A few weeks ago, I injured both of my knees in a fluke accident. Full disclosure: I was pretending to be an advanced living room yogi and slipped out of crow pose right onto my knee caps. Bakasana to square one.
I had to forego a few beauty powder days on the mountain (and most activities involving knee movement), but alas…these things happen as a sacred reminder to slow down our energy output.
Beyond the minor bruising and pulled meniscus, this clumsy move landed me with some major knee pain. I did physio and ice packs and topical mobility balms, but I also tried to accelerate the recovery process through nutrition. I do believe it helped!
There’s a cool connection between nutrition and joint health. Integrating (or eliminating) certain foods in the diet can help ease joint pain and even arthritic conditions. Let’s take a closer peek.
Nutrients to integrate:
- Wild fish. Studies show that the bioavailable omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) in wild-caught, cold water fish can work wonders in offsetting inflammation, especially when it comes to arthritis.
- Orange peel. A bioflavonoid in citrus peels (called nobiletin) can work to mediate inflammatory pathways in the body. It can literally peel away pain.
- Garlic, leeks, onions. These sulfur-rich veggies contain various compounds – like allicin in garlic – that reduce inflammation. And possibly vampires (no scientific evidence on this one yet).
- Pineapple & papaya. High in enzymes like bromelain (pineapple) and papain (papaya), these nutrients work to repair connective tissue. If tropical fruits aren’t your go-to for vitamin C (they’re especially high in fruit sugars), you can find the isolated enzymes in supplement form.
- Unrefined coconut oil. Again, inflammation is the target here. The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil (namely, lauric acid) are responsible for modulating inflammation. Just like its consistency would suggest, coconut oil is a superb food to lubricate joints.
- Extra virgin olive oil. Aside from omega-3 fatty acid content, cold-pressed olive oil contains a compound called oleocanthal that prevents the production of pro-flammatory enzymes in the body (just like ibuprofen).
- Kale. Super high in antioxidants and phytonutrients like vitamin C and beta-carotene, kale is queen in neutralizing free radicals that contribute to inflammation.
- Ginger. Gingerol may sound like a brand of anti-nausea medication, but it’s actually the active compound in ginger. Studies on both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis have shown that gingerols can help with mitigating inflammation, soreness, swelling and stiffness.
Supplements to consider:
- Curcumin (turmeric). The active compound in turmeric – curcumin – has been studied extensively for its anti-inflammatory prowess in the body (even in cartilage cells). One study pinpointed a decrease in discomfort among patients with osteoarthritic knee pain.
- Fish oils. Largely attributed to the omega-3 fatty acid content, fish oils can be extremely therapeutic for lubricating joints and reducing inflammation. Always opt for a high quality fish oil brand that uses molecular distillation to remove heavy metals and contaminants.
- Enzymes. Proteolytic enzymes (meaning they have both metabolic and digestive functions) can help relieve pain and swelling. Enzymes like serratiopeptidase (from silkworms), papain and bromelain work in tandem with our body’s own mechanisms – they can even “digest” scar tissue.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin. Derived from sources of cartilage (like the exoskeleton of shellfish), glucosamine paired with chondroitin has been shown to help prevent the deterioration of cartilage and improve joint mobility.
- Magnesium. An essential mineral for bone health and calcium absorption, magnesium also helps relax muscles, nerve endings and ease pain. Magnesium oil can be applied directly onto sore joints.
- Hyaluronic acid. Naturally present in the body, hyaluronic acid is found mostly in the fluid of our eyes and joints. It’s the functional component of synovial fluid, and it gives our tissues their flexibility. In osteoarthritic knee joints, hyaluronic acid has been shown to halt nerve impulses that send pain signals to the brain, as well as prevent pro-flammatory enzymes.
- Boswellia. You know frankincense? It’s the resin from the boswellia tree, and boswellic acids have anti-inflammatory properties similar to non-steroidal drugs (without the long-term stomach ulcer effects). These boswellia extracts have been studied for their impact on reducing pain and enhancing mobility among people with osteoarthritis.
Foods to eliminate (surprise, surprise):
- Red meat
- Nightshade veggies (tomato, potato, peppers)
Lifestyle factors like keeping active, releasing stress, balancing low and high impact cardio, wearing the right shoes and stretching are all key for joint health. Just don’t go crushing your knee caps in yoga.
Happy joints! ❤