Frequently, when exercise and diet are discussed in our consultation, patients assume that the topic is related to weight control/management, but that is not entirely true. Whilst joint health is affected by your weight and balanced nutrition, so are other relevant elements of your health. We will consider your nutritional history, and current eating and drinking habits in relation to your risks, and your presenting condition.
By choosing a balanced, varied diet, you assist your ability to efficiently absorb and use essential nutrients and reduce your risk of creating conditions and diseases of your connective tissues, bones and joints. Such conditions include loss of bone mass, muscle weakness and nervous-system inefficiency which affects how your muscles work. Making the right decisions regarding your food and drink intake now will make a difference to your physical resilience and mobility as you get older.
Despite the high level of education regarding good nutrition, the number of people who suffer from bone and muscle problems has increased significantly over the last ten years. These conditions include osteoarthritis in the back, weakening of the bones (osteopenia), and even more serious loss of bone density and mass leading to bone fragility (osteoporosis), and bone softening (osteomalacia).
These conditions are mostly asymptomatic. People don’t know they have them prior to checking or until it’s too late and it shows through the fracture. In some cases may they have associated muscle pain due to the other conditions that contributed to them having the bone disease. This is why your osteopath will go through a thorough history of you and choose not to do certain types of techniques during your treatments prior to you having medical tests that she recommends.
It is easier for your body to absorb essential nutrients from a variety of sources, from many different fresh foods. In Noosa and Noosaville we are spoiled for choice from an impressive variety of grocers who provide a great choice of fresh produce, from tropical fruits to your everyday spud, seeds, nuts, and meats. Noosa and the Sunshine Coast region has so much to offer food-wise, that you can avoid the nutritional downfall caused by only eating the same foods every week.
Don’t get into eating ruts.
Lots of variety from week to week is key to meeting your nutritional needs. This list is not exhaustive but gives an overview to highlight why your osteopath is interested in what you eat. It gives a very brief description of how these elements of nutrition relate to the health that osteopaths consider when taking your history.
Calcium – for bones, muscle function and nerve function.
The recommended daily intake of calcium differs between ages and genders, and in pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, and when using certain medications. In general, you should have several servings of calcium-containing foods per day. If we at G.L.O.W. recognise you being at risk of low calcium we will recommend a Dietician or G.P. for co-management of your issues.
- Our bodies can’t make calcium – we need to consume it either from food or supplements. Ask your GP about the appropriate use of supplements if you have kidney disease, kidney stones now or previously, heart disease, cancer, circulation problems or thyroid gland disorder, or high levels of calcium in your blood, pregnant, or breastfeeding.
- We need Vitamin D to both to absorb calcium from our stomach (about 10% of our Vit D comes from food).
- We need calcium and Vitamin D for the ongoing process of bone growth.
- Certain common drink products are detrimental to your absorption of calcium.
- We need calcium to stimulate nerve impulses for skeletal muscle contraction.
- We need calcium for non-skeletal muscle contraction (smooth muscle in the organs).
- Calcium is often obtained from certain types of dairy products – even by those who don’t tolerate cow’s milk.
- Calcium is found in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and fortified foods such as some cereals, tofu, and in some juices and different nut milks.
- Calcium can be obtained from soft-boned fish such as tinned sardines.
- Some studies have shown that caffeine intake can interfere with calcium absorption.
- Without yet knowing why or how, experts have seen a link between increased risk of bone breakage (via brittle bones/osteoporosis) and drinking carbonated drinks.
Protein – for energy, strong bones and muscles, and a healthy brain.
We need protein to develop and maintain optimal bone and muscle mass, particularly as we age. Proteins provide the building blocks of elements in the body that: support our immune functions (in combination with sunlight exposure daily) resist cellular damage from external influences such as chemicals in our environment, pollution, drugs (including alcohol). Protein has benefits for brain health, and act like power-plants (mitochondria). Protein deficiency weakens muscles, which increases the risk of falls and fractures.
Some foods have protein that is more easily usable for our tissue repair and growth. Eggs and dairy contain good sources of protein. Whole-plant sources of protein include beans, legumes, pulses, nuts, seeds, and dark-green leafy vegetables. If you wish to eat clean, be vegetarian or vegan, we suggest that you see a qualified dietician who’ll respect you and ensure that your nutritional needs are addressed.
Fruits and vegetables.
We have the most wonderful access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in the Noosa, and Sunshine Coast region. Take advantage of the cornucopia of inexpensive choice of fresh produce here, whether at Farmers’ Markets, Eumundi Market or your local supermarket, or your own little piece of paradise.
By eating a range of different brightly coloured fruits and vegetables and herbs and spices throughout the week you’ll get:
- a wide array of vitamins, minerals, insoluble and soluble fibre, and the substances that fight off environmental and internal ‘attacks’ on your health (aka antioxidants)
- a source of alkaline minerals which help your body balance the acid load on your kidneys and bones, from our essential protein foods
- increased bone density into older age
B Vitamins – bone strength, cardiovascular health and cognitive health.
B12 and B6 play a part in keeping parts of our metabolism in balance:
- to prevent lower bone density – playing a protective role in preventing osteoporosis, potentially reducing fracture risk (particularly hip fracture in the elderly)
- to keep our proteins in balance for heart health as well as to
- keep our brains healthy for clear thinking
- prevents a certain type of anaemia that makes people tired and weak
- keeps nerve cells healthy so they can transmit information efficiently, so you can move well
- keeps blood cells healthy
Good fats are needed for many reasons, including transporting the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Vitamins D and K
- Vitamin D3 is needed to absorb calcium and phosphorus for strong bones (see elsewhere in this site under “sun exposure” for other benefits)
- Vitamin D is not very bioavailable from food sources and is best made in the skin as a result of exposure to sunlight.
- Some people require Vitamin D supplements. Not all supplements are equal, due to source and manufacturing processes.
- Some people are at risk if using Vitamin D supplements without medical assessment
- Vitamin K is required for the correct mineralisation of bone.
- Vitamin K sources include celery, spinach and other leafy green vegetables, cabbage, soya bean products and some fermented cheeses.
- People who take blood thinners/anticoagulants, such as warfarin, should consult with their GP before considering Vitamin K supplements.
- may be needed for bone health
- carotenes (precursors of Vitamin A) are available from leafy green vegetables such as kale and in coloured fruits like capsicums
- more bioavailable Vitamin A can be gained from offal, fish liver oils, dairy, egg yolks
- magnesium plays a key role in forming bone
- some individuals may be at mild risk of magnesium deficiency
- magnesium absorption decreases with age
- magnesium deficiency contributes to osteoporosis –
- directly by acting on crystal formation and on bone cells, affecting bone rigidity
- indirectly by impacting on the secretion and the activity of a hormone which controls the level of calcium in the blood and by stimulating low-grade inflammation.
- sometimes it is beneficial to supplement magnesium in the diet, unless you vigilantly eat lots of green leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds, whole grains and/or fish, to optimise bone health and integrity as we age
- not all supplements are equally well absorbed so seek professional advice before deciding which ones to buy
- is a mineral we need for bone tissue renewal and mineralisation in the calcium complex that builds our bone mass.
- Zinc is useful in the immune system
- can be deficient due to low protein diets
- Zinc can be obtained in whole grain cereals, pulses, poultry and red meat