Aging joints can anything be done about it?
As we get older our chances of developing osteoarthritis increase; being a disease from the “wear and tear of life”. It is rarely found in the under 40’s, but generally it afflicts most people over 60. It’s not a new thing either; archaeologists have discovered signs of it in skeletons from prehistoric times.
So what is going on when we get those aches and pains; usually affecting the major joints such as the hips, knees, lower back, neck and also the hands? Well osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage wears down and the joint becomes damaged. Cartilage is a connective tissue found in the joint, providing free movement avoiding friction and support to the joint. When it gets worn down with age the joint no longer glides smoothly and we may get pain or less movement. Without the smooth movement from cartilage, friction occurs and bone surfaces can become damaged and rough. In more serious cases the body will lay down calcium to try to substitute for the cartilage. This can result in bone spurs or little out growths of bone. As the joint becomes unstable, the structures and tissues surrounding become damaged inflammation sets in. Generally all this occurs gradually, so symptoms to start looking for are pain, stiffness in the morning that eases with movement, loss of range in the joint and a grating feeling. Bone spurs can sometimes feel like small bumps under the skin.
If this deterioration is inevitable is there anything we can do about it?
Some factors that increase your chances of osteoarthritis can’t be helped, such as accidents or repetitive movement damage or being a woman (for some reason we are more predisposed). However, there are things we can work on such as avoiding obesity, and dietary factors that can help us look after our joints better.
One thing that contributes to joint and bone damage is being over acidic. Acidity of the blood leads to damage of the tissues and dryness and inflammation in the joints. Also the body uses calcium to bring the blood back to a safe pH, which means less is available for the bones. Eating a diet rich in alkalinising foods is a good start, which means lots of fruit, vegetables and particularly leafy greens. One exception could be vegetables of the night shade family, which includes tomatoes, capsicum, chilli and egg plant. They can aggravate arthritis in some people. Even having a glass of water with lemon juice each morning helps. Strangely lemons are acidic, but have an alkaline affect on the blood. Consume acidic foods in moderation, such as sugar, coffee, alcohol, meat and white foods like bread, pasta and rice. Spirulina, kelp and alfalfa are all alkalinising substances and are good sources of minerals. Vitamin C also helps to alkalinise the blood, as well as being an antioxidant. It helps prevent damage of the tissues in the joint and inflammation. Nettle tea cleans toxins from the blood and reduces the levels of uric acid, which helps with arthritis and gout. It is also high in silica, which improves mobility and elasticity of the joints and strengthens bones.
Another positive benefit of certain vegetables other than their alkalinity is their high sulphur content. These include onions, garlic and the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts). Sulphur is important for the repair and rebuilding of bone, cartilage and connective tissue and helps calcium absorption. They also help remove toxins in the blood through the liver. MSM methylsulfonyl- methane is a sulphur product well known for its anti-inflammatory action, but it also for joint and tissue repair.
Another area to look at is preventing inflammation. Krill and fish oils are well known for reducing pain and inflammation in most inflammatory conditions. Ginger root also falls into this category and you can have it as a tea (sea ginger tea article) or you can make a pack to treat pain topically. Just grate ginger root into hot water (not so it burns) and soak a flannel in it. Then apply it to the aching joint. You can also put a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel on top for extra effect.
Finally we have glucosamine and chondroitin that are well known for treating aches and pains. Glucosamine is important for the formation of cartilage, bones, tendons, ligaments and the fluid in joints. Chondroitin helps strengthen the components of the joint.
So start these dietary changes whilst you are young to prevent future aches and pain. Even if you have some arthritis already they will help to reduce further damage and pain.