In the past two weeks I’ve had three acquaintances speak to me about joint discomfort.
1) A business colleague of mine who is an avid runner was diagnosed with Arthritis in his knees 2.5 years ago and has continued his running; in fact he’s completed a marathon and a dozen half marathons since his diagnosis, supporting the notion that exercise as one of the most effective means to maintaining good joint health,
2) My dentist and a fellow cyclist, has been attempting to break his club’s one mile stationary bike record. In his last attempt he missed breaking the record by a mere 1 second, but in his all out effort, he developed some uncomfortable knee pain and he asked me about Glucosamine. More on that in a minute,
3) And finally, my wife was in a cycling accident a year ago when she was riding from Calgary Alberta Canada to Austin Texas in support of Cancer Survivors and damaged the soft tissue in her knee, and is scheduled for Arthroscopic Surgery at the end of this month and is very interested in a rapid recovery after waiting such a long time for her surgery.
Most everyone recognizes that to fully appreciate all that life has to offer requires healthy joints that are comfortable and flexible. Healthy joints make it enjoyable to play a little basketball with your kids … go for a run, hike, or walk with your spouse… walk the golf course with your buddies instead of riding the cart, and if you’re anything like me, you can still hammer out 100+ kms on your bike. In other words, you get to do all the fun stuff…the ‘stuff’ that life’s memories are made of.
Besides individuals that suffer joint discomfort resulting from accidental injury, one can’t talk about this topic without mentioning Arthritis. Over 40 million North Americans of all ages suffer from one of the many forms of arthritis and could use the following information to help promote better joint flexibility in order to help maximize their mobility.
Here are 4 strategies can you use to help keep your joints healthy and flexible?
1) Exercise. No surprise, however a common urban legend is that exercise is bad for your joints.
- Most people have little appreciation for how powerful exercise can be in supporting joint function. Vigorous low-impact exercise is beneficial for your joints, as well as for cardiovascular, pulmonary, and other systems in your body.
- It's simply a myth that you can 'wear down' your knees just from average levels of exercise – and/or normal activity. In fact, inactivity causes your muscles to become weaker and actually works against optimal joint flexibility and comfort.
- One caution however, you need to start slowly if you don’t exercise regularly, and build up to higher activity levels otherwise you risk incurring an injury
- If typical vigorous exercise is not easy for you, try walking, tai chi and yoga… as they are very low impact, yet offer many health benefits.
2) Achieve your optimal weight to improve your bio-mechanic function.
- One of the outstanding benefits of exercise is its ability to help you achieve and maintain your ideal weight – which is highly beneficial to your joints.
- Overweight and obese people compromise joint comfort more than those who are carrying their ideal load. Each additional kilo or 2.2 pounds of body weight increases the compressive load over your knee by roughly 4 kilograms or nearly 9 pounds.
- Research shows that a weight loss of as little as 11 pounds can have a positive effect on joint function. And those who are at their optimal weight experience increased joint health as compared to those who are obese or overweight.
- So you go full circle when it comes to weight loss – it reduces the load on your joints and makes it easier to exercise, and exercising helps you lose weight and supports your joint health. A great win/win!
3) Eat a higher quality diet.
- Eliminate or reduce sugar and starchy carbs from your diet. And definitely stop drinking all sodas and excessive alcohol. These foods and drinks do absolutely nothing to support healthy joints or a healthy body. In fact, their potential for damage is well documented.
- I believe you should limit your total fructose from ALL sources to no more than 25 grams per day, as it raises uric acid levels, which is hard on your joints. Now, chances are, you consume substantially more than 25 grams per day. Approximately ¼ of Canadians and Americans consume a whopping 134 grams of fructose every day and it’s found everywhere.
- Within your 25 grams of fructose, you could consider including small dark colored berries (Blackberries, Elderberries, and Blueberries to mention a few). They contain anthocyanins and bioflavonoids, which help support a healthy immune response for your joints and whole body health.
- You may also consider including a high quality organic Whey Protein Concentrate and fruits that are high in antioxidants, which also support health joints in addition to muscle development.
4) Optimize your vitamin D levels.
- Vitamin D also supports a healthy immune response. During the fall, winter and early spring in most of the USA, Canada, and Europe, our Vitamin D levels drop significantly. If you live in a country where you’re not exposed to 20 minutes of sunshine per day, find yourself a high quality source of Vitamin D3 to maintain optimal health.
Supplements for Joint Health???
If you’re already using the above four strategies, and still looking for additional support for your joints, you may want to consider using a “joint-specific-supplement”.
There’s been a significant amount of study and research into Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Millions of people around the world swear that it decreases joint discomfort, while increasing flexibility, however the science is far from conclusive one way or another. You will have to do your own research and draw your own conclusions to determine if it’s right for you. I can say that with the exception of a few side effects list below, Glucosamine and Chondroitin are very safe and if you suffer from joint pain, you have nothing to lose by giving it a try. Also, included in my list of joint supplements is Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which is well known and well studied as a natural anti-inflammatory and I would recommend this supplement over the pharmaceutical equivalents.
Below are the three supplements mentioned above and their “marketed” benefits.
- Glucosamine: stimulates cartilage and connective tissue cell growth, while helping promote lubricating fluids in your joints.
- Chondroitin: provides cartilage with strength and resilience.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: is widely known for its anti-inflammatory benefits
Synergy of Glucosamine and Omega-3
And while each of these supplements by themselves has the potential for joint benefits, Dr. Joerg Gruenwald, Ph.D. recently released a study to evaluate the synergistic effect of Glucosamine and Omega-3 when taken together and found the combination of the two yields superior results than taking either Glucosamine or Omega-3 separately. In his study, participants with moderate-to-severe hip or knee Osteoarthritis (OA) who received 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate along with 200 mg of omega-3 a day had greater pain reduction and fewer OA symptoms (morning stiffness, pain in hips and knees) than those who took glucosamine by itself. Dr Gruenwald summarized his findings by saying, “Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the inflammation process in OA, whereas glucosamine sulfate supports the rebuilding of lost cartilage substance.” This is good news, but still not overwhelming evidence one way or the other.
Personally, I’ll stick with the 4 strategies I listed at the beginning of my blog post, however I don’t suffer from any joint discomfort; so if I did, I may consider Glucosamine and Chondroitin because of the sheer number of people around the world that swear by the benefits.
Glucosamine side effects: So before you rush off to your local health supplement store, let me mention a few of the side effects of Glucosamine worth considering.
Glucosamine lacks the damaging side effects and long term acidity and toxicity of COX-2 inhibitors (marketed as Celebrex) or NSAIDS such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Glucosamine is overall a very safe substance. It has been studied clinically since the very early 80’s – so people have been taking it safely for over 25 years. Here are a few things to be mindful of:
1) Shellfish Allergies
Because most Glucosamine is derived from shellfish, my recommendation is that if you have an allergy to shellfish you should avoid Glucosamine.
Insulin levels with Glucosamine can be subject to fluctuations. Glucosamine is technically a carbohydrate (a sugar), but the body is not able to convert Glucosamine into Glucose. Hence, Glucosamine does not directly provide additional sources of Glucose. In diabetic patients, many factors can lead to changing blood levels and as a result it is very important to check with your doctor prior to initiating Glucosamine therapy and to be sure to be very careful about monitoring your blood sugar levels while on Glucosamine.
3) Pregnant / Lactating Women
Pregnant women should avoid Glucosamine. There have not been enough long term studies to clearly say that Glucosamine is 100% safe for the developing fetus. There is no evidence that it would be harmful but it would be best to be safe until clinical trials have been conducted.
So much focus these days on our health is directed towards our weight, heart health, cardiovascular systems, early detection of certain cancers, (breast, prostate and lung), Type 2 diabetes, and many other degenerative diseases. However, without healthy joints, the likelihood of contracting any of these conditions increases significantly. Make joint health a lifelong priority to maximize the quality of your life.
Enjoy the Ride ….. Rob