The knee is one of the major weight bearing joints in our bodies. It is one of the largest and most complex joints that help you move and stay upright. It is made up of cartilage, ligaments, and tendons to help stabilize it, but as you get older those components start becoming weaker due to the constant wear and tear it endures throughout your lifespan and the lower elastin production in the aging body that makes your joints stiff and less flexible. There are plenty of diseases that affect the knee from trauma to infection and malignancy, and the most common disease affecting the knee in our time is osteoarthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease caused by the progressive loss of cartilage due to the continuous friction within the joint as the life expectancy increases due to better advancements in medical care. It has become more evident as it is mainly a disease of the elderly along with the striking rates of obesity lately it has been shown more frequently in younger generations because of the increased stress over the joint .there are plenty of types of arthritis from rheumatoid arthritis which is an autoimmune disease, septic arthritis which is due to an infection in the knee joint, psoriatic arthritis that affects people with psoriasis a skin disorder, gout from excessive uric acid in the blood, and of course osteoarthritis the most common type affecting roughly 13% of women and 10% of men over the age of 60 years old and over 40% prevalence in those older than 70 years of age .
Articular cartilage is made up mainly of collagen, proteoglycans, cells called chondrocytes and water. A healthy joint needs balance between those components to maintain its function, but in osteoarthritis there is an increase in the degradation enzymes (matrix metalloproteinases) that break down the collagen inside the cartilage and this loss of collagen and proteoglycans make the joint lose its elasticity ,becoming stiffer and causing more friction with more damage to the joint.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive treatment for osteoarthritis; most doctors recommend starting with conservative measures such as weight loss and physical therapy with pain relieving medications or intraarticular injections of corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid to reduce the inflammation. Some doctors recommend taking nutritional supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate which are structural components of cartilage, but they haven’t been proven to be of any efficacy, and finally as the inflammation gets worse, they start shifting from those conservative measures to the more intense surgical options as joint replacements, which is currently the gold standard for treatment of osteoarthritis.
As was mentioned earlier, the use of dietary supplements is commonly prescribed as an alternative medicine or natural medicine. These supplements alone account for nearly 20 billion dollars in the US sales annually as they are marketed heavily, most commonly used are chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine supplements which claim to reduce symptoms and slow disease progression, but there isn’t much research that shows how effective they actually are. As the evidence is inconsistent, it is better to go for safer treatment options like taking care of our diets and what we introduce into our bodies, which can have a great impact on our overall health.
A good diet for people with joint pain should be well balanced and provide nutrients that are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that help our bodies regenerate and heal itself from the constant stresses it handles every day. It should help you maintain a healthy weight to relieve some of the pressure on the joint as many of the people affected by arthritis might find it difficult to exercise regularly from the pain or may have deformities that limit their mobility, and that is where the diet plays a very important role in developing a better lipid profile and losing some of the stored fat along with the addition of good proteins that enhance your muscles strength and increase their bulk to support the joints better and with enough vitamins and minerals such as calcium. Calcium is required to keep the bone strong and the joints well lubricated and healthy for longer.
This is a list of foods that people with joint pain and inflammation should add to their daily meals in order to reduce the stiffness, swelling, and pain intensity:
1. Fatty fish
Omega 3 fatty acids or polyunsaturated fatty acids are a cornerstone of a good healthy diet. Not only are they excellent sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that make your joint pain better and prevent further progression of the joint degeneration, but they are also beneficial for all your body systems from the brain to the heart and blood vessels.
The American Heart Association recommends having fish at least 2 times per week. Thankfully, there is plenty of variety of fish types to choose from, the most commonly known ones are salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, and sardines. People can alternate between them to get the best benefits of those natural healthy fats throughout different meals.