A joint is a kind of ‘hyphen’ between two neighbouring bones. Put simply, it consists of ligaments, connecting bony structures, and cartilage, soft tissue lining the ends of bones to protect them against friction. In the body’s most-used joints, cartilage is lubricated by a viscous liquid called synovial fluid.
When they function properly, joints ensure suppleness and fluidity of movement. This is normally a well-oiled machine, but it can malfunction, manifesting in joint discomfort.
Less commonly related to inflammation or infection, such discomfort can sometimes occur after an injury or overly strenuous exercise. But when the problem becomes established, it can cause a significant level of discomfort that interferes with daily activities (walking, or even chewing).
As the ageing process produces changes to the cartilage cushioning the joints we use the most (such as the knees, hips and ankles), advancing age is unsurprisingly a key predisposing factor (1). Other factors, such as excess weight or regular high-level physical activity, can also increase the pressure on certain joints (2-3).
The good news is that by adopting the following simple steps, you can give your joints some serious TLC:
Does nature offer any solutions to our joint problems? To the best of our knowledge, bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris), a plant with woody stems growing to 10 metres or more, remains the best natural substance for supporting the joints. Used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, this evergreen grass is good for both joint and bone health.
It is therefore included in various joint-specific synergistic supplements (such as Joint Support Formula, also rich in marine-origin chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine sulphate) (5).
Known as ‘Salai Guggul’ in Ayurvedic medicine, boswellia (Boswellia serrata) is a tree native to Africa and the Middle East. It grows primarily in tropical Africa and the southern Arabian peninsula.
When the trunk is tapped, the bark produces an oleo gum resin known as incense or olibanum, which used to be consumed at funeral ceremonies to purify the soul. Its benefits for joint health were quickly identified and documented, particularly in Ayurvedic texts.
Containing high concentrations of two boswellic acids (KBA et AKBA), Boswellia serrata resin is recognised for supporting joint health (6). This excellent natural resource therefore features as a key ingredient in certain dietary supplements (such as Super Boswellia, a state-of-the-art Boswellia serrata supplement). You can also complement oral supplementation by applying a boswellia-based cream to a painful joint (such as Smart Joints, also rich in eucalyptus).
Naturally present in skin, hyaluronic acid has primarily been in the spotlight as a result of its use in cosmetic procedures. But it’s not just for filling in wrinkles! This molecule is what gives synovial fluid its viscosity and it is therefore popular with those looking to improve the condition and comfort of their joints (7).
To obtain its benefits, you can take a hyaluronic acid supplement (such as the product Hyaluronic Acid, a unique formulation containing high-molecular weight molecules). Or you could even opt for a special ‘joint combo’ (such as the supplement Flexi Smart, which combines hyaluronic acid and boswellia as well as avocado and soybean unsaponifiables).
Connective tissue is present in blood vessels, organs and bones, and plays a key role in supporting and protecting other tissues in the body. Articular and periarticular structures are no exception: they are composed of fibrous connective tissue which is particularly rich in collagen.
Unfortunately, collagen production tends to decline with age, leading to deterioration of the skin and joints. As a result, some people choose to take a marine-source collagen supplement (such as Marine Collagen, containing patented collagen obtained from high quality raw materials) (8).
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