Joints 101Cartilage is the rubbery tissue the covers the ends of your bones. It acts much like a shock absorber, preventing your bones from grinding against each other. Joint cartilage is made of mostly water and chondrocytes. Chondrocytes are specialized cells that produce collagen and elastin fibers (which give cartilage its strength and structural integrity), and proteoglycans (proteins involved in keeping the joints lubricated and nourished). As we age, our chondrocytes don’t function as efficiently. As a result, old or damaged cartilage breaks down faster than it can be replaced with fresh, new cartilage. (Injuries and excess weight also put a tremendous amount of stress on cartilage, causing quick deterioration as well.) With less of this spongy cushioning between the joints, bones press against each other and pain follows. NSAIDs and other medications will never treat or cure arthritis. They simply relieve the aches and pains so that you can get through your day. (And as Terry can attest, the side effects can be terrible.) But there are extremely safe and effective drug-free approaches to healing your aching joints.
Joint-Friendly NutrientsSome nutritional supplements work by giving your body the raw materials it needs to rebuild cartilage. Others either stop its breakdown, or preserve the cartilage you already have. Either way, the long-term result is less pain and healthier joints.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin is the “gold standard” combination when it comes to joint repair. Glucosamine sulfate helps boost the production of complex carbohydrates called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), the building blocks of cartilage. Glucosamine also keeps collagen and elastin fibers moist and lubricated so that nutrients can be delivered to cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate works much the same way, but it has the added benefit of inhibiting the enzymes that degrade cartilage.
- Curcumin, the medicinal component in the herb turmeric, has been found to prevent the breakdown of cartilage. Additional research also has shown that curcumin provides potent pain relief without the gastrointestinal side effects.
- MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a naturally occurring sulfur compound and a component of connective tissue. Studies reveal that it can improve pain, mobility, and inflammation—with even stronger benefits if taken along with glucosamine.
- Vitamin D, believe it or not,plays a pretty big role in joint health. A deficiency has been linked to the progression of arthritis, especially of the knee.
- Boswellia (also known as Indian Frankincense) is an herbal extract that can alleviate inflammation related to arthritis. It also has been shown to improve pain and function within as little as five days of use.