Healthspan November 20, 2017

Nothing works for everyone and your health is a very personal matter, which is why when it comes to joint health what helps one person might not help the next.

Healthspan Medical Director Dr Sarah Brewer says, ‘Around one in three people don’t respond to aspirin and one in three don’t respond to opiates or to paracetamol due to genetic differences in how they’re metabolised. The point is - each one of us is completely different and that goes for all aspects of our health – not least our joint health.

‘Some people find a single ingredient is all they need to control their joint symptoms but, in my experience, most of us benefit from a combination of ingredients that work in different, synergistic ways - a premium product that includes a combination of glucosamine, turmeric, Boswellia serrata, and vitamin C such as Flexi6 Gold, for example. This can often reduce joint pain, stiffness and inflammation more effectively, and at lower doses than when individual ingredients are used on their own’.

With that in mind Dr Sarah Brewer has put together a joint health ingredient guide that will tell you all you need to know about the ingredients that could help keep your joints fighting fit.

The ingredients that could help you in your quest for better joint health:

1. Glucosamine

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘Glucosamine is a substance needed by joints to repair cartilage and make the synovial fluid that cushions joints’.

How could it help my joints?

‘Glucosamine activates the repair of joint tissues, and triggers the formation of joint building blocks. The production of glucosamine in the body is a slow process, so it’s often in short supply’.

2. Chondroitin

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘Chondroitin is needed to form ‘springy’ molecules that increase the strength and elasticity of cartilage, making it more resilient’.

How could it help my joints?

‘Chondroitin also acts as a signal to inhibit the enzymes responsible for breaking down cartilage, and stimulates the synthesis of type II collagen. As you get older, joint cells secrete less chondroitin and this has been linked with reduced cartilage quality and the start of degenerative osteoarthritic changes in ageing joints’.

3. Turmeric

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘Some believe turmeric was cultivated in the Gardens of Babylon - one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - as early as the 8th century BC, but Southern India is currently its largest producer’.

How could it help my joints?

‘Turmeric damps down inflammation and can be helpful in reducing pain, inflammation and joint stiffness’.

4. Boswelia

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘Boswellia stems from Boswellia serrata, a large tree whose resin has been used medicinally for thousands of years. The trees are native to India, North Africa and the Middle East’.

How could it help my joints?

Because it contains anti-inflammatory substances, Boswellia can help to reduce joint pain and stiffness, which makes it an ideal partner for glucosamine and for turmeric.

5. MSM

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘You can find MSM in foods like broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cabbage but our diets are often quite low in sulphur so taking an MSM supplement is worth considering’.

How could it help my joints?

‘Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an important component of glycosaminoglycans that are key in the structure of your joint cartilage. It’s made up of 34% sulphur which is important when it comes to keeping your joints in good condition’.

6. Calcium

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘Calcium - found in foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt and some vegetables like kale or broccoli – is a mineral that’s stored mostly in our bones and teeth. Too little calcium can lead to osteoporosis later in life’.

How could it help my joints?

‘Many people are swapping dairy for non-diary, ditching cheese and opting for non-diary milk due to perceived intolerances or to following plant-based diets. While dietary choices are individual decisions, this does mean we’re consuming less calcium than we used to and, as calcium is vital for the maintenance of normal bones, it’s important to obtain calcium from other sources’.

7. Vitamin D

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘Vitamin D – ‘The sunshine vitamin’ – is a nutrient that most Brits don’t get enough of during autumn and winter. Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles but 90 per cent of it is made in the skin on exposure to UVB sunlight’.

How could it help my joints?

‘We know how difficult it is to keep our vitamin D levels up during the colder months of the year and Public Health England now recommend that everyone takes a vitamin D supplement during winter. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium, contributes to the maintenance of normal bones. Vitamin D is also important for normal muscle function’.

8. Vitamin C

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is an antioxidant which protects cells in the body from damage by free radicals; these are unstable oxygen molecules caused by everyday processes such as breathing and eating, but also pollution and smoking’.

How could it help my joints?

‘Vitamin C is needed to produce joint collagen and may reduce the risk of cartilage loss in people with osteoarthritis’.

9. Vitamin A

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘Vitamin A plays a role in the maintenance of the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs and you can find it in foods like eggs, dairy products, liver and cod liver oil. Some carotenoid plant pigments, such as beta-carotene, can be converted into vitamin A, too’.

How could it help my joints?

Vitamin A is found in cod liver oil which is a traditional joint care product. Vitamin A helps to switch genes on and off, to regulate the development of new cells and their differentiation into different types, such as cartilage cells or joint synovial lining cells. Vitamin A also plays a role in eye health alongside the maintenance of the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs.

10. Omega 3, krill oil, cod liver oil and green lipped mussel extract

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘Omega-3s are a type of fatty acids of which the beneficial long-chain forms (EPA and DHA) are found in oily fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines, pilchards and fresh (not tinned) tuna. They are found in krill oil, cod liver oil and green lipped mussel extracts, too’.

How could it help my joints?

‘Omega-3s are good for joints as their anti-inflammatory, pain-killing effect helps to reduce morning stiffness, swelling, the number of painful joints, and the long-term need for pain killers. Vegetarian sources of omega-3 include flaxseed oil and marine algae extracts’.

11. Bromelain

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘The rather exotic bromelain stems (literally) from the pineapple plant and has been used medicinally by Central and South Americans for several hundreds of years to treat indigestion and reduce inflammation’.

How could it help my joints?

‘Bromelain is another perfect partner for glucosamine as it has anti-inflammatory properties that are ideal for supporting our joints and reducing muscle and joint aches and pains’.

12. Magnesium

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘Healthy adult bodies contain about 25g of magnesium, of which 99 per cent is stored in bones, muscles and non-muscle soft tissue’.

How could it help my joints?

‘Magnesium contributes to the maintenance of normal bones as well as normal muscle function – so it’s a great addition to a joint supplement. It works well in a gel where it’s absorbed through the skin, too’.

13. Ginger

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘Ginger was first cultivated in ancient China and spread to Europe via the Silk Road. Over 5,000 years ago, ginger root was used as a medicinal tonic for all ailments’.

How could it help my joints?

‘Research far from proves ginger is a tonic for all ailments! But a 2015 review of studies on people using ginger for osteoarthritis pain reported a statistically significant reduction in pain, so again this herb is a good partner for other joint beneficial nutrients’.

14. Devil’s claw

What is it?

Dr Sarah says, ‘Devil’s claw is a traditional herbal medicine (THR) that is a natural extract from the root of the Devil’s Claw herb’.

How could it help my joints?

‘Despite the name ‘devil’s claw’ this root is used to treat pain. Devil’s claw is effective in relieving all sorts of discomfort from backache or muscular pain, to general aches and pains in muscles and joints’.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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