The Lowdown on Joint Supplements
We know that physical activity is key to maintaining bone and joint health, but we find ourselves in a catch 22. This is because these same tissues are in the firing line when carrying out any physical activity and they may be susceptible to physical stress, strain, or trauma. In turn, this can all contribute to joint degradation.
What then happens, is a sort of perfect storm. We sometimes become less active because we feel our joints won’t cope and so, things often become worse. But the damage is in the dose; we can often optimise our health by just the right amount and type of activity.
In addition to this, we can consider supplementing certain compounds which are thought to support joint health. In this blog we’ll look at the science behind some of the compounds found in our Instructor Live Supplements so you can see exactly how they could support your health.
What is Joint Degradation
Joint degradation is characterised by inadequate production of compounds necessary to its structure, along with reduced collagen synthesis.
Inflammation is upregulated in joint degradation which results in further breakdown. This is what causes the weak, damaged, or inflamed tissue with restricted or painful movement.
Joint degradation has a number of risk factors:
- Nutritional insufficiency,
- Physical stress or trauma,
- Excess weight,
It, therefore, makes sense that when we are looking at supporting joint health, we want to achieve a few different things:
- Ensure adequate nutrient intake
- Modulate inflammation
- Reduce pain
- Support joint structure
Ensure Adequate Nutrient Intake
One of the most commonly referenced nutrients for bone health is calcium, but we often forget that vitamin D is key to calcium absorption, for that reason, Vitamin D is high up on our list for bone health, but we also like it for joint health.
If we think about the structure of our joints, whilst they have a number of connective tissues to keep things doing what they are supposed to, hinge joints especially like the elbow and knee are made up of bone, muscles, synovium, cartilage and ligaments.
It turns out that we find little vitamin D receptors in muscles and the activity of these is upregulated following injury/trauma. What this means is that there is an increased demand for vitamin D whenever we have damaged muscles.
This makes a lot of sense because we know that Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the immune system and helps control our inflammatory responses.
Vitamin D, therefore, supports bone structure, but also indirectly keeps our joints healthy too.
Inflammation gets a bad rap, but this is when it becomes uncontrolled and chronic.
Inflammation is a natural mechanism that our immune system uses to deal with any threat it faces. When we inhale some pollen, inflammation makes our eyes water and nose run to try to remove any trace of it before it gets any further into our system. When we cut ourselves, inflammation is what brings all the repair cells to the site to get to work. When we have a virus, inflammation gives us the fever to try to kill the viral cells. Our bodies only ever want this response to last as long as it takes for the threat to pass, and this is where the issue arises. When we have chronic degradation, the inflammatory response is permanently switched on. This is what we need to modulate.
Essential fatty acids are well known to help modulate inflammatory responses found in cases of joint degradation. During the inflammatory response, certain enzymes catalyse the production of compounds that cause pain, redness, and heat. It has been discovered that omega-3 fatty acids inhibit these enzymes that result in this response.
Great sources of omega-3 fatty acids include all those oily fish like sardines, salmon, and mackerel. Plant-based oils also contain omega 3 too!
It’s our trusty inflammatory response that causes pain – it makes it difficult to continue and do any more damage. Nifty when short-lived, like if you break your leg, the pain means you don’t continue to walk on it. But, when we are facing a chronic condition, it can get unbearable.
NSAIDs are the common pain reliever associated with joint pain, and this work by inhibiting those enzymes responsible for creating the inflammatory response, but like most of us, they are great multi-taskers. These enzymes also protect the stomach – so those who use NSAIDs long term can start to suffer from digestive issues.
For this reason, we are looking for alternative ways to help manage pain, wherever possible.
Alternative pain reduction
It again comes down to modulating the inflammatory response and many compounds have been found to help, including turmeric.
Turmeric has been seen to improve pain perception in cases of osteoarthritis. (i)
One of the limiting factors in turmeric is that the body doesn’t absorb it very well when it’s on its own. In our Organic Turmeric and Black pepper supplement, you will find the addition of black pepper which helps it get to where it needs to go. (i)
Support Joint Structure
One of the biggest reasons for joint degradation is the loss of compounds necessary to its structure and this is where compounds like glucosamine can come in.
Glucosamine is a natural sugar that exists in the fluid around the joints, as well as in animal bones, bone marrow, shellfish, and fungi. The body uses glucosamine to build and repair cartilage.
With age, cartilage can become less flexible and start to break down. This can lead to pain, inflammation, and tissue damage, which, for example, occurs in osteoarthritis.
It is thought that glucosamine might slow this process and benefit cartilage health.
Another nutrient to consider to support joint structure is Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, antioxidant, and essential co-factor for collagen biosynthesis. It is essential for two enzymes required in collagen synthesis, so sufficient amounts are necessary for optimal joint health.
A note to make about vitamin C is that it can also become depleted in times of stress, so this is something to be mindful of alongside joint health.
Another compound key to joint structure is MSM.
Methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is a naturally occurring compound in foods such as fresh vegetables, meat, and dairy products. MSM provides a source of natural sulphur, which plays a role in many of the body’s tissues including joint structure.
A 2018 meta-analysis, which means an analysis of many studies suggested that MSM may improve arthritis symptoms, and many patients report reduced symptoms and severity. (i)
If you think any of our supplements may support your joint health, then take a look in the shop to read more information and always remember to speak to your healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your diet.