplementation: Vitamin C supplements should be from naturally sourced, multi-sourced vitamin C (preferably in powder form that can be easily added to a beverage).
Iron helps convert vitamin D into its active form; thereby assisting in calcium absorption. It helps regulate normal osteoblastic activity and the formation of strong collagen fibers, the foundation of bone. A study in 2003 showed a significant correlation between increased Bone Mineral Density and increased levels of Iron (greater than 20mg/daily). However, Iron supplementation should be monitored via labs to avoid “Iron Overload,” a state of excessive iron that can be detrimental to bone health and can cause a number of other health issues.
Magnesium is important to over 300 biological processes, including stabilizing proteins such as collagen and actively contributing to the health and functionality of other connective tissues. Magnesium oil or gel applied topically has been shown to ease joint / arthritis and muscle pain. Magnesium also helps to maintain proper hydration of joints, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and fasciae.
** RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH FLUOROQUINOLONE ANTIBIOTICS: Broad spectrum “quinolones” (Ciprofloxacin “Cipro,” Levofloxacin “Levoquin,” Gemifloxacin, Moxifloxacin, Norfloxacin and Ofloxacin) have a known, substantial risk of causing tendonitis via decreased collagen synthesis. Furthermore, the symptoms of tendonitis and risk of spontaneous tendon rupture was determined to be upwards of one-half of all patients, even 6 months after treatment had stopped. Magnesium deficiency is being associated with a higher risk of these complications, and thus increasing Magnesium intake is now being used to address this complication.
Dietary Sources: Some of the highest sources of dietary Magnesium are Nuts and Seeds (especially almonds, sunflower and sesame seeds), Regular Oatmeal, Broccoli, Bananas, Whole Milk, Peas and Beets
Supplementation: There are many different forms of Magnesium, but there are only few that are the best choice when supplementing. In fact, most supplemental Magnesium either is poorly absorbed or capable of causing significant GI upset and diarrhea. (It’s the Mg in the Milk of Magnesia; but unless your goal is to clean out your GI, little will contribute to overall health.) Magnesium L-Threonate has been studied for its ability to not only cross the blood-brain barrier to contribute to cognitive health, but also to stay in an unfractured form and reach cell nuclei; thus offering optimal utilization and without GI upset.
Topical Delivery: Magnesium in correct forms is easily absorbed, bypassing the GI and speeding delivery to the body. Soaking feet or the whole body in an Epsom Salt bath is well known for helping relieve muscle aches and pains. The mode of action for this result is the Magnesium. There are also Magnesium oils and gels that can be applied topically to sore, achy, stiff muscles or painful joint areas to decrease pain and speed healing.
In addition to the many other dangers of Thiamine deficiency, it has also been linked to a reduction of collagen synthesis.
Dietary Sources: Acorn Squash, Asparagus, Beans, Nuts, Peas and Seeds
TIP: Whether from dietary or supplement sources, Thiamine without the necessary sulfur-based co-factor, cannot substantially raise Thiamine levels in the body. The best Thiamine co-factor is oxidized garlic and should be consumed at the same time as the Thiamine. Oxidize garlic by cutting, crushing or chopping the clove and allowing it to sit exposed to the air for no less than 10-minutes prior to use.
Supplementation: In order to maximize absorption and utilization of Thiamine, it must be consumed with its sulfur-based co-factor. Tetrahydrofurfuryl Disulfide(TTFD), sold in the form of Allithiamine, is the best, natural form to get both Thiamine and it’s sulfur co-factor. Benfotiamine can also increase Thiamine levels but utilizes a synthetic sulfur derivative.
Other Useful Nutrients to Joint / Collagen Health:
GLYCINE and GLYCOSAMINOGLYCANS:
Dietary sources also include gelatin and rich bone broths (not no-fat / low-fat or overly processed versions, these broths will not contain significant amounts of these nutrients). Both of these are available in supplement form. Glycosaminoglycan can be supplemented through use of Glucosamine Chondroitin, with better products containing Glucosamine Sulfate.
GLUTAMINE, LYSINE, PROLINE and SULFATE:
All of these nutrients are found in eggs. Glutamine, Lysine and Proline are available in supplement form. Oxidized garlic (addressed above under Thiamine) is one of the best ways to supplement important sulfur compounds.
MORE USEFUL NUTRIENTS:
The following have also been shown to benefit joint health and assist in reducing inflammation that is known to cause joint damage: B Vitamins (particularly B2 and B3), Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Hyaluronic acid (HA), Proteolytic enzymes, and Nrf2 activators that trigger the body to produce Superoxide Dismutase.
COMING SOON: Joint Repair WITHOUT Joint Replacement
➡ Coming Soon: Migraines
➡ Coming Soon: GI Mobility