When the cold weather sets in, many of us experience flare ups of discomfort in our joints. Old injuries can rear their heads as the temperature drops, causing us to reach for the anti-inflammatories. But could something else be behind those aches and pains?
If you experience joint pain but are struggling to put your finger on the cause, it could be worth considering whether something in your diet could be the trigger.
What is joint pain?
It’s estimated that around 9 million people in the UK suffer from arthritis and other conditions related to joint pain.
Pain in the joints can feel like a persistent, dull ache. It can flare up in a particular area, such as the ankles or wrists, 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 being still for a while, and you may notice a reduction in your flexibility. The pain might not be constant, instead coming and going with varying degrees of severity.
What causes pain in the joints?
For some, the swelling and stiffness of joint pain is caused by a specific injury, such as a fracture, which causes damage to the joint. This results in a type of osteoarthritis called post-traumatic arthritis.
For others, joint pain can be caused by inflammation in the body, which, in some cases, can be triggered by a food intolerance.
Joint pain can also be felt as the result of repeated stresses such as lifting, typing, or performing other types of repetitive activity.
Why is joint pain worse in winter?
Studies on the impact of weather on joint pain have revealed mixed results, but various theories exist as to why some of us feel more discomfort when the temperate dips.
One suggestion is that barometric pressure – a measurement of the weight of the air – drops when cold weather moves in. This fall in pressure can lead to swelling of the tendons, joints and scar tissues which can lead to pain. It’s also thought that the fluid in the joints, known as synovial fluid, thickens at lower temperatures, making the joints feel stiffer.
When the weather is cold, some of your blood is diverted from your limbs to vital organs, like the heart and lungs, to keep them warm. But this takes warmth away from your joints which can cause aches and pains.
Tips for taking care of winter joint pain
- Make sure you wrap up warm with plenty of layers when you go outside.
- Use moist heat to boost circulation and loosen muscles. A warm bath can help soothe the pain
- Don’t stop moving. Although the idea of exercise can be off-putting in the colder months, it is extremely important for flexibility and strength, helping reduce the stress on the joint. Try swimming in a heated pool or yoga for warmer options!
- Get enough sleep to give your body the best chance to rest and repair.
- Make sure you’re getting a balanced and nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight to avoid putting extra pressure on your joints.
- Avoid foods in your diet which may cause inflammation.
How can diet play a part in the pain?
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.
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.
Although there are foods, such as dairy and gluten, which are often thought to be the cause of food intolerances, 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.
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
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.