Joints serve as the connection between two bones allowing movement and flexibility. Joints consist of smooth tissues called cartilage, synovium, and synovial fluid. Joints allow you to bend your knees, elbows, back, neck and ankles. They allow you to row, lift weights, cycle, and run. There are 360 joints in the human body! Joints are essential to movement and need support due to the stress and mediators such as lack of sleep, an unbalanced diet of processed physical activity we put our bodies through. As athletes, we put our bodies through intense stress with both endurance activities and weight bearing exercise. Our performance depends on our body’s ability to move quickly and efficiently, and joint health can be the difference between quitting a race and finishing first.
While acute inflammation is natural and necessary to the healing process, constant inflammation that is active at a low level is not natural and begins to affect the body in a damaging, rather than a healing way. In a tightly regulated system, inflammation will break down tissue, attack pathogens, and rebuild tissue – but left in an unregulated environment, this process can attack healthy tissues and become damaging.
There are many factors that can affect inflammation sugars, deficiencies in omega 3 fatty acids, too much omega 6 fatty acids, lack of movement, stress, lack of recovery and downtime, and poor gut health. All of these factors have been linked with an increase in the inflammatory response and a decrease in anti-inflammatory actions in the body.
Herbs that lower cortisol level:
– Ashwagandha: as a powerful adaptogen, ashwagandha increases an individual’s ability to adapt to environmental factors. At the same time, it helps to reduce the damage to the body from these factors. It helps the body to maintain a balanced state while under physical stress and improves recovery time. In particular, this ancient herb has been clinically proven to increase cardio-respiratory response. This leads to reduced fatigue and improved stamina.
– Rhodiola Rosea: referred to as the Arctic or Golden root, has been used by a variety of ancestral cultures for millennia to support energy and vitality. It grows at high altitudes, on mountain tops and sea cliffs in Europe and Asia and is classified as an adaptagen – a substance that supports the body during times of stress. Rhodiola may help increase your stamina and endurance by increasing your red blood cell count and lowering oxidative damage. Red blood cells (RBC) carry oxygen to muscles, and having a higher count can dramatically improve an athlete’s performance and help to delay fatigue. Rhodiola benefits work by boosting EPO, also known as erythropoietin, which stimulates RBC production.
– Maca: clinical trials have shown that maca may positively impact energy and stamina. Maintaining positive energy levels can also help improve mood, and some early studies have even found that maca may reduce symptoms of depression. The result of consuming Maca regularly is an improvement in reaction to stressors in our brain and better control over our nervous system so we don’t experience such wild swings in hormones, mood, energy, immunity and cognition. Maca protects our adrenals and prevents adrenal fatigue. In essence Maca provides strength from within and can return your body back to a strong and resilient balance.
– Panax Ginseng: the root of the Korean ginseng plant is the part that is used for its medicinal properties; it has long been highly valued for its use in Traditional Chinese Medicine preparations. In athletic circles, ginseng is best known for its ability to boost muscle endurance. One study from Germany reported that trained athletes taking Panax ginseng experienced significant improvements in their aerobic capacity. A study from California State Polytechnic University reported that subjects taking Panax notoginseng for 30 days increased their exercise time to exhaustion by more than seven minutes. In addition to aiding workout performance, ginseng can aid muscle recovery after the workout is over, which also encourages greater gains in muscle mass.
Remedies and herbs that promote joints regeneration:
– MSM: has been shown to increase levels of glutathione, a compound recognized by trainers, athletes and scientific experts for its ability to enhance exercise recovery. One study showed a dramatic increase in oxidized glutathione immediately after exhaustive physical exercise and further found that glutathione or other antioxidant administration after physical exercise are effective in preventing oxidation of the blood glutathione pool. It can also restore the flexibility and permeability of cell walls within muscles, which means nutrients can pass through the tissues more easily, facilitating repair work faster and removing lactic acid, which causes that “burning feeling” following exercise. The result is less time needed for recovery, plus reduced pressure, soreness and cramps.
– Collagen: type 2 collagen primarily helps build cartilage, which is found in connective tissues. The health of our joints relies on cartilage made of type 2 collagen, which is why it’s beneficial for preventing age-associated joint pain or various arthritis symptoms, especially since this source also provides chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate — both of which have anti-aging effects. Researchers at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston investigated benefits of collagen and found that supplementing with type 2 collagen helped patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis find relief from painful symptoms by decreasing swelling in tender joints.
– Glucosamine: researchers believe that using glucosamine supplements, or obtaining it from natural sources like bone broth sources, can increase the amount of cartilage and synovial fluid someone maintains, helping to prevent joint breakdown and relieve pain.
– Chondroitin: as an important structural component of cartilage and one of the key substances that allows joints to withstand pressure, chondroitin is taken by many people with joint pain, osteoarthritis, and other signs of “wear and tear” due to aging. Drinking bone broth is probably the greatest way to obtain both glucosamine and chondroitin at home from a real food source.
– Bone Broth: nutrition researchers Sally Fallon and Kaayla Daniel of the Weston A. Price Foundation explain that bone broths contain minerals in forms that your body can easily absorb: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and others. They contain chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, the compounds sold as pricey supplements to reduce inflammation, arthritis and joint pain.
– Silica: a 2016 study by Sao Paulo University, Brazil reported that silica helps form the building blocks of collagen, an important protein found in your skin, blood, cartilage, muscles and ligaments. Collagen is needed to keep skin springy and elastic, and provide crucial protection and structure to your organs and joints.
Herbs that fight inflammation:
– Turmeric: promotes healthy joint function and mobility by supporting the body’s inflammatory response, and its antioxidant action can help support the body after a workout.* Turmeric has been used to support the body’s response to occasional pain and promote normal inflammatory function – such as after pushing your body during exercise.
– Boswellia: has traditionally been used to support a healthy response to occasional pain and to promote a healthy inflammatory response by naturally inhibiting certain enzymes. It also supports healthy, comfortable joints and promotes healthy blood flow to the body’s connective tissue. In addition, Boswellia’s support for a healthy inflammatory response also supports gut health – an aspect of health you may know all too well during long runs and strenuous workouts – by nourishing the mucosal lining of the GI tract.
– Willow bark (Salix alba) and meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) contain similar compounds to aspirin, (aspirin was originally isolated from willow bark), but do not have the same adverse effects on the digestive system. Herbalists use willow for its anti-inflammatory and mild analgesic properties.