Sore joints may seem like a natural part of ageing, but they don’t have to be.
Creaky, achy joints. A twinge in the knee. A sharp shooting pain from the shoulder to the elbow. It’s all normal, right? Wrong. All too often, we assume joint pain is a normal part of aging that we just have to learn to live with.
Joint pain can range from just annoying to debilitating. It may go away after a few weeks, or stick around for months. Even short-term pain and swelling in the joints can affect your quality of life. That’s why understanding the cause of your joint pain is so important.
Inflammation: you can’t live with it; you can’t live without it!
Arthritis isn’t a single disease, but rather an umbrella term for over 100 different conditions. The one thing that most of these have in common is inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s response to outside threats like stress, infection, or toxic chemicals. When the immune system senses one of these dangers, it responds by activating proteins and sending fighter cells to the “danger” area. In this way, inflammation protects our cells and tissues. However, in some cases, your immune system starts to overreact, even attacking the cells it is meant to protect. That’s when good inflammation turns bad.
When inflammation happens in your joints, the increased number of blood and immune cells that arrive there can start to cause irritation. Over time, these irritating substances cause serious damage which includes the wearing down of cartilage (cushions at the end of your bones), and swelling of the joint lining. While arthritis can’t be cured, there are certain things that you can do to ease, and often prevent, aches and pains.
You (and your joints) are what you eat!
Believe it or not, your diet has a key role to play in the health of your joints. Whether you have arthritis or not, certain foods can increase the amount of inflammation you have in your body. In so doing, your diet directly contributes to your aches and pains. Avoiding certain inflammatory trigger foods will go a long way in keeping you pain free. These foods include:
- Sugar: a sweet treat may be hard to resist but your joints will thank you if you do! Sugar (in any form) triggers the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Don’t forget that sugar goes by many names, so always check food labels. Look for anything that ends in “…ose”.
- Transfats: these are inflammation’s best friend! They are also bad for your heart and your brain so best to avoid (achy joints or not). You’ll find these in fast foods and processed products…. Stay away!
- Omega 6 fatty acids: These are not to be confused with Omega 3’s which are inflammation busters. Your body needs a healthy balance of both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Too many omega 6’s and inflammation goes up. You’ll find Omega 6’s in sunflower and other vegetable oils. The best way to get the right balance is to stick to extra virgin olive oil.
- Refined carbohydrates: these include things like breads, biscuits and cereals. These all cause a sudden increase in your blood sugar and stimulate products that up inflammation.
- Additives and sweeteners: both of these are found in processed foods (which you should avoid… see point 2 above!). They might make food last longer, but your body recognises them as “foreign”. Your immune system reacts by, you guessed it, inflammation!
Inflammation can be beaten!
Swap out the refined and processed foods in your diet for colourful produce and real food. Fresh food contains hundreds of substances that can literally stop inflammation in its tracks. So simply by avoiding the foods that trigger an inflammatory response could mean the difference between a super sore joint and a super one!