Best supplements for joint pain
By Hannah E. Whitcombe
As an osteopath, I am often asked about the best supplements for joint pain and whether taking them is helpful or just a huge waste of money. Nutrition certainly plays a key role in keeping the body healthy, but should we be trying to obtain said nutrients from the diet or is there a place for nutritional supplements?
Nutrition for bone and joint health
Before we look at supplementation for joint pain, we have to look at overall nutrition in more detail. Maintaining a healthy weight will help to relieve pressure from the joints and therefore losing weight will be a realistic first step, but the link between diet and joint pain goes far beyond weight loss and is a far more interesting picture.
Adequate nutrition and key nutrients help to;
Repair damaged tissues
Optimise absorption of other nutrients
And yes, reduce pain!
It is said that all health starts in the gut, so let’s start here….
The best supplements for joint pain will do very little for us at all, if we are unable to absorb them! Our gut is full of good and bad bacteria, and while we need both, an imbalance (otherwise known as dysbiosis) can lead to a lowered immune system, inflammation and poor absorption of vital nutrients.
Probiotics (good bacteria) help to form a protective barrier along the gut lining, which leads to better nutrient absorption and less chance for undigested particles to enter the blood stream.
To ensure optimum balance of good and bad bacteria, it is vital that we reduce sugar, coffee, alcohol and processed food (all known to promote bad bacteria and kill off the good guys) while consuming a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and fermented foods such as kefir, yoghurt, kombucha and sauerkraut! Variety is key and is your best chance of creating a diverse population of friendly bacteria.
FUN FACT: Did you know that probiotics may be able to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression? This is because the gut produces around 90% of your total serotonin (the happy hormone) and probiotics play a vital role in its production!
Vitamin D is often thought of as one of the best supplements for joint pain and for great reason! It enables calcium to be absorbed by the bone, ensuring optimum bone density and a decreased risk of fracture. However, it is also a powerful anti-inflammatory which helps reduce pain and joint stiffness. In addition, a low vitamin D status has been linked to autoimmune conditions and it may be beneficial in reducing the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
The body has the ability to produce vitamin D if it has enough sunlight, a precursor to its synthesis, however, food sources include meat, fish, dairy, organ meat, milk and dairy.
Calcium is an important component of the bone matrix and is one of the most important minerals for bone density. However, supplementing where there is no deficiency will not increase bone mass and it may have many detrimental effects!
The body is able to use calcium best when consumed with many other essential nutrients such as vitamin K, magnesium, boron and vitamin D.
Key sources include dairy, orange juice, winter squash, edamame, sardines, broccoli and almonds.
Vitamin A is essential for the healthy development of bone tissue and is therefore vital for bone strength and remodelling. However, with vitamin A, balance is key! Did you know that too much vitamin A has been linked to the breakdown of healthy bones and fracture? Therefore, if supplementing, be sure to speak to a professional who will be able to guide you in a suitable option.
Key food sources include leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, milk, eggs and fish oils.
A low vitamin B status has been linked to osteoporosis and hip fracture! This is due to the fact that together, the B vitamins are essential for clearing homocysteine, a byproduct of metabolism which may in part, break down healthy bone tissue.
Key sources include broccoli, leafy greens, chickpeas, organ meats, dairy, nuts and seeds.
Vitamin C is essential in the production of collagen and other important components of the healthy bone. It is responsible for the cross-linking of collagen fibres, also abundant in the skin.
Smokers will require a much higher dosage of vitamin C, one of the many reasons that smoking contributes to joint and muscle pain.
The best sources of vitamin C are strawberries, bell peppers and oranges, but it is essential to eat a wide variety of fruit and veg to ensure adequate intake of this vital nutrient.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It helps alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis and is thought that Vitamin E supplementation may slow the progression of osteoarthritis by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation of the joint.
Key sources include olive oil, wheat germ, almonds, pumpkin, peppers and a variety of nuts and seeds.
Vitamin K is essential in the formation of bone tissue and contributes to bone density. In addition, it may be protective against osteoarthritis by slowing down the calcification of healthy cartilage.
Key sources include green leafy vegetables including collard greens, spinach, kale, broccoli, spinach, brussel sprouts and lettuce.
Magnesium aids healthy bone growth and is essential in the proper functioning of muscle tissue. Magnesium helps to regulate the metabolism of calcium and they are often thought of as working in partnership for the contraction and relaxation of muscle tissue.
Key sources include wholegrain, dark leafy vegetables, dried beans, peanuts, almonds, lentils, soybeans and yoghurt.
Zinc is an important part of a healthy immune system and is vital for the wear and repair of bone, joint and muscle tissue.
Key sources include meat, fish, seafood, sunflower seeds and walnuts.
Omega 3 has anti-inflammatory properties, increases calcium absorption and reduces both calcium and bone loss.
Our diets are typically higher in omega 6 and without the regulatory effects of omega 3, can lead to higher levels of joint inflammation. Supplementing with omega 3 has been shown to relieve symptoms of arthritis.
Key sources include walnuts, seafood, oily fish, chia seeds, hemp and flaxseed.
Glucosamine is a vital sugar essential for the repair of bones, joints and ligaments. It is able to reduce inflammation and speeds up the process of regeneration.
Food sources of glucosamine are limited and include shellfish, lobster, prawns and crabs.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is a major component of connective tissue and can be found abundantly in the skin, and its absence often leads to signs of premature ageing on the outside and joint pain on the inside.
It provides major building blocks or the ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones.
Good sources include fish, meat, eggs, dairy, legumes and soy.
Chondroitin sulphate is an important structural component of cartilage found in joints within the body.
Other Anti-inflammatory Nutrients
Diet & Lifestyle advice
Before we rush out to buy the best supplements for joint pain, It is important to correct key elements of our diet and lifestyle. Then and only then, can these products be of benefit. So what are the best ways to keep our bones and joints healthy?
Things to reduce
Maintain a healthy body weight
Reduce processed foods and alcohol
Eat less sugar and salt
Reduce stress & find ways to work with it
Things to increase
Eat a diet rich sources of omega 3
Eat a wide variety of fruit and veg
Seek magnesium-rich foods
Get plenty of sunlight
Get more sleep
Move your body
Include weight-bearing exercise to keep bones strong
To supplement or not to supplement?
Our nutritional status will depend on several factors such as;
Food growth & preparation
Nutrient content of food
Our bodies’ ability to absorb and use those nutrients
The nutrition gap
The nutrition gap refers to the difference between the levels of nutrients the average person gets and the levels of nutrients needed for optimal health.
In an ideal world we would all be getting 100% of our nutritional needs from the foods we eat on a daily basis! However, there are several reasons why this is not the case.
Firstly, we need to understand something commonly referred to as the nutrition gap! Modern living sees us moving less, which in part explains our modern day obesity epidemic! But the most significant issue with our lack of movement, means that we essentially need fewer calories for our daily endeavours and averages at around 200 calories for most adults.
Let’s compare this to the diet of our ancestors where a diet of between 4-8000 calories was required to support the extra levels of activity. This would also mean that they were consuming higher levels of nutrition.
Therefore, in addition to correcting the aforementioned lifestyle factors, supplementing is key to optimum health & wellbeing.
So what are the best supplements for joint pain?
Best supplements for joint health from your osteopath…
So, how can we approach this and what nutrients do you need to stay healthy? As someone who likes to get a lot of bang for her buck, I aim to take as few supplements as possible and try to take supplements that will serve in as many ways as possible.
Therefore, our top five recommendations would be;
Vitamin C with Zinc
Vitamin D and Calcium
A good Probiotic