By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
I was shocked when Sandy came walking—or should I say limping—into my office the other day. One of my newer patients, she’s been suffering from osteoarthritis for years. But here’s the real shocker—Sandy is only in her 50s!
While most of us don’t suffer from joint pain until our later years, deterioration can actually begin when we are quite young. That’s why it’s so important to be proactive about keeping your joints healthy.
Too often, it’s not something your doctor talks to you about in your 30s and 40s. They don’t tell you that eating an anti-inflammatory diet and exercising can keep your joints moving smoothly well into old age.
Instead, they wait until osteoarthritis has set in. Then it’s all about drugs and surgery, which might treat the symptoms but do nothing to address the underlying cause.
You see, as we get older, chronic low levels of inflammation can undermine joint health. To help support strong and flexible joints, you should eat foods like wild-caught salmon. These foods are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
Other inflammation-fighting strategies include choosing low-glycemic fruits and vegetables and unrefined carbohydrates. It’s also smart to cut back on red meat and avoid both gluten (wheat, rye and barley) and lactose (dairy products) since these foods can trigger inflammation in people with sensitivities. Caffeine can also amplify pain in some folks.
To fill nutritional gaps, it’s smart to take a daily multivitamin along with 500-1,000 mg of vitamin C, 4-5 mg of manganese, and 2-3 mg of copper daily, as well as extra vitamin D—2,000 IU or more per day.
If you already have joint problems, here is my 3-pronged approach to ease pain and foster better joint health:
Joint Strategy #1: Reduce inflammation. Anti-inflammatory supplements like fish oil (3,000 mg/day) are especially helpful for achy joints. In a study of 43 arthritis patients, a daily dose of fish oil reduced morning stiffness and improved hand dexterity after just 24 weeks.1 Other studies have found that lower doses of anti-inflammatory medications were required for those taking supplemental fish oil. Other anti-inflammatory supplements like tumeric (400-600 mg, 3 times per day), ginger (255 mg twice a day) or boswellia (300 mg twice a day with food) can also help halt an inflammatory cascade generated by old sports injuries or from small repetitive traumas that come from everyday activities.
Joint Strategy #2: Support healthier structure. Once you reduce inflammation you can rebuild the cartilage surface. Studies have shown glucosamine, used alone or in combination with chondroitin, relieves pain and improves joint function; slows cartilage breakdown and stimulates its growth. And it also reduces the necessity of joint surgery with long-term use.2 I recommend my patients take 1,500 mg of glucosamine with 800-1,200 mg of chondroitin.
Joint Strategy #3: Relieve discomfort. Topical remedies like capsaicin cream offer fast-acting relief for injury-related or chronic joint pain.3 Capsaicin cream temporarily blocks pain signals from nerve endings. It should be used 4 times daily for 3-4 days, then once or twice daily thereafter to have a continuous effect.
Remember, these supplements can take time to work. Compared to pharmaceuticals that may have unwanted side effects, joint supplements can take anywhere from 3-6 months to show a benefit. That’s because these natural substances work to fix the underlying conditions—such as inflammation and cartilage degradation—instead of simply masking your painful symptoms.
- Berbert AA. Supplementation of fish oil and olive oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Nutrition. 2005;21:131-136.
- Igarashi M. Effects of glucosamine derivatives and uronic acids on the production of glycosaminoglycans by human synovial cells and chondrocytes. International Journal of Molecular Medicine. 2011;27:821-827.
- Kosuwon W. Efficacy of symptomatic control of knee osteoarthritis with 0.0125% of capsaicin versus placebo. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand. 2010;93:1188-1195.