Medically Reviewed By Elizabeth A. Swick, MS, RDN
Support Joint Function and Healthy Inflammatory Response
More than 32.5 million adults in the U.S. suffer from osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition where the cartilage that protects joints gradually breaks down. Most often, arthritis affects the hands, hips, and knees, leading to pain and decreased joint function and flexibility. Although there is no cure for arthritis, people with the condition can take steps to improve joint health naturally. Read on to learn how.
How To Improve Joint Health Naturally
The following tips are natural ways to promote joint health and may help to reduce discomfort and stiffness associated with arthritis.
Stick to a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is essential for the entire body, and the joints are no exception. Eating a balanced blend of vitamins, minerals and macronutrients may reduce inflammation and support the production and maintenance of cartilage. Here are some tips for designing a joint-friendly diet:
- Eat three to four ounces of fish twice a week. Choose varieties rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines. Bake or grill the fish and use monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats in place of butter for cooking.
- Strive to eat nine or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily to treat your body with protective antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. Opt for fresh produce whenever possible.
- Fill at least one-fourth of your plate with whole grains like barley, brown rice, and quinoa. Whole grains are an excellent source of selenium and other essential nutrients for joint health.
- Drink water. Dehydration can lead to a host of health problems. Staying hydrated can help to ensure that your joints stay lubricated and that muscle and cartilage cells function correctly.
Increase Your Physical Activity
People with osteoarthritis may avoid exercise due to reduced mobility and discomfort, but this can worsen the condition. Regular physical activity can help strengthen bones and cartilage and modulate the body's inflammatory response. In other words, exercise is good for the joints and may help relieve some of the discomforts of osteoarthritis.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises all adults to get 150 hours of moderate-intensity exercise like walking, swimming, hiking, or playing a sport every week. You can divide the minutes up in whatever way best fits your schedule. The CDC also recommends completing weekly resistance or strength training workouts to improve muscle and bone strength and increase flexibility. Although exercise benefits the body, you should consult your doctor before beginning any new fitness regimen.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess body fat places additional stress on joints and can worsen the effects of osteoarthritis. Studies have found that being just 10 pounds overweight can increase pressure on the knees by 15 to 50 pounds, and the more overweight a person is, the more dramatic the effects are. Following the diet and physical activity advice above may help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight as you age. If you're overweight or obese, your doctor can provide additional guidance regarding the best approach to weight loss.
Best Supplements for Joint Health
Many people combine traditional treatment for osteoarthritis with a joint support supplement to reduce pain and increase flexibility and range of motion. Some of the most popular joint health supplements include all of the following.
Boswellia Serrata Extract
Boswellia serrata is an herb that has long been used for religious ceremonies in India, North Africa, and the Middle East. It is also a traditional remedy for pain. Studies have found that Boswellia serrata has natural anti-inflammatory properties and may help lessen chronic inflammation, potentially decreasing pain and improving movement for people with joint problems.
Calcium fructoborate is a natural substance in fruits and vegetables and contains boron, which has been shown in studies to support a healthy inflammatory response. As a result, it may provide benefits for people who have or are at risk for developing heart disease. There is also evidence to suggest that it may be beneficial for people with arthritis. One study found that those who took calcium fructoborate along with glucosamine and chondroitin saw a more significant decrease in inflammation than those who took only glucosamine and chondroitin or were given a placebo.
Green-Lipped Mussel Extract
Green-lipped mussel is a type of shellfish native to New Zealand. However, scientists are still investigating why studies indicate that green-lipped mussel extract benefits joints by reducing inflammation and decreasing osteoarthritis-related damage. One theory is that the high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids found in the mussels is due to its joint-protective and anti-inflammatory properties.
Before taking any joint support supplement, talk to your doctor. Although the above supplements are generally safe, they can cause side effects, allergic reactions, and drug interactions in some people.