Our joints, just like the rest of the body, need looking after to keep them healthy, flexible and supple. The body's weight-bearing joints - ankles, knees, hips and spine - are subject to enormous stresses and strains during an average life, and like any mechanical part, they are likely to wear out. This process involves firstly the cartilage thinning, lubricating fluids drying up, and smooth moving surfaces become pitted and roughened.
arthritis is the term used for painful conditions of the joints and bones, and osteoarthritis is a wear-and-tear condition caused by everyday activities. Common symptoms include swelling, inflammation of joints, stiffness and restriction of movement. The good news however, is that many cases of arthritis can be relieved, postponed or even prevented by good joint care. Research shows a definite link between diet and exercise and the severity of your arthritis symptoms.
There are practical ways of slowing down this degenerative process, or simply maintaining and improving joint mobility naturally.
Like the rest of the body, your joints thrive best on plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. fruit and vegetables provide beneficial antioxidants that reduce the rate at which cartilage breaks down, helping to slow the process of osteoarthritis. Antioxidants are also linked to reducing inflammation and helping to combat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and gout.
Foods like apples, avocados, dark green leafy vegetables and chilies are anti-inflammatory foods. Don't peel your apples - the skin contains five times more antioxidants than the flesh. Oily fish are a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acids that oil the joints and control inflammation.
Research shows that omega-3 can reduce the long-term need for painkillers in those with joint problems. Choose oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herrings and mackerel. Keep well hydrated - water helps to maintain a steady flow of nutrients to your joints. Choose from water, soups, tea and juices, and remember that fruits and vegetables also have a high water content.
Try to minimize your intake of vegetable oils rich in omega-6, such as sunflower oil, because these promote inflammation. Switch to coconut oil or ghee (make sure it is not vegetable ghee) for cooking, and use olive oil, macadamia nut oil or walnut oil for salad dressings.
Studies have also shown an association between the amount of meat consumed and arthritis. Try to minimize your consumption of red meat, meat products, and other foods with high levels of additives and preservatives.
Weight loss is one of the most effective ways to reduce pain in the knees and hips, whatever form of arthritis you have. When you walk, the load on your knees increases by four times your body weight.
And that's on level ground. When walking downhill, the compressive force on your knees reaches eight times your body weight, greatly increasing the strain on your joints.
Studies show that weight loss can at least halve the level of pain experienced by those with arthritis affecting their lower limbs - this is a better result than standard drug treatments.
Regular, moderate exercise is also beneficial for the joints. Research has shown that the lack of use of joints leads to weak muscles, which result in weaker joints, less mobility and more pain. All arthritic joints should be exercised, and the body's muscle strength maintained. Regular massage can also help to maintain muscle tone and mobility and reduce pain.
Here are some foods that have a natural anti-inflammatory action that is particularly beneficial for arthritis: