With 206 bones keeping our adult bodies upright and moving, it’s important to think about natural ways to improve bone health and fix sore joints. You may even be able to reduce your risk of developing sore joint conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, by eating a healthy diet, according to research. From eating certain foods to including frequent movement in your day, scientific evidence shows there are many easy ways you can naturally improve the health of your bones, and help sore joints feel better.
Calcium and vitamin D are historically the nutrients discussed when it comes to building healthy bones. Yet, there are other nutrients that should be considered, such as magnesium, potassium, and silicon, as well as vitamins A, B, C, E, and K. Protein and fats also play a role in bone health. The Framington Study looked at how dietary intake impacted bone health in over 5,000 adults and pointed to these foods that are important in maintaining bone density:
Stiff or sore joints are common as we age, as years of use take their toll. After periods of stillness, joints can feel stiff and hard to move. The solution: motion is lotion. Movement is a natural way to help alleviate stiff joints. Sore joints may be the result of inflammation. When inflammation persists in a joint, pain occurs. One of the most common causes of joint pain is arthritis. There are two forms of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by overuse of the joint and is common in aging athletes. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body by mistake.
Evidence doesn’t suggest there is a magic recipe to prevent rheumatoid arthritis; however, a healthier diet was associated with a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis occurring at 55 years of age or younger, in a 2017 peer-reviewed study.
*It’s important to recognize that mounting evidence supports the approach of holistic nutrition, that certain foods will trigger symptoms in people, and not others – your nutritional needs are unique.
**Extra virgin olive oil may have a synergistic effect with other components of the Mediterranean diet and greater improvements in rheumatoid arthritis patients were seen when used in combination, than fish oil alone, in a research study.
Sleep was reported as helpful for sore joints in a survey study, along with warm room temperatures and a sufficient intake of vitamins and minerals. Those vitamins and minerals are found in natural foods, of which scientific evidence points toward antioxidant-rich plants and omega-3s (EPA and DHA) as some of the best foods to eat to reduce inflammation in sore joints. In particular, the polyphenols (antioxidants found in plants), fiber, and omega-3 fats are most beneficial. Researchers reported in the journal Nutrients, that eating lots of whole foods, particularly foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols, and fiber, has been shown to reduce inflammation and has the potential to support those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
Many of the nutrients listed as good for bone health and stiff joints also encourage a healthy microbiota (microbes in the gut). Some fibers act as fuel for probiotics. Polyphenols are gaining significant interest among scientists for their increasingly impressive impact on the gut microbiome. Evidence has shown that the gut microbiota directly and indirectly modulates (beneficially regulates) the host immune system, inflammation, and modulates bone health. Researchers are looking at how probiotics influence the absorption of minerals (calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium) in the gut and impact hormones involved in bone turnover (serotonin and incretins). Healthy bones may also be attributed to a healthy microbiome.
If you are struggling with rheumatoid arthritis, know this disease has been associated with dysbiosis (not enough probiotics in the gut). Scientists think probiotics reduce inflammation in many ways, including the ability to produce proteins that repair and support tight junctions (small spaces between cells that line the intestinal tract). These tight junctions can be damaged by the proteins and antigens we consume. Species known to reduce this leaking that can occur in the gut include some strains of L. rhamnosus and L. casei.
Working with a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, you can create a delicious and satisfying weekly meal plan that includes foods that reduce inflammation and support bone health. As well, develop a plan to make small changes that work within your routine, home situation, and lifestyle so you can enjoy more physical movement and less stress – all of which supports more than just healthier bones, and joints.
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Dietary approaches for bone health: lessons from the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. Curr Osteoporos Rep 2015 Aug; 13(4): 245-255.
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Long-term dietary quality and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women. Ann Rheum Dis 2017 Aug;76(8):1357-1364.
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Beneficial effects of dietary polyphenols on gut microbiota and strategies to improve delivery efficiency. Nutrients 2019 Sep; 11(9):2216.
Contributed by Allison Tannis
Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.