If you deal with joint damage, stiffness, arthritic changes, and lubrication loss, you need to do more than address pain: you need to repair the joint and stop the downward spiral of joint degradation. Prescription and over-the-counter pain drugs come with a multitude of side effects and do nothing at all to fix what is broken. But there are powerful, clinically studied natural ingredients that can make a significant difference. These nutrients can help you rebuild and restore your joints. They preserve and repair cushioning cartilage, enhance the elasticity of ligaments and tendons, and protect the bones of your joints. This allows you to feel mobile and active again with ease.
SWITCH TO AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET!
Regardless of the reason for joint problems, controlling inflammation with your diet – avoiding refined carbs, sugar, processed meats, and fast food – can go a long way to making joints healthier and more functional. Natural, unprocessed protein, healthy fats, and many servings of fruits and vegetables (but not sugar-laden fruit juices) are a much better way to control the inflammatory responses that create havoc on your joints. And they’re just better for you, too.
TYPE II COLLAGEN
Type II Collagen is one of many forms of protein, but it is also the most important for articular joints – the ones that move. In fact, it makes up to 90 percent of the collagen in those structures. While collagen is obviously produced naturally in our bodies, supplemental sources can be very effective, too. For at least twenty years, researchers have investigated the role of supplemental type II collagen in people with joint pain (typically knee pain) due to osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Overall, the results have been impressive. Like all joint-rebuilding nutrients, it can take time – some of the studies last for three months or more. Aside from stopping pain symptoms, supplemental type II collagen may also interfere with T-cells that attack existing collagen in the joints, as you’d see in cases of rheumatoid arthritis. In one clinical study, type II collagen was used alongside acetaminophen (one brand name is Tylenol) and tested against acetaminophen alone in two groups of volunteers with osteoarthritis. The group using type II collagen came out ahead – they had significantly less knee pain, better knee flexibility, and better walking scores. In fact, looking at the study, it’s tough to see how much impact the over-the-counter drug acetaminophen had at all.
Glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate are also very helpful for your joints. Both these nutrients are raw materials that your body uses to repair and rebuild joints. Because of this, they work more slowly than type II collagen but are quite valuable. Combining them with other nutrients can make them even more effective for preventing and repairing joint damage and relieving joint pain. In the body, glucosamine is a polysaccharide compound naturally found in cartilage. For people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, it not only helps rebuild those cushioning, shock-absorbing structures but over time, relieves pain as well.
Chrondroitin sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan (often shortened to GAG) which, in turn, makes up cartilage, connective tissue, bone, and skin. It helps extend the life and activity of chondrocytes (cartilage-producing cells), reduces inflammation, and strengthens the load-bearing bones in the joints that sit just under the cartilage, called “subchondral” bone.
Often researched in combination, the chondroitin and glucosamine I prefer are a powerful pair: they are equal to the prescription drug celecoxib (also known as Celebrex) for stopping knee pain. Even the chondroitin alone has been objectively shown to reduce pain sensation on MRI brain scans of patients in a clinical study.
Both the glucosamine/chondroitin and the celecoxib groups saw about 50 percent reductions in pain swelling, fluid around the joints, and other knee osteoarthritis symptoms by the end of the six-month trial. Bear in mind that these were patients with severe osteoarthritis knee pain and that glucosamine and chondroitin don’t cause dangerous side effects like body aches, diarrhea, gas, insomnia, and risk of congestive heart failure seen with celecoxib. So, in that sense, the nutrient option is far superior – it fixes the problem without causing complications.
Hyaluronic acid is another GAG and one of the building blocks of collagen and cartilage. It adds to the spacing between joints, scavenges free radicals, and is critical for joint lubrication, so you want to have hyaluronic acid on board with any joint-rebuilding regimen. As osteoarthritis progresses, hyaluronic acid loses its shape and structure as the condition wears down its molecular weight. When this happens, it can’t properly lubricate joints or keep them from grinding together. The supplemental hyaluronic acid nutrient I recommend has been shown to improve muscle aches and joint pain by 75 percent in just eight weeks. In a three-month study, this same ingredient not only relieved muscle pain and reduced synovial fluid pooling in knees but also actually helped regenerate muscle, too. It really shows how important hyaluronic acid can be in your joint-restoring regimen.
Widely recognized for joint pain, boswellia has over 2,500 years of use in classic Ayurvedic practice in India, where it was prescribed for everything from asthma to ringworm. Boswellia stops the pain and inflammatory damage that wears away at the cartilage and bone in your joints. It is one of the few effective ways of stopping 5-LOX (5-lipoxygenase) inflammation, which is a major factor in rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. The right boswellia extract does more than reduce pain – it helps your body heal.
Michael Chase, MS, NTP
Nutrition Science and Dietetics