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Natural Support for Healthy Bones and Joints
As we go through our lives, our bones and joints are subject to a great deal of wear-and-tear. For some of us, this will result in conditions like arthritis and brittle bones. For all of us, some degree of inflammation will have an impact on the health of our bones and joints.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the items in nature’s medicine cabinet that can help minimize or even reverse the damage.
The Building Blocks
Our bodies create bones and their supporting connective tissues from a variety for substances like minerals and special proteins.
Minerals compete for absorption when they are being digested. Too much of one mineral can result in a deficiency of another through a process known as “competitive inhibition”. For this reason, supplementation that is being done as a nutritional stop-gap should provide paired minerals to ensure that no inadvertent deficiencies are created.
Calcium is the major mineral needed for the maintenance of bones. Healthy adults need 1000 – 1200 mg/day. Supplemental calcium should be provided in a formula that also includes magnesium (calcium’s counterpart in the “pair”) and Vitamin D (regulates absorption of dietary calcium and the release/reuptake of calcium in bones).
Magnesium, as calcium’s working partner, is another important building block for bone and joint health. In fact, every major biological process in our bodies requires the presence of magnesium. While recommendations on daily intake levels vary, a good rule of thumb is to strive for a magnesium intake that is roughly half of it’s partner, calcium. If you’re taking a supplement, look for one that provides calcium and magnesium together in a 2:1 ratio as this is roughly in line with the relationship between the recommended intakes of each element.
Zinc is important for bone health as a cofactor of Vitamin D. Healthy adults need about 10 mg/day. Zinc’s competitive partner is copper, which is needed in tiny amounts (less that 1 mg/day). If you’re going to take a supplement for bone health, ensure that it provides both of these minerals.
Boron is also necessary for bone and joint health, although an adequate intake level has yet to be conclusively defined by research. Boron seems to prevent loss of calcium and magnesium through the urine, especially when levels of magnesium are low .
Collagen is a protein that is a building block for bone and connective tissues. We ingest it in our diets in the form of cartilage and gelatine. Hydrolyzed collagen is a modified form of the protein that is easier to digest and absorb. Ingesting hydrolyzed collagen has been shown to have beneficial effect on bone rebuilding.
The Security System
Some degree of inflammation occurs in our bodies all the time as a natural consequence of the chemical reactions that keep us alive. When the intrinsic checks and balances of our metabolisms work as they should, all is well. When they don’t, inflammation spirals out of control and creates tissue damage that eventually leads to such chronic conditions as arthritis.
The inflammation-inducing culprits include groups of molecules referred to as oxidants, pro-oxidants or reactive oxygen species (ROS). Anti-oxidants are the much-discussed heroes of the inflammation story; they work to eliminate inflammation-causing molecules and to counter the damage done. As such, they serve a protective function and constitute a security system for our bones and joints.
Alpha Lipoic Acid is an antioxidant that serves many beneficial functions such as the reduction of inflammation in arthritic conditions.
Bioflavonoids, or simply flavonoids, are plant pigments that have anti-oxidant properties. Quercetin, hesperidin and rutin are examples of flavonoids that are sourced from citrus. Animal studies have shown citrus bioflavonoids may have a beneficial impact on arthritic inflammation .
B Complex Vitamins have also been shown to help reduce joint inflammation through their impact on the inflammatory marker, homocysteine .
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to reduce joint inflammation and promote cartilage healing .
Vitamin E and Vitamin C work together as antioxidants . Vitamin E taken in conjunction with standard therapy also improves pain control in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Other Tips For Care And Prevention
Careful nutrition and targeted supplementation can ensure we get what we need for rebuilding and protecting our bones and joints. But how we use our bones and joints also plays a role in the ongoing health of the skeletal system.
Focus On Posture
Whether you are standing, sitting or in motion, the position of your bones relative to one another is a contributing factor in the development of repetitive strain injuries and osteoarthritis.
If your job requires you to sit for long periods, request an ergonomic assessment of your workspace. Ergonomics is the science of designing equipment and work environments to prevent fatigue, discomfort and injury. The height, placement and degree of lumbar support associated with your chair can have a big impact on the development of lower back pain, for example.
If you stand for long periods of time, footwear is a key consideration for your bone health. Correct heel height and arch support help to maintain the alignment of your spine. Supporting your feet prevents undue stress on your knees, hips and lower back.
Anytime you are in motion, pay attention to your “form”. Be aware of how you are doing what you are doing to ensure you are not putting your joints at risk. Are you attempting to lift a load that is too heavy? Are you lifting with your legs as well as your back? Are you using assistive devices appropriately? Have you been coached on proper positioning and movement in the sports that you play?
Exercise Is Important
Our bodies were designed to be active, to do work, to be load-bearing. Throughout our lives, as our metabolic processes change, the resistance provided by load-bearing activities becomes critical for bone health, .
Regular, gentle exercise also cares for our joints by building strength in the muscles that support them and helping to circulate protective joint (synovial) fluid.
What You Don’t Do Matters Too
Finally, what you avoid doing can be as important to your bones and joints as what you do to support them. Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine have all been implicated as risk factors for bone demineralization. Curtailing your exposure to these can do much to promote a life of pain-free mobility.