Did you know that there are over 6 million Canadians living with arthritis today? That’s 1 in 5, or 20% of Canadian adults. And while many may assume that this is just a consequence of an aging population, in truth, arthritis affects people in all age groups. Indeed, according to the Arthritis Society of Canada, though the likelihood of developing arthritis increases with age, as many as 25,000 Canadian children and adolescents are living with this degenerative joint disorder. In addition, almost 60% of those with arthritis are women.

Those affected by arthritis report difficulties with activities of daily living such as doing housework and running errands and report needing assistance in their daily life. Beyond the physical, people living with arthritis and other joint conditions are more likely to experience anxiety, mood disorders, poor mental health, and difficulty sleeping than their healthy counterparts.

Joint Health Supplements

Fortunately, there are a variety of effective and safe natural solutions that can help you optimize joint health and prevent joint deterioration across your lifespan. Below is a list of the top joint health supplements and what to look for in a quality product.

Curcumin

A powerful natural anti-inflammatory found in turmeric which has been scientifically proven effective at reducing pain and inflammation and mitigating tissue damage in a range of inflammatory conditions. Interestingly, some research has shown that curcumin may outperform the leading arthritis drug and causes few potential side effects.

A quality curcumin supplement should be standardized to contain 95% curcuminoids, the most active compound in curcumin and should be enhanced either with the addition of black pepper to boost absorption, or via one of the newer delivery formats that promise better bioavailability and absorption.

Collagen

Collagen provides bones, cartilage, and connective tissue with the support they need so you can lead an active lifestyle. As a key structural protein, collagen provides the building blocks tissues need to mend, repair, and build (or rebuild, as the case may be). While our bodies do make collagen, our production naturally begins to slow down as soon as we hit the age of 20.

A good collagen supplement should provide a solid 10g of collagen per serving in a hydrolyzed form which reduces the size of the molecule for better absorption. Also, look for a product that features collagen from grass-fed, pasture-raised bovine, or wild-caught fish from a brand that does third-party testing for optimal purity and efficacy.

Glucosamine & Chondroitin

Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulfate are components of the cartilage in joint tissue and are used to support the structure of our joints, promote the formation of connective tissue, and protect against the deterioration of cartilage as a result of chronic joint diseases, overuse, or injuries while relieving musculoskeletal symptoms. Glucosamine and chondroitin are frequently combined in supplements, sometimes alongside other complementary ingredients such as MSM, curcumin, or others.

When shopping for a Glucosamine & Chondroitin supplement, look for one from a reputable brand that supplies a ratio of 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate to 1,200 mg of chondroitin sulfate, ideally in divided doses.

MSM (methylsulfonylmethane)

This is a naturally occurring compound found in foods such as fresh vegetables, meat and dairy and provides a natural source of essential sulfur. MSM has been shown to decrease joint inflammation, improve flexibility and restore collagen production. In addition, MSM promotes the formation of connective tissue and helps repair joints, tendons, and ligaments.

MSM can be purchased as a standalone supplement or in combination blends. Look for an MSM product that features pure Methylsulfonylmethane which provides a daily dose of 2000 to 6000 mg in divided doses.

NEM (Natural Eggshell Membrane)

This is a rich natural source of protein, collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid. It's also been the subject of considerable research which has shown it is an effective and safe therapeutic option for the treatment of pain, inflammation and loss of flexibility associated with joint and connective tissue disorders. One of the key demonstrated benefits of NEM is its ability to provide pain relief and improve joint flexibility in as little as 7 to 10 days.

NEM is often sold in combination with other joint support nutrients such as glucosamine, chondroitin, curcumin and others. Ideally, look for a NEM supplement from a reputable brand that provides a solid 500mg of hydrolyzed NEM per dose for optimal absorption.

Serrapeptase

Is one of the better-known proteolytic enzymes with scientifically demonstrated anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties; therefore, ideally suited to address arthritis and other degenerative joint conditions. Serrapeptase, in fact, has been shown to reduce pain, swelling, and scar tissue, as well as improve tissue healing.

Look for a serrapeptase supplement that is enteric-coated to ensure it survives the harsh acidic stomach environment and aim for a high potency (ideally 120 000 SU) in cases of arthritis, injury, or other degenerative joint conditions.

A Holistic Approach to Healthy Joints

While the supplements we've discussed above are indeed extremely effective and can help you manage the pain and inflammation of painful joint conditions, prevent joint deterioration, and even help regenerate cartilage, they are but only one part of the joint health puzzle.

Other important aspects to consider include:

Exercise

We all know the benefits of an active lifestyle and this applies even to those living with arthritis. In fact, research has conclusively shown that regular physical exercise combined with an overall healthy lifestyle, promotes optimal physical and mental health across the lifespan and helps prevent joint pain and stiffness as we age.

Diet

Nutrition plays a central role in the health of the musculoskeletal system throughout life. Eating a diet that is low in sugar and high in collagen, glucosamine, and chondroitin-rich bone broth, lots of fruits and vegetables and healthy fats will provide your musculoskeletal system with all of the nutrients your tissues need to be resilient and strong.

Sleep

Many people blame their sleep issues on joint pain and discomfort. But research has found that the relationship works both ways. Poor sleep, unsurprisingly, makes joint pain worse, but conversely, poor sleep also increases pain and inflammation, as well as increases the likelihood of mood disorders. Developing good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding caffeine and electronic devices and adhering to a strict bedtime schedule can all help improve sleep quality and joint health.

Stress Management

The more stress you're under, the more destructive inflammation and the symptoms of arthritis and other joint conditions can become. In fact, an overload of stress can cause you to tense up muscles, which further aggravates joint pain. Mindfulness practices such as meditation, mindful eating, diaphragmatic breathing, yoga, and many others can go a long way to building your body's ability to handle all kinds of stressors and living a pain-free, active lifestyle for years to come!

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your practitioner prior to taking herbs or nutritional supplements.