Smiling caregiver holding a variety of fruitBy the time we reach the age of 30, our bones and joints begin to deteriorate due to normal wear and tear. Old injuries we’d forgotten long ago begin to act up, making life’s everyday activities a pain in the neck…and back, and knee. As we continue to age, this process generally accelerates.

All hope is not lost, however. There are simple ways to combat joint pain with relatively minor diet adjustments that fall into three categories.

One: Antioxidants

Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules inside the body. More simply, antioxidants protect cells from harmful substances that cause inflammation and other damage. They come in a variety of forms from a multitude of sources.

The best way to make sure you’re getting the right mix of antioxidants to reduce joint pain and swelling is to recall the acronym, ACES.

Vitamin A from sources such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots, kale, and broccoli.

Vitamin C from sources such as citrus, papayas, mangoes, berries, asparagus, and bell peppers.

Vitamin E from sources such as avocadoes, whole grains, sunflower seeds, and peanuts.

Selenium from sources such as salmon, Brazil nuts, oatmeal, and brown rice.


Two: Fatty Acids

Fatty acids are molecules required by the body to maintain good health and proper cellular function. Certain fatty acids—primarily omega-3 fatty acids—are especially important for healthy joints. They have been shown to reduce pain and stiffness, protect against inflammation, and boost the effectiveness of NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.

Unfortunately, the human body cannot synthesize the fatty acids it needs and we must obtain them from dietary sources. Coldwater fish, such as salmon, tuna, and sardines are excellent options. Dark leafy greens, walnuts, flax and other seeds, and wild rice are other foods rich in omega-3.

Three: Supplements

Some of the substances that most benefit aching joints are not readily available in food items. In this case, supplements can be a good choice. Glucosamine, bromelain, ginger, and turmeric all have scientific research behind them to suggest that they support joint health.

Glucosamine is naturally present in joint cartilage. Taken as a supplement, glucosamine is believed to slow degeneration of joint tissue. Bromelain, meanwhile, is an enzyme derived from the pineapple plant that acts as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic.

Ginger and turmeric have long been utilized by Eastern medicine for their pain-relieving properties. Ginger acts by reducing inflammation. Turmeric may be a better bet for those with rheumatoid arthritis, as it acts directly on the immune system.  Studies have shown, however, that turmeric is more effective at preventing joint pain, rather than relieving it.

A word of caution: many supplements are poorly studied and make claims that either false or unsubstantiated. Furthermore, some supplements can cause side effects or interact with prescription medications. Always consult with a physician or pharmacist before adding a new supplement to your health routine.

Marlene Carrell is a freelance writer, wife, and mother of two.

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