Written by Dr. Jewel Alfoure, ND
- Caring for joint health is important for all ages
- Conditions of joint health determine the most appropriate approach for joint care
- Daily use and continuous wear can significantly impact joint health
- Joint health is impacted by immune health and inflammation
It may seem to some that taking care of joint health is a task for the elderly. After all, joint wear can only take place due to years of overuse.
While age appears to contribute to some joint wear and tear, most of the issues with joint health take place due to improper use, overuse (for highly active, athletic people) and for individuals exposed to higher inflammatory loads (1,2).
Once joints are exposed to inflammation, due to the naturally, poorly profuse cartilaginous surface they have, any breakdown becomes hard to heal.
The issue is enhanced by the continuous presence of inflammatory markers that make the joint more susceptible to injury and make healing a harder task. Thus, evaluating immune health, inflammatory load as well as daily wear are all factors of maintaining joint health (3,4).
Joint health may also be impacted by conditions of autoimmune nature. Such conditions are ones in which the body starts to attack its own tissues causing the breakdown of joints and the accumulation of toxic metabolites (5).
Often, when seeking natural joint support, many fail to report the nature of the condition they are experiencing. Such a problem leads to the employment of the wrong joint support agents.
Building Healthy Joints
- Like all healthy components of the body, building joints requires healthy building-blocks
- A building block can signal the body to build by registering as an indicator of breakdown
- Most joint building blocks also help with the building of healthy tissues everywhere else in the body
Caring for joint health starts with a diet rich in joint building components. The biggest issue is that most people either have diets that are too poor to provide building blocks or need the building blocks elsewhere as the body is inflamed and requires rebuilding in other areas.
Collagen for example has been demonstrated by research to enhance joint health by rebuilding joints. Collagen is not only a joint building block, it is also a signal to rebuild. Naturally, when a structure is broken down, the body registers the broken down pieces as a signal to re-build (6).
Thus collagen, the most abundant building block in the body, can help with both signaling the need to build as well as providing a healthy building block. The issue with collagen is that it is so ubiquitous, most people who take the small amounts of collagen that come in the diet end up using them on the tissues that require the most attention and that are closest to the gastrointestinal system as collagen molecules are significantly large (7).
Building Blocks for Harder to Reach Areas
- Collagen alone may not be adequate to maintain joint health
- New collagen synthesis requires vitamin C as a cofactor
- Another cofactor for collagen synthesis is silica
- Collagen is not only a building factor of joints
As collagen molecules are large in size, it is important to also provide the body with the cofactors that help with the synthesis of internal collagen. Vitamin C for example is an essential vitamin that collagen synthesis can not proceed without. Without collagen, vascular tissues start to disintegrate and allow blood to escape. Such a condition is known as scurvy (8).
A high quality collagen is one that is hydrolyzed, or broken down to be small enough to penetrate deeper into the tissues.
As the collagen is to become one with the body, it is also very important to ensure that the collagen is of a high quality clean source. Collagen supplementation may help with pain caused by both osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis.
The autoimmune condition (self breakdown and harming) of rheumatoid arthritis involves the breakdown of collagen as the body synthesizes immunity towards its own collagen (7,9).
The healthy production of collagen requires silica as well as vitamin C. It has been documented by research that both silica as well as collagen decline with age (10).
The first signs of decline in collagen can be seen on skin that loses elasticity and fullness.
For the joints, a decrease in silica means less stimulation of chondroitin. Overall, that can mean a decrease in the capability of the body to maintain a thick enough pad between the joints. The lack of padding does not only open up space for joint injury on impact, it actually makes it easier for the joints to get inflamed from everyday friction.
Joints Need Lubrication
- Joints have a natural lubrication agent known as synovial fluid
- Without lubrication joints become stiffer and less efficient at absorbing shock
- Maintaining the fluid lowers the chance of injury and inflammation
Like any continuously working gear, joints need lubrication. The lubrication will not only preserve cartilage from wear, it would also make the joint less stiff and more mobile.
The ease of mobility means less of a chance of injury and easier repair as bearing the weight will not be as direct as it would be without the lubricating, shock absorbing fluid.
Thus, another important component of joint health is glucosamine which is known as a peptidoglycan. Glucosamine is the lubricating agent of the cartilaginous matrix. It acts as a water trapping agent that makes the movement of the joint easier. The reduction in friction decreases the wear and significantly lowers the inflammatory load (11).
Research shows that glucosamine can significantly slow down cartilage loss, promote pain relief by addressing the root cause of the joint inflammation and function to provide assistance with fast recovery (12).
The Role of Bones in Joint Health
- When joints are stiff and achy, it is always important to examine bone health
- Conditions of bone health also help joints be healthier
- Joint stability is the function of healthy ligaments, cartilage and bones
- Bone mineralization is best achieved at more alkaline blood conditions
Joint stability is not only a function of healthy padding, it is also a function of strong ligaments and healthy bones. Strong ligaments are made with high quality collagen fibers. On the other hand, healthy, well mineralized, flexible bones lower the stress on joints.
In order to achieve a less inflammatory, better healing, faster bone-mineralizing state, it is important to consider the environment of the blood. A highly acidic environment is one that makes bone mineralization difficult to achieve (13).
A weakness in bones means that the stabilizing ligaments have a less stable solid-rod to adhere to stabilize joints. Lack of joint stability makes for easier conditions of joint injury.
Thus, it is always important to ensure a healthy internal environment with a diet sufficient in greens and healthy foods. Bone health is almost always compromised when joints are achy, that is why any skeletal paint should warrant an investigation of both bone as well as joint health (14).
Joint health is an indicator of overall health, thus any pain, stiffness or lack of mobility in any joint should be thoroughly investigated. Any analgesic may mask the issue and delay treatment. Consider the condition of joint injury and always seek a deeper explanation prior to seeking to simply ease the pain.
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