Creaking, swollen, sore joints?
This may be a common condition as we grow older but it is not inevitable. Certainly when I ran my Dynamic Ageing survey last year, concern about stiffening joints, weakening bones and increasing lack of mobility came up time and again so it is well worth understanding what is happening in your body when you start to have difficulty touching your toes, let alone getting up from a kneeling position or opening a bottle of water – and it is also worth noting that diseases like arthritis are far more prevalent in some countries than others, which begs the question about a connection with diet and lifestyle.
Wear and tear, and therefore degeneration of the joints, obviously accumulate in MidLife&Beyond, particularly if we lead a sedentary lifestyle or carry too much weight, which puts extra strain on parts of the body like the spine, hips, knees and ankles. And certain forms of sport can also contribute – think of how jogging and running might stress the knees and ankles, and contact sports such as football, rugby and hockey can lead to joint damage.
Over time, the cartilage which cushions and surrounds joints starts to break down, or even wear out completely, and the result is that the bones begin to rub together, causing a lot of pain and inflammation. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication are customarily prescribed, as are steroid injections – or, eventually, joint replacement. However, all of these come with challenges, side effects and strings attached.
There are many natural approaches we can use to help our joints as we grow older, including specific supplements and regular, daily movement, but I have two preferred tactics in my Dynamic Ageing toolbox.
The first is correcting the acid-alkaline balance in the body as a disease like arthritis for instance is considered an acid condition. A diet based on acid-forming foods, such as animal protein and dairy as well as refined carbohydrates like white flour products – bread, pasta, cakes - is highly acid forming, as are coffee, chocolate, alcohol and fizzy drinks. Gluten can also be a problem so it is worth experimenting. On the other hand, most fresh fruit and vegetables help to keep the body alkaline; green vegetables in particular are highly alkalising, as are the very fashionable “green powders”.
It is important to understand that not all acid-forming foods are unhealthy, but a comfortable balance along the lines 70% alkaline and 30% acid is important and helpful, and the best way to achieve this is to eat a diet which revolves around fresh fruit and vegetables, with a good proportion of them consumed raw.
My second go-to tool for joint pain is natural anti-inflammatories. The Omega-3 essential fatty acids are a favourite, in the form of oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines and anchovies and their oil, as well as walnuts and flaxseeds - I have personally had great success with flaxseed oil. Turmeric contains curcumin which is a powerful ally against inflammation, and the easily available ginger is excellent for relieving pain – I always add a knob of fresh organic ginger to my morning smoothie, which livens it up no end, but it also makes a wonderfully fragrant tea and is an essential component in a robust, flavour-packed curry. So if your joints are troubling you, look to your kitchen for help!