Sore, aching, and stiff joints are something we commonly put down to ageing, or a natural response to exercise. We often excuse aches and pains without much thought, managing the symptoms with over-the-counter medication and assuming it’s something we just have to live with. But could the answer to your joint pain lie in your diet?
What is joint pain?
Pain in the joints can feel like a dull, persistent ache. It can occur in a particular area, like the wrists or ankles, or it can be felt throughout the body, in the hips, shoulders, knees and back.
You might feel stiff when you start to move after a period of rest, and you may notice that you don’t seem to be as flexible as you perhaps used to be. You might not feel joint pain constantly but instead might experience intermittent flare ups.
What causes joint pain?
It’s estimated that around 9 million people in the UK suffer from arthritis and other conditions related to joint pain.
For some, swelling and stiffness is caused by a specific injury, such as a fracture, which causes damage to the joint. This results in post-traumatic arthritis, a subtype of osteoarthritis.
For others, joint pain can be caused by inflammation in the body, which, in some cases, can be triggered by a food intolerance.
What is food intolerance?
Food intolerance is often confused with food allergy, but the two are very different. Allergies are usually present from birth and symptoms, which can be life threatening, tend to appear immediately after being exposed to a trigger food. Food intolerances however, although often uncomfortable, are not as severe and can take up to 72 hours to appear. This delayed reaction makes it particularly difficult to pinpoint the cause. Unlike allergies, you can develop a food intolerance at any stage of life.
Food intolerances can occur when your body’s immune system mistakes a food protein as a threat, releasing antibodies to fight it. This reaction can result in a range of inflammatory symptoms, such as IBS and bloating, headaches, brain fog, skin complaints like eczema or acne, or joint pain.
While allergies are quite rare, affecting around only 2% of the population, it’s estimated that around 45% of UK adults have a food intolerance. While for some, the symptoms are quite mild and manageable, for others, the impact their trigger foods have on their health can be debilitating.
Do any specific foods cause joint pain?
Although there are foods, such as dairy and gluten, which often get a bad rep generally, when it comes to food intolerance, there really are no hard and fast rules.
While experts generally agree that it’s a good idea to reduce your intake of sugar, alcohol, and processed foods to help manage inflammation that causes joint pain, it’s important to look at more tailored advice if you want to make informed choices about your diet.
An ingredient which causes problems for one person, may be completely fine for another. This is why it’s important not to base dietary decisions on what may have worked for someone else. You may end up avoiding foods which do not cause you problems and miss out on vital nutrients as a result.
Managing joint pain
Joint pain can be uncomfortable and, at times, debilitating. But there are a range of things you can do to help manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Regular exercise is important to keep your joints moving. A daily stretching routine or a little gentle yoga or Pilates incorporated into your day can help reduce stiffness.
Improve your posture
Most of us are guilty of bad posture. Craning our necks to look at devices, slouching at our desks and wearing ill-fitting footwear are just a few things that contribute to poor posture and, in turn, joint pain. Try to be aware of how you’re sitting and moving, set reminders to break those bad habits and check out helpful tutorials to help guide you into better posture.
Manage your weight
Carrying extra weight puts additional stress and strain on your joints. According to Kevin Fontaine, PhD, assistant professor of rheumatology at Johns Hopkins University, being just 10 pounds overweight increases the force on your knees by 30 to 40 pounds with every step you take.
You might find that certain targeted types of massage such as lymphatic drainage, a manual technique used to stimulate the flow of lymph through the body, could be beneficial in reducing swelling and stiffness.
If persistent joint pain is something you’ve lived with for a while, it’s a good idea to speak with your GP. They may recommend a course of medication to help manage the pain, or to treat an underlying cause.
If you haven’t been able to get to the cause of your joint pain, it might be time to take a closer look at your diet.
Take control of your diet
Getting to the bottom of a food intolerance can be frustrating. A common recommendation is the elimination diets, where you remove one food at a time for a few weeks to see how you feel. But this process can take a long time. And, although many of us react to several ingredients, the elimination diet is often abandoned when the first trigger food is found, leaving an incomplete picture of what’s causing the problem.
Get answers faster with Smartblood
When it comes to food intolerance testing, it’s important to do your research and choose a reputable laboratory testing company.
At Smartblood, we offer a comprehensive test to help you take control of your diet quickly and discover your own trigger foods.
Our home-to-laboratory service gives you fast, accurate results that pinpoint exactly which foods you are reacting to. Tests are completed in our accredited laboratory by trained experts, with clear, easy to understand results sent to you via email within three days.
Our tests are supported by a 30-minute telephone consultation with our BANT registered Nutritional Therapist to help you understand your results and make safe, sustainable changes to your diet.