Monthly Archives: June 2018

What’s Good for Joint Health?

female runner with hand on knee

Our joints are the points of articulation. They’re where two bones meet and instead of crashing against each other, the joint lets them slide, spin, or roll, or — most frequently — a combination of the three. If our joints aren’t working, we may as well be in rigor mortis. While waning collagen production, injuries, and decades of movement can lead to wear-and-tear and joint damage later in life, you can be proactive at any age to mitigate the damage as much as possible. What’s good for joints is a blend of nutrition, exercise, and weight management.

Exercise for Joint Health

The first step to healthy joints is moving them. This can be as simple as rolling your shoulders while sitting at your desk, and standing up from said desk every hour or so. Not only can movement that interrupts long periods spent in single positions help you avoid joint stiffness, but it can also increase the mobility of your joints. And with more mobility comes better use of your muscles.

Think of the squat. It’s a fundamental movement to our daily lives, yet it requires numerous joints that all must have their full range of motion in order to perform the movement safely. If one joint in the chain, say the ankle, is stiff and tight, it can cause you to be unable to drive your knees forward. To counterbalance, you may find yourself leaning forward, placing more pressure on other parts of your body and recruiting the wrong muscles for the movement while neglecting the ones that are supposed to assist. This can lead to long-term problems for those performing functional tasks and immediate injury to a weightlifter squatting a heavy barbell.

If said weightlifter had the full range of motion, the oft-elusive “gainz” would come a lot easier due to allowing the muscles to work at their full capacity. Stretching the muscles themselves, as well as the tendons that connect the muscles to the bones, can also help to extend the joints’ range of motion.

Speaking of muscles, strengthening them is critical to keeping those joints healthy. That helps our joints tolerate the stress of our activities. If your joints are pain-free and have full range of motion, you may be able to meet your muscular strength needs by performing the standard multi-joint strength exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, squats and deadlifts. If you have a joint that is not functioning properly, a physical therapist may recommend exercises that specifically target the muscles surrounding that joint.

Nutrition for Joint Health

We tend to think of inflammatory foods as only inflaming our digestive system, but the foods we eat are used throughout the body and they can have a profound effect on joints. Inflammation is a crucial step to the body’s ability to heal itself from injury. That’s all it’s meant to be: a step in a process. The problem is when inflammation becomes chronic due to factors like diet. Many experts are now linking certain ingredients in foods to joint inflammation. These include known public health enemies like sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fats found in packaged snacks and fast food, omega-6 fatty acids found in various seed and vegetable oils, and additives like aspartame and MSG.

Luckily, experts have deemed many delicious foods anti-inflammatory. Nuts, leafy greens, berries, oranges, and tomatoes are regulars on anti-inflammatory foods lists, as are spices like ginger, garlic, and turmeric. And, for all the inflammation that Omega 6-fatty acids giveth, Omega-3 fatty acids — found in coldwater fish, eggs, and flaxseed oil — taketh away. What’s good for joints from a nutrition standpoint is a diet of anti-inflammatory staples.

Our joints are surrounded by ligaments, the connective tissue that connects bones to bones, stabilizes the body, communicates with the nervous system (which controls movement), and prevents improper joint movement. Ligaments are primarily composed of everyone’s favorite structural protein, collagen, which is also a major component of the cartilage that provides a cushion on the articulating surfaces of our joints, as well as the actual joint bones. Cells in the connective tissue and bones produce collagen at a rate that slows as we age, which is of course, when our ligaments, cartilage, and bones need more of it.

Vitamin C is an essential substance for the enzymes to catalyze the reaction that bonds a hydrogen-oxygen compound to an animo acid that forms collagen. Without adequate Vitamin C, our cells cannot produce collagen. That’s why Vitamin C has become such a hot supplement in the skin care world, as collagen is key to firm skin. Since it’s the same structural protein that makes up the connective tissue that protects our joints, more people are discovering the benefits of Vitamin C for joint health.

The nutrient choline is also essential to this process as it breaks down to the amino acid glycine, which is a crucial component of collagen production. Egg yolks are rich in choline, as are the phospholipids that encapsulate our Lypo-Spheric™ Vitamin C. In a 2000 study, researchers found that Vitamin A treatment stimulated collagen synthesis in skin cells. That’s an easy nutrient to get in a whole bunch of orange foods like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, cantaloupe, mangoes and apricots.

powerful vitamin c delivery with carton of lypo-spheric vitamin c

Weight Management for Joint Health

If you have the diet and exercise down, this should be falling into line. And it’s the most critical factor in joint health as excess weight puts a massive toll on joints. Let’s take gout as an example. This painful, complex form of inflammatory arthritis has been historically known as the “disease of the kings.” Kings like Henry VIII, who was known for being just as gluttonous with food as he was with wives, suffered from this condition in his later years when a hunting injury sidelined him from his previous sporting pursuits. Gout flareups are triggered by an excess of uric acid. Extra weight makes the kidneys less efficient in removing uric acid than the aforementioned Henry was in removing wives.

Then there’s the day-to-day toll. The force on your knees when walking on level ground is 1.5 times your body weight, and 2–3 times when you’re walking on an incline or decline. According to the Arthritis Foundation, every pound of excess weight puts 4 extra pounds of pressure on the knees. So what’s good for joints? Having less “you” could be number one.

Why Improve Joint Health?

All the joints in our body are linked in what is called the kinetic chain. That phrase means exactly that it says. If a single link is broken, the whole chain suffers. Let’s say you’re Henry VIII. Because stepping down from the throne exerts the weight of your feast-loving bulk plus six wives (with all their heads still attached) on your knees, your body will compensate by taking the pressure off your knees that are taxed more than a bearded nobleman (yes, Henry the 8th imposed a graduated beard tax) and put it elsewhere. This is an altered movement pattern that can lead to overactive and underachieving muscles, which exacerbates the kinetic chain problems.

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, this can put you in what they call the “cumulative injury cycle,” which is also exactly what it sounds like.

What’s good for joints is an active lifestyle and conscious food choices. This includes exercising, building muscular strength, eating anti-inflammatory foods, and supplementing with nutrients like choline and Vitamin C that are critical to the processes that maintain healthy joints.

Doing what’s good for joints now can protect you in the future. Joint pain has a major effect on quality of life for older adults.

How to Get Energy Back When You’re Dealing With Stress

laptop, greens with egg, voodoo doll

Chronic stress can put you into a state of fatigue, making you lack the physical and mental motivation to accomplish all the items on that ever-growing checklist that’s partially to blame for causing the stress in the first place. Everyone is dealing with stress. Why does it seem like some people are thriving in spite of it?

It’s because they’ve figured out how to use other aspects of their lifestyle to put themselves in the best position to mitigate the negative effects of stress.

Optimizing your diet and lifestyle to persist in the face of constant stress can help you keep your energy levels as high as possible when constant stress is threatening to hold you down.

What to Do for Energy

Get a Massage

In a study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that cortisol decreased while serotonin and dopamine increased following massage. Cortisol is one of the hormones secreted to enable the fight or flight response to stressors. In today’s high-paced, constant-stress lifestyle, the prevailing theory (http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml ) is that our bodies are releasing way too much of this hormone, which can wreak havoc on our health. Health and stress experts have labeled this hormone as one of the factors responsible for stress making us tired. Serotonin and dopamine, on the other hand, are associated with feelings of energy and happiness.

Sleep Better, Longer

It seems fairly obvious that adequate sleep will help your energy levels, but quality sleep can be hard to come by when you’re dealing with stress. You know you need sleep, which can cause you to stress out about getting to sleep. In a 1997 study, researchers found that sleep loss causes cortisol levels to elevate the following evening. Higher cortisol levels can contribute to a racing mind, tense muscles, and a rapid heart beat, none of which are conducive to falling asleep. And people who get less sleep at night report more symptoms of stress during the day, including a lack of energy.

To ensure you get a full night’s sleep (between the recommended 7 and 9 hours), you’ll have to put yourself in he relaxed state that leads to falling asleep. That means shutting down devices that emit artificial light and stimulate your mind with a constant barrage of information. It means cutting the night-time caffeine that may seem necessary to power you through the evening hours, but is actually contributing to the cycle of stress-induced tiredness. The National Sleep Foundation recommends breathing and guided imagery exercises that help with relaxation by focusing attention.

Get Some Exercise

When you’re lacking energy, the last thing you want to do is engage in an activity that requires a pretty heavy dose of that depleted energy. Trust us: Getting over that initial motivation hurdle is worth it as exercise is crucial to maintaining an energy levels while dealing with stress.

Per Harvard Health, “Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.” The constant presence of those of stress hormones can lead to depleted energy and feelings of fatigue. Exercise also increases the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which can help the body’s ability to respond to stressors.

Numerous epidemiological studies have shown a strong positive relationship between exercise and energy levels. And it’s no particular type of exercise. 20 minutes of low-intensity stationary biking was shown to increase energy levels in sedentary people while moderate-to-vigorous activity has improved sleep.

Yoga, with its physical and mental demands, has been shown to increase energy levels and reduce cortisol levels in people with depression.

So, it’s not about the type of exercise you choose, but the mere act of engaging in regular physical activity that helps you recharge when you’re dealing with stress.

What to Eat for Energy

Numerous canned beverages purport to enhance your energy levels, but they are a short-term fix that can lead to more long-term problems. Sustained energy comes from a diet of the foods that optimize metabolic function.

Consume Nutrients that Support Metabolism

The B vitamins are crucial to your cells’ ability to convert food to energy. Vitamin B does not give you energy. Carbohydrates, fats, and protein (also known as food) give you energy. B vitamins support your cells in turning these macronutrients into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the energy your body needs to do just about everything.

The major B vitamins are B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12. They’re what is called an “essential” nutrient, meaning that our bodies can’t produce them and we need to get them from diet. They’re pretty easy to come by in eggs, legumes, beef, poultry fish, leafy greens, and B complex supplements.

Our digestive system breaks all the food we consume into the simple sugar glucose, which the blood sends to the liver and muscles. Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) helps to convert glucose into ATP energy. That means the food we eat is being used for its intended purpose, not sitting as fat around the midsection. ALA is naturally occurring in our bodies, but you can choose to supplement as it isn’t found in high doses in food.

Magnesium is another requirement for the ATP production process. Surveys consistently show that Americans are not getting their recommended daily allowance. That’s likely due to magnesium deficiencies in industrial farm soil and food processing that can strip out some of the magnesium-dense components. You can maximize your intake by opting for unrefined whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, legumes, and supplements.

The coenzyme Q10 is also critical to the energy conversion process. It occurs naturally in our bodies and in high levels in beef, poultry, and fish, so unless you’re taking a medication known to deplete the body of CoQ10 (like statins), supplementing probably isn’t necessary.

Iodine is vital to produce the thyroid hormones that control the body’s metabolism. This mineral is readily available in numerous foods, including fish, dairy, and grains.

Eat Carbs that Provide Long-Lasting Fuel

Eating for energy isn’t just about optimizing your energy production pathways, but also giving them a sustained source of fuel in the form of fats and carbohydrates. It’s important to be mindful of the types of carbs you’re consuming as they break down in varying speeds, which affects whether energy comes in spikes or sustained rates.

Let’s take the aforementioned energy drinks. A 12 oz. can of Red Bull has 37 grams of sugar and 0 grams of fiber. Sugar is the simplest of carbohydrates, so the process of breaking it down to glucose happens quickly. It floods your blood with glucose and causes an increase in the insulin necessary for glucose uptake in the muscles and liver. That’s part of the reason these energy drinks cause a spike of energy and a subsequent crash. Complex carbs contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals in the form of long molecular chains and thus take longer to convert to glucose, giving your body a more sustained fuel source.

Keeping your energy levels up while dealing with stress is critical to, well, dealing with stress. There are no quick fixes, just smart choices that optimize your body’s energy production system and give it the fuel it needs to run.