From time to time our bones and supporting structures can go a bit funny…and it’s no laughing matter. Don’t despair! There are plenty of things to help…
There are, on average, 206 bones in our body. That’s a lot to keep healthy and strong, and it’s hardly surprising, bearing in mind life’s knocks, strains and stresses, that sometimes they don’t function at their best. You probably know a few people who complain of joint aches and pains from time to time. Let’s take a closer look……
Start Right for Strong Bones…
By the time we’re 30, we’ve reached the age when our bones are built up as much as they can be (peak bone mass). The combination of genetics, diet and exercise will all have played their part in determining how much mineral has gone into making our bones and how strong the supporting structures are. That’s why it’s vital to maintain good dietary levels of bone-building nutrients. Everyone up to this age should be encouraged to increase their intakes of mineral-rich foods such as dairy, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and fortified soya products.
As well as this, many nutritionists find that eating on the run, low intakes of dairy foods, and excess soft drinks result in low dietary levels of calcium, which need topping up with a supplement. Choose a bone formulation, aiming for 1000mg elemental calcium per day plus vitamin D, K and perhaps other important bone minerals such as magnesium and boron.
Keep on Going for Great Bones…
That’s not to say that once we’re over 30, our joint health is signed, sealed and delivered. There are many things that we can do to maintain healthy, strong bones into later years…
Exercise: Research has shown that regular exercise can help to maintain joint strength and reduce bone fractures (see latest research for just one example).
Calcium supplementation: Continue, or start, a specific bone formulation that is rich in calcium, magnesium, boron, vitamin D and perhaps, vitamin K.
Drink herbals, fruit teas and un-carbonated cordials and presses: This will safeguard the calcium in your bones, meaning that the body won’t have to release it to maintain the body’s pH (acid/alkali balance).
Give your joints some TLC: Don’t just expect your joints to keep on going. When they are tired, rest them. Aromatherapy is wonderful for relaxing the muscles and sandalwood, ginger and black pepper are of particular benefit. Use them in a blend, mixed with carrier oil (follow the instructions of an aromatherapist, and check instructions on the label). Pamper your body using exotic moisturisers (fragranced with rose, rosemary or ylang ylang), which gives your joints a massage at the same time! Take a long hot soak in the bath to ease away tiredness and fatigue.
Put to Rest Joint Problems…
The health advice for many joint problems is similar, as these often result in inflammation, pain and swelling. Whether it is simple wear and tear, or sciatica, it is worthwhile talking with a health professional to see what health regime is best for you. Here are just some of the naturopathic principles which might help;
- Keep the acid/alkali balance in your diet right, by cutting down on acid-containing foods such as meat, dairy, eggs, processed foods and drinking excess concentrated fruit juices. Replace them with beans and pulses, dairy alternatives such as rice, oat, nut milks, soya milk or Tiger White, plus diluted fruit juices, cordials or pressés.
- Choose caffeine-free drinks.
- Choose low-sodium products (or cut salt out altogether)
Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulphates: are useful where there is inflammation (through wear and tear) or cartilage damage (such as through injury). Chondroitin sulphate is also found naturally in the joints, and levels decrease in those with osteoarthritis. Supplementation has been shown to decrease pain, increase joint mobility and allow healing of damage. There are some innovative products around, including gel patches which can be worn close to the skin on the joint with the discomfort.
Fish Oils: have anti-inflammatory properties, and have been shown to increase joint mobility (reduces stiffness) when taken at around 2000mg to 3000mg daily.
S-adenosyl methionine: gives reduced pain and swelling and increased movement, green lipped mussel decreases pain and has an anti-inflammatory action and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) helps to balance fluid pressure in the joints, and thus help temper inflammation, as well as helping to inhibit the enzyme, cartilaginase, which causes breakdown of cartilage in the joints.
HERBS: White Willow Bark is often recommended for pain management, supported by anti-inflammatory herbs such as Devils Claw, Bromelain, Cayenne and circulatory herbs such as ginger. Sarsaparilla, ashwaganda, turmeric and boswellia may also be recommended by a herbalist. Fish oils also provide anti-inflammatories omega 3 oils and, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, choose flax seed oil instead, as this will provide omega 3 oils as well.
Soya isoflavones: have been shown to slow bone loss, and even maintain strong bones (see research). Don’t forget some really simple, but effective topical (on the skin) products such as Tiger Balm, Dog Oil and Emu Oil.
It was suspected that soya isoflavones could help improve bone mineral density about five years ago, but now researchers are fully confident that taking soya isoflavone supplements in addition to soya-rich foods, for at least six to twelve months, could be beneficial.
From: Forum Nutr. 2005;(57):100-11.
Get your back into some exercise…
If you experience back pain, then exercise might be the last thing that you would consider doing, but now research from the University of British Columbia has proven that resistance and agility training reduce back pain, and increase quality of life in older women with low bone density. It might be sensible to go to the gym and get some specific exercises from a qualified trainer, who can monitor progress for you.
From: Osteoporos Int. 2005 Feb 9 [E pub
Excess alcohol bad news for bones….
Scientists at WHO Collaborating Centre for Metabolic Bone Diseases, University of Sheffield Medical School, have found that drinking more than two units of alcohol per day increases risk of bone fracture to the hips and also osteoporotic fractures.
From: Osteoporos Int. 2004 Sep 29 [E pub]
Natural Lifestyle © Natural Lifestyle April 2005 in connection with Natural Health Week