written by Matt Marchant
You are only as old as your joints say you are. Could that be true? I think so. This might explain in part why two people of the same age can feel so different - their chronological age may be the same, but the health of their joints can be completely different.
I would like to share with you a holistic approach to joint health. It is my professional and personal experience that a holistic approach to any problem in or of the body must include the following 6 Factors for Lasting Health & Vitality: Appropriate Movement, Proper Food, Adequate Water, Correct Breathing, Sufficient Sleep, and Positive Thoughts. Here is what I have discovered:
In this basic care list, I have given you two options for each factor. My advice would be to do just one new thing from one factor. Then do that for a while, meaning at least 3 weeks. After that, add in another one thing to do. Please note, starting slow and steady will “win the race”. This means, if you try to do too much in the beginning, you may end up doing nothing in the end. Take your time as you make each of these a lasting health and lifestyle change. Lasting health is meaningful health.
1. Joint Mobility Movements
When we move a joint, preferably in its fullest and safest range of motion, we pump the synovial fluid within the joint. This fluid is the joint’s inner lubrication. Without movement of the body there is no need for synovial fluid to move. This joint movement moves out the old fluid, and moves in the new. Old synovial fluid gets an accumulation of mineral deposits, microbes and debris. Moving your joints each day is a way to lubricate your joints naturally.
What to do: Do 5-10 minutes of Joint Mobility movement each morning.
2. Body Rolling
When we don’t move, our muscles and connective tissue become tight and inflexible. There are many types of body rolling, also known as Self MyoFascial Release (SMFR). The stress being applied to a joint may be due to musculature imbalances - one muscle being too tight, another being too weak. Most musculoskeletal asymmetries can be properly addressed by body rolling.
What to do: Do 5-10 minutes of Body Rolling each evening.
1. Balance Body pH
High acidity of the body, blood, and organs has been associated with many joint conditions and diseases. Your macronutrient content, meaning the amount of protein and fat eaten, compared to carbohydrates eaten, greatly affects your pH levels.
What to do: Eat the right amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates for your body.
2. Decrease Acid in Joints
Uric acid may accumulate within your joints if your are eating too much protein for your genotype (genetics) or phenotype (how your genes are currently being expressed). High uric acid content within the joints has been associated with many joint conditions and diseases. Another factor in high uric acid levels may be the inability of the stomach to properly digest protein. Having a proper pH level of 1 or 2 within the stomach assures that you are able to digest your protein.
What to do: Eat slow, and chew your food (especially meats) thoroughly.
1. Hydrate your Joints
The synovial fluid within each joint in your body is meant to be a lubricating agent for the bones and joints as they move. This fluid is more like an oil, meaning a specific level of viscosity or thickness is required. Without proper hydration the synovial fluid may become too thick. The disc spaces of the spine also need to be hydrated sufficiently, not only to add in lubrication, but to create shape and shock absorbency ability as well.
What to do: Work up to drinking half of your bodyweight in ounces of water each day.
(Example: a 200 lb. man will work up to drinking 100 ounces each day. Activity level and season will affect this hydration need)
2. Move the Lymphatic & Detoxification Systems
The synovial fluid in the joints are prone to collecting toxins from our food and our environment. Drinking enough water each day helps to keep the Lymphatic system of the body moving and detoxifying our body and joints. Synovial fluid also brings nutrients to the joints for healing and health.
What to do: Decrease the amount of caffeinated and sugary drinks (or eliminate them).
1. Decrease the pH level of the Blood
Correct breathing helps to regulate the oxygen/carbon dioxide ratio within the blood. This ratio, if out of balance, can make the blood more acidic, thus pumping overly acidic blood to all the joints, muscles, and organs.
What to do: Do 5-10 minutes of Relaxation Breathing (Tai Chi/Qi Gong) each day.
2. Improve Core Strength
The strength of the diaphragm, “the breathing muscle”, relates to the strength of the rest of the core musculature. When the core is strong, posture and movement can be improved, thus reducing the inappropriate and asymmetrical stress load placed onto the joints.
What to do: Do 5-10 minutes of Corrective Exercise & Breathing for core function each day.
1. Let the Body Recover
Sleep is for both the body and the mind. Your body (and specifically your spine) needs rest from being under the stress of gravity while moving or sitting. Sleeping on your back is a great way to reduce the physical stress the body goes through during the day. Without enough “down time”, the body and joints may never fully recuperate for the next day.
What to do: Go to bed by 10:30pm each night.
2. Balance the Hormones
Sleep helps to regulate many of the hormones produced by the Endocrine system of the body. Without enough sleep, these hormones are left imbalanced and the body may never completely heal until balance is restored. Example: Lack of sleep affects cortisol levels and the adrenal glands.
What to do: Sleep for at least 7 hours each night (8-9 is preferred).
1. Reframe and Reduce Stress
Sometimes the stress in our lives cannot be completely removed, but it can be reframed. How we choose to view stress is a story we control. Your life’s story is written in pencil, and you hold the erasure, use it when you need to. This reframing leads us to a reduction in stress.
What to do: Consider that there is always more than one way to view circumstances in life, then right a new story about it.
2. Move beyond “I can’t, I’m ____.”
When we are able to move past “I can’t, I’m old”, “I can’t, I’m injured”, or “I can’t, I don’t know where to begin”, we can move into moving more freely and without pain. Our reasons for delaying the healing process may sound reasonable, yet they will still restrict our freedom until we find them to be just another unreasonable excuse.
What to do: Notice when you make excuses, and ask yourself the question, “Why do I seem to use that excuse?”
An advanced approach only helps if first you have or are putting the basics to use. As with any task or skill you wish to learn, it always comes back to the basics. Please note, following the basics doesn’t mean that we have mastered them, it only means that we have and are addressing each one of the 6 Factors to the best of our current ability.
All inflammatory issues of the body, whether arthritis in its various forms, gout, fibromyalgia, or others, obviously indicate that there is inflammation of a specific joint. What I have come to find true, is that inflammation of a joint is just a symptom of inflammation in another key place - the stomach and/or the small intestine. In this advanced care list, we will look at approaches to decrease the amount of inflammation happening in the gut. Please note, in any health approach the key is to find the root cause of the symptomatic problem. Some of these may work for your specific set of root causes and some may not. Each person responds differently, even when the root cause is similar.
1. Improve Digestion
The easiest and most cost effective way to improve you digestion instantly is to “drink your food”. This does not mean to put it into a blender, but to chew your food until it has become liquid-like. Most people chew their food 3-4 times before swallowing, whereas the recommendation is up to 20-30 times. Taking digestive aids like swedish bitters, digestive enzymes and probiotics will also improve digestion. Depending on how functional your digestion currently is, taking these may be a must.
2. Cut out Inflammatory Foods
It is possible that your small intestine is inflamed. If it is, it is most likely caused by eating the wrong foods for your body. Although we are all different in our ability to digest, I have found that this list of eight foods tends to be challenging for most people to effectively digest. I call them the 8 Not So Great Foods, and they are: Gluten, Sugar, Diary, Alcohol, Soy, Corn, Canola Oil, and Unsprouted Nuts and Seeds. There is one easy way to verify this, cut them out for a set period of time, note your symptoms. If you become less inflamed and bloated from cutting them out, they are most likely causing (at least in part) joint inflammation. The typical recommendation is to cut out just one of the eight foods for at least 60 days, in order to properly note the possible change in symptoms.
3. Correct Stomach Acidity
It is possible that your stomach is inflamed. If it is inflamed, it is most likely due to low stomach acidity. This will mean that you are not able to digest protein very well, even if the source of protein is high quality organic grass-fed or wild caught meats. A stomach acidity test can verify the pH level of your esophagus and stomach. Contact a qualified Health Practitioner to administer such a test.
4. Add in some Spice
The following spices and foods have been shown to decrease inflammation of the body: Ginger, Cayenne, Turmeric, Basil, Rosemary, and Oregano.
5. Use some Herbs
The following herbs have been shown in modern studies, and used for centuries by ancient cultures to decrease inflammation of the body: Willowbark, Meadowsweet, Grapple Plant, Myrrh/Guggulu, Juniper, Goldenrod, Dandelion, Nettle, Boswellia/Frankincense, Lei Gong Teng, Feverfew, Bakial Scullcap, and Hops.
6. Check your Oil Level
Keeping the correct ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 oils in your diet will help decrease inflammation. There are many good sources of fish oil and cod liver oil. Good sources come from wild caught fish and have been fermented.
It is my experience and belief that this is the most comprehensive guide to Holistically caring for the health of your joints. If you would like more assistance please contact me for more resources to learn from or to set up an appointment to discuss how I can help you move freely and without pain.
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