This article originally appeared in Good Health Lifestyles Magazine
With 32.45 million adults affected by degenerative joint diseases, the need to understand natural nutrients for safe, effective joint support has never been greater. Because joint health naturally declines with age, taking steps now can protect your joints and help you sidestep a future marked by joint pain. If you’re already experiencing discomfort and mobility issues, it’s not too late to find relief. Here are five nutrients that can change your future.
The red fruits that grow on wild rose bush flowers contain antioxidant-rich compounds that inhibit the oxidative stress and inflammation which contribute to joint damage. Specifically, rosehips neutralize the free-radical activity that triggers a chain reaction that ultimately produces inflammation, that contributes to the destruction of joint cartilage. And that can translate to pain in the knees, ankles, and hips. In clinical research of rosehip extract, nearly 75 percent of the participants using the supplement reported arthritis symptom relief after just eight weeks. This relief included improved knee comfort, better mobility, and less pain according to their Western Ontario McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) score. Further research showed even more relief, an increase in joint space, and the recovery of some of the original cushioning ability in the knee joint after 12 weeks of supplementation. By preserving joints, rosehip extract can reduce joint pain and stiffness, enhance physical exercise ability, and improve WOMAC scores for those with either osteoarthritis (OA) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA). With 30 million American adults affected by OA and 1.5 million Americans by RA, rosehip is an excellent botanical to safely preserve joints while lessening pain and stiffness. Because conventional medications can adversely affect the liver, kidneys, cardiovascular system, and gastrointestinal tract, turning to rosehips can help chronic joint conditions without compromising other aspects of your health.
Type II Collagen
Naturally produced collagen, including the type II collagen found in joint cartilage, starts to decline as early as your 20s. By the time you hit 80, you’ve lost approximately 75 percent of the collagen in your body. Drinking alcohol, smoking, eating a diet filled with fried foods and sugar, and spending too much time in the sun can speed up the loss even more by damaging your remaining collagen in a process known as cross-linking.
Strong joints, adequate flexibility, and the ability to walk pain-free is due to the cushioning cartilage between the joints. Over time, this specific type of collagen, technically known as type II collagen, breaks down, causing pain, stiffness, and mobility issues. When this occurs, many people think that taking a pain reliever is their only option. But supplementing with type II collagen shows promising results in reducing the pain caused by both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Numerous studies have confirmed the positive impact of this supplement. In one three-month clinical trial that appeared in the Eurasian Journal of Medicine, OA patients were assigned to take either type II collagen and acetaminophen or acetaminophen alone. By the end of the study, the type II collagen users had significantly less knee pain, better flexibility, and better walking scores. In contrast, the group taking only acetaminophen reported considerably less relief. Type II collagen can even help people without arthritis. In another study—this time involving healthy, active people—those taking type II collagen found that the supplement helped them exercise longer, improved knee extension, and reduced post-workout pain. Type II collagen also makes an excellent partner to other joint-supporting supplements. For example, in a six-month clinical study combining type II collagen with glucosamine and chondroitin, individuals with symptoms of hand osteoarthritis received more relief than those using glucosamine and chondroitin alone.
Chondroitin sulfate is a natural compound found in healthy cartilage. Since osteoarthritis causes the gradual degeneration of cartilage, it makes sense to turn to supplementation to slow or even reverse the loss of joint cartilage. Some studies have found that combining it with glucosamine is just as effective as the pharmaceutical NSAID drug celecoxib (Celebrex) for stopping knee pain. And this combo can do so without the side effects common to NSAIDs. Chondroitin alone has also been clinically shown on MRI brain scans to reduce pain sensations in OA patients. In a one-year clinical trial, individuals with knee OA took either chondroitin or a placebo for three-month intervals twice a year. By the end of the study, those in the chondroitin group felt less pain, preserved more cartilage, and experienced better mobility than those in the placebo group.
Another crucial element in the formation of cartilage is glucosamine. For people with joint damage, supplementing with glucosamine helps rebuild the connective tissue (menisci) that acts like shock absorbers to cushion joints. Scientific research shows that, combined with chondroitin and hyaluronic acid, glucosamine decreases the cartilage-degrading enzymes responsible for gradually depleting the cushion between joints. It’s also been found to inhibit specific inflammatory markers by up to 74 percent. Glucosamine is an excellent choice for pain in the knees, hips, or other joints. Just be aware that both glucosamine and chondroitin can interact with blood thinners like warfarin, so check with your health-care provider before taking either of these joint-supportive supplements.
This naturally produced lubricant acts like a protective cushion and is one of the building blocks of collagen and cartilage. Hyaluronic acid adds to the spacing between joints, scavenges free radicals, and is critical for joint lubrication. It can increase the density of the synovial fluid—the fluid between joints that helps movement and reduces friction. Clinical work with supplemental hyaluronic acid has been promising. In a three-month study, hyaluronic acid relieved pain, reduced synovial fluid pooling in knees, and helped regenerate muscle. Even a short-term course of hyaluronic acid can help relieve symptoms. This was seen in a randomized, controlled trial involving 60 patients with OA of the knee. After just 60 days of supplementing with hyaluronic acid, the patients reported a marked improvement in joint pain and function. It was so effective that the use of rescue pain-relieving drugs (NSAIDs) among those in the hyaluronic acid group dropped significantly. Along with improving joint health, hyaluronic acid can also improve overall skin health, boosting elasticity and flexibility.