You may find that your joints are hurting a little more as you reach menopause. Dietitian - Nutritionist, Maryann Gallucci, with tips that can change your life.
By Maryann Gallucci
Estrogen helps to keep our cartilage – the connective tissue in joints – healthy. It also helps with the natural replacement of bone in our body. This means it plays a vital role in helping to prevent osteoporosis and arthritis - joint inflammation and pain.
When levels of estrogen naturally fall during menopause, this joint protection can sometimes weaken, causing joint aches and stiffness. This joint pain and swelling most often affects the small joints of the hands and feet. However, other joints such as the knees, elbows, shoulder, and neck, can also be affected, causing stiffness, pain and reduced movement.
"Experts estimate that for every 1 pound you weigh, your knees feel the force of 3 pounds of pressure when you take a step. — If weight loss is needed, just a 10-pound loss will result in 30 pounds less pressure per knee, per step.", Gallucci, Dietitian- Nutritionist
Unfortunately, cartilage breakdown is part of the body’s natural degenerative process. Since cartilage does not have a blood supply, it has limited ability to repair itself. Steps like maintaining a healthy weight, practicing stretching, flexibility, weight bearing and strength-training exercises, may help to reduce the rate at which cartilage breaks down.
Experts estimate that for every 1 pound you weigh, your knees feel the force of 3 pounds of pressure when you take a step. — If weight loss is needed, just a 10-pound loss will result in 30 pounds less pressure per knee, per step.
Along with daily physical activity, we can also help our bones and joints with the foods we choose. Many studies show that certain foods, herbs, and spices may help to relieve stiffness, inflammation and pain in your joints.
Specifically, what foods help with joint pain? Research indicates the following foods can reduce pain:
Cold-water fish are high in omega3-fatty acids (polyunsaturated fatty acids) that prevent or reduce inflammation – mackerel, salmon, tuna, herring, oysters, sardines.
Leafy green vegetables for joint pain can block an enzyme that is known to cause joint swelling and contain calcium and a variety of vitamins and other compounds that strengthen bones –
kale, mustard greens, purple cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, arugula.
Richly colored fruits have phytonutrients, like anthocyanins and lycopene, which limit the inflammatory response, and citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C that prevents inflammation – blueberries,
blackberries, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, oranges, limes, pineapple, and grapefruits.
Healthy Fats such as avocados and olive oil. Studies have found that olive oil has numerous anti-inflammatory compounds. Among these compounds is one called oleocanthal that has strikingly
similar effects to ibuprofen.
Beans have phytonutrients anthocyanins, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties – soybeans, chickpeas, black beans, lentils, pinto beans, kidney beans.
Whole grains are high-fiber and contribute to the production of fatty acids, which work to limit inflammation – whole wheat, barley, rye, whole oats, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa.
Bone broth – limited research suggest that collagen derived from chicken cartilage may be effective at improving pain, stiffness, and joint function in people with osteoarthritis.
Dairy has calcium and vitamin D to increase bone building – low fat milk, cheese, yogurt. Nut milks, oat milk, or soy milk are good Non-Dairy choices for calcium and vitamin D.
Probiotics allow your gut to preserve a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria, a balance that can be disrupted by poor nutrition or the stress that comes with menopause. Eating probiotic
yogurt is the best way to get beneficial bacteria into your body. The balance probiotics can act to reduce inflammation and restore optimum health, providing joint pain relief.
Nuts contain vitamin E, linolenic acid for immune strengthening, and other nutrients – almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pine nuts are great snacks or salad toppers.
Herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, clove, garlic, and cayenne may also reduce inflammation. This is just one of many health benefits you can derive from flavoring your foods with these ingredients. Try tossing roasted vegetables with turmeric, cumin, and a pinch of cayenne. It makes for a delicious side dish. You can even sneak herbs and spices into your beverages.
Turmeric or Ginger tea.
"Just as there are foods to help prevent joint pain, there are foods to avoid. These foods are all pro-inflammatory that can lead to increased joint pain and other arthritis symptoms." Gallucci, Dietitian- Nutritionist
Drink more water- it is often a good idea anyway, but if your joint pain is being exacerbated by dehydration, drinking more water can help. If you are not a big fan of plain water, try adding a slice
of lemon or cucumber, or tossing a few raspberries for a little added flavor.
Green Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world and its beneficial effects on health is the subject of much research. A 2008 study in Maryland showed that green tea
induced changes in arthritis related immune responses.
Just as there are foods to help prevent or reduce inflammation and reduce joint pain, there are foods to avoid. These foods are all pro-inflammatory foods that can lead to increased joint pain and other arthritis symptoms. The foods that may contribute to joint pain and stiffness include:
· Fried foods
· Processed foods and fast foods
· Refined carbohydrates and sugar (white bread, white pasta, white rice, all sugars and sweetened foods and beverages)
· Salt- excess salt can irritate joints and lead to swelling.
· Oils high in saturated fats or omega 6 fatty acids, like corn and safflower oil
· The nightshade family. Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. For some, these foods create an inflammatory response in the body.
Suffering from joint pain can be worrying and frustrating, but it is a common symptom of menopause. By choosing to increase the amount of Anti-inflammatory foods and decrease the pro-inflammatory foods in your diet, you may help reduce the pain in your joints and gain a measure of relief so you can focus on living your life to the fullest.
About Dietitian Nutritionist, Maryann Gallucci MS, RDN, CDN, ACSM-EP-C, ACE-Health Coach. ✔️ Works in Private Practice providing nutrition counseling and fitness training. ✔️ Awarded “2021 Long Island Dietitian of the Year” by the Long Island Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. ✔️ Adjunct Lecturer in the Family, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences Department at Queens College. ✔️ Serves as the Nutrition Services and Payment Specialist Co-chair for the Long Island
✔️ Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. ✔️A member of multiple Dietetic Practice Groups.