Natural Ways to Improve Joint Health & Ease Pain

Your joints are an essential part of you because it helps you remain physically active. For most people, joint health is not a concern in their younger years because they can move their arms, fingers, legs, and hips freely without pain. However, as aging progresses, a vast majority begin to experience mild changes in how they can walk, sit, or kneel. It is because cartilage, the soft tissue around your joints, starts to shrink or gets inflamed due to aging. Reduced or damaged cartilage causes pain, redness, and swelling around the joints, inhibiting free movement. 

What happens to joint cartilage as you age
It is common for your joints to start to wear down and cause conditions like osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease affecting nearly one-third of adults over 60. It is degenerative because the condition worsens as time goes on. Younger people are no exception and experience arthritic pain due to overuse of joints throughout their lives or the type of occupation. Unfortunately, at present, there are no medications to reverse this condition. Given that arthritis is the most common joint disorder in the U.S., knee pain and inflammation are predominant. According to the CDC report, almost 20 percent of Americans report joint issues such as mild stiffness to near disabling levels [1].

So, does this mean, as you get older, joint aches and pain are inevitable? The good news is if you take the suitable precautions and necessary lifestyle modifications, you can enjoy healthy joints even in your nineties. These steps will prevent damages to your cartilage so that it remains flexible to enable free movements with minimal issues. It is possible by eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds alongside some potent plant extracts that promote connective tissue health. 

Foods that promote joint cartilage health

Including specific nutrients in your diet can help keep your cartilage, tendons, and ligaments strong and healthy. The benefit of this is that it will help you ward off common joint-related ailments. Let's look at some nutrients that promote joint health, 

Bone broth – It offers collagen, the essential component of connective tissue.
Cruciferous vegetables – They are sulfur-containing compounds and help build amino acids which promote collagen production.
Antioxidants- Most rich berries & herbs are rich in antioxidants. They are also anti-inflammatory, which helps protect cartilage from damage.

Besides, these nutrients certain dietary supplements also help improve your joint health. In the next section, we brief some most researched and potent supplements that help protect your connective tissue and boost collagen production in the body. 

Supplements that help build cartilage and protect connective tissue

Turmeric root extract: Curcumin is the yellow pigment contained in turmeric (Curcuma longa), a popular culinary spice from India. In addition to imparting a characteristic color and flavor to foods, curcumin has antioxidant properties and beneficial tissue health. As an antioxidant, curcumin protects against oxidative damage. Additionally, there is evidence that curcumin may strengthen the body's natural physiological response, which reduces excessive inflammation in the body. A 2019 randomized study found that curcumin could be an alternative treatment option in osteoarthritic patients. Researchers found that curcumin not only had similar efficacy to diclofenac, an NSAID but also demonstrated better tolerance among patients. For this study, researchers enrolled 139 people and randomly assigned NSAID diclofenac (50 mg, twice daily) or curcumin (500 mg, three times daily) for a month[2]. 

Boswellia extracts: Boswellia is a potent anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, and analgesic (pain reliever) agent. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials assessed the effects of Boswellia in patients with osteoarthritis. The analysis of 7 trials involving 545 patients compared Boswellia's effects versus placebo or western medicine in patients. The research found that Boswellia and its extracts may help relieve the pain and stiffness and improve the joint's function compared to placebo or western drugs. The meta-analysis concluded that Boswellia could be an effective and safe treatment option for osteoarthritis patients[3].

Glucosamine chondroitin: Glucosamine and chondroitin are two compounds that naturally occur within your cartilage. Glucosamine is a protein and sugar molecule that helps in cartilage formation from compounds called aggrecan ad proteoglycans. Since joint deterioration and cartilage loss are common triggers for osteoarthritis, studies suggest increasing cartilage-building nutrients in the diet to ease symptoms[4]. Chondrotin is a significant component of the human extracellular matrix (ECM). ECM is made of water, proteins, and sugar(carbohydrate) chains. The protein and sugar molecules link together to form chains that maintain the structural integrity of tissues. The primary function of chondroitin is to create a barrier to withstand compression, shock, and other damage to the joints. Given the importance of both nutrients experts recommend their intake to improve joint health. The Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) found that the combination of both used for eight weeks resulted in significant relief in most study participants who experienced severe joint pain[5]. 

Collagen supplements: 100% of your connective tissue is made of collagen. Collagen is a complex protein containing 19 different amino acids. Collagen has a gel-like smooth structure that helps hold the bones together and allows us to move without friction or pain. Studies reveal that collagen can be a helpful tool to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis in patients. Collagen's effectiveness became more popular after researchers at Harvard's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that supplementing with type 2 collagen helped rheumatoid arthritis patients with pain relief and reducing tender and swollen joints[6]. When considering collagen supplements, experts recommend collagen peptides because they dissolve quickly in hot and cold water, are easier to digest.

It is evident that these nutrients play a crucial role in protecting your cartilage. If you are interested in taking these nutrients focus on specific dietary supplements that offer them.

Here are a few high-quality supplements that provides one or more combination of these nutrients. 

Boswellia-Turmeric Complex by Douglas Laboratories: Douglas Labs Boswellia-Turmeric Complex is a powerful botanical formula that provides recovery support to joints and muscles following strenuous exercise. It relieves the stiffness and pain that are often associated with inflammation. The combined actions of Boswellia, Turmeric, and Devils Claw helps support and protect the body's connective tissues, such as tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. The supplement offers 750 mg of Boswellia Serrata extract, which promotes cartilage production. Boswellia extracts contain boswellic acids, which help improve blood supply to joint tissues and deliver tissue-protective actions. The supplement also adds 750 mg of Turmeric root extract is well known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. The antioxidant effects protect the cartilage tissue from oxidative damage, and the anti-inflammatory properties ease joint pains and reduce inflammation. Besides the Boswellia- Turmeric combination, the formulation also includes 100 mg of Devil's claw extract. Devil's claw is a type of tuber from South Africa, rich in iridoid glycosides, which benefit connective tissue by supporting the immune response to physiological stressors. The formulation is available as 60 count tablets. The suggested dosage is to take two tablets daily or as recommended by the physician.

Whole Body Collagen by Designs for Health: Designs for Health Whole Body Collagen contains a unique blend of three patented collagen peptides supported by clinical research showing their efficacy for supporting collagen production, bone strength, joint health and integrity, skin elasticity, and more. Whole Body Collagen can be incorporated into shakes, smoothies, and other foods and beverages, making it convenient to ensure adequate intake of collagen's unique amino acids. The recommended way to use this powder is to mix 13 grams (approx. one scoop) in eight ounces of water. The suggested dosage is once per day or as directed by your health care practitioner. It is recommended to add powder before adding water for best results. One scoop provides 12.5 grams of collagen peptides from three patented collagen sources, FORTIGEL®‚ VERISOL® and FORTIBONE®). The Design for Health Whole Body Collagen scoop gives 11 grams of protein (22% of the RDA) and 45 calories.

Glucosamine Chondroitin with MSM by Pure Encapsulations: A non-GMO, gluten-free dietary supplement that offers glucosamine chondroitin with MSM for optimal joint support. MSM is methylsulfonylmethane which is a potent anti-inflammatory compound that prevents damage to the cartilage. The enhanced nutritional formula offers the best cartilage support, connective tissue strength, and joint comfort. The supplement provides 300 mg each of glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM in a single capsule. The nutritional ingredients naturally promote healthy cartilage formation and promote joint strength and resilience. The recommended dosage is one capsule, three times daily with meals.  

Keep in mind; it is never too late to start making healthy lifestyle and dietary changes that can improve the health of your joints and thereby your quality of life. Regardless of whether you already have joint aches, lifestyle changes can go a long way in improving your overall joint and bone health. Losing weight and choosing healthy foods and the right dietary supplements could prevent damage to knee cartilage now can help you avoid knee surgery and other complications that can arise from joint degeneration.