Over the past four years I’ve indulged my passion for cycling without causing too much undue stress on my joints although since the end of July 2016 I’ve been unable to do any long rides because of problems with my knees! As far back as my mid-thirties I’ve suffered with joint pain and I always thought that it was somehow mechanical in nature and due to overuse. On my Dad’s side there’s a history of arthritis so for a long time I’ve simply accepted my ‘fate’ as a combination of genetics and overuse. But, I asked myself, what if there is more to it than this and the joint pain is actually a reflection of something more acute, and that whatever it is can be treated by simple dietary and lifestyle changes?
More than anything I want to get back to the enjoyment of my long bike rides so as a consequence I’ve been hard at work researching as much as I possibly can about the possible causes of joint pain and inflammation. As a result of what I’ve learnt I’ve made changes that have reduced my joint pain to the point where I am now back to doing long rides. I’ve not managed to rid myself of the joint pain completely, however, I’ve managed to significantly reduce it. I’ve enjoyed other benefits too and gained a greater understanding of my own personal well being. I thought it would be useful to share with you what I’ve learnt in the hope there may be ideas or clues to helping you deal with your own niggling aches and pains.
Inflammation can manifest itself in many different ways, some obvious like eczema, skin irritation, IBS, sneezing, muscle and joint pain, etc and some less obvious like fatigue, poor mood, irritability, poor sleep, bloating, etc, etc. I have found that both a short and long term response has worked best for me. Here are some things worth exploring including links to some great videos that provide more scientific evidence in support of a given approach.
- Get into a regular sleep pattern and try to get at least 8 hours every night – this will be your biggest weapon in fighting inflammation. It’s during sleep when your body is optimised for ‘repair and maintenance’. Sleep and TRF
- Eliminate foods that your body has a negative response to. How do you do this? Well, it’s a process of trial and error but a good approach is to initially eliminate common allergens such as dairy, nuts & seeds, gluten, nightshade vegetables, starchy carbs such as potatoes, pasta and rice, etc and then reintroduce each food category one at a time and assess the response. When you reintroduce foods, lets say after two weeks of abstinence your body will be far more sensitive to them and if there is an intolerance of any kind you’ll get a clear signal. In my case I found I had a strong reaction to oats, grains, potatoes, nuts and seeds which invariably caused severe itching, indigestion, irritability and mood swings. Since I cut them out I have noticed a big reduction in my joint pain.Paleo Autoimmune Protocol
- Ketones mediate the production of antioxidants to fight inflammation so raise them by removing starchy carbs and sugars from the diet. Check this video out for more information. Keto-adaptation by Jeff Volek
- 70% of the immune response originates from the gut so a healthy gut = a stronger functioning immune response. To feed your gut biome eat a large variety of fibre-rich foods and add fermented foods and probiotics to broaden and strengthen the mix of your gut biota.The Gut Microbiome
- Reduce the stress on your metabolism by eating less often (no snacking), by eating less carbs (produce less insulin), and by restricting your eating window to 12 hours or less per day. Check this video out for more information Time-restricted feeding
- Consume bone broths to restore ideal electrolyte balance and to help build strength in muscle, bones, connective tissues and myelin sheaths (insulate neurons)
- Review your total exercise – focus on lowering your volume and increasing the quality and intensity. If you’re having a hard time at work or at home, lay off the high intensity exercise – in so doing you’ll be helping your body by reducing total overall stress.
- Get into a daily routine of stretching especially the hamstrings, lower back, shoulders and hip flexors.
- Take a daily vitamin D/K2 supplement to build musculoskeletal strength – don’t forget we don’t get any skin-synthesised vitamin D in this country between October and April! There aren’t many rich natural sources of vitamin D so take a supplement.
- Relax! Listen to music, meditate, do yoga, read a book, do more of what makes you slow down and relax.
- Take Omega 3 supplements – a higher omega 3: omega 6 ratio will address both acute and chronic inflammation. Reduce your intake of omega 6 fats which are commonly found in vegetable oils. Replace these with butter, avocado oil, lard, ghee, duck fat, olive oil.
- Start including weight resistance as a part of your exercise programme and build muscle and connective tissue to build overall strength, reduce pressure on the spine, and process insulin/glycogen more quickly.
- Every two to three months use a 5-Day Fasting Mimicking Diet (reduced calories day 1: 50% kcals, days 2-5: 30% kcals). The fast will clear out damaged cells and the re-feed will stimulate new growth and repair damage.Check out this great video for more insight. The Fasting Mimicking Diet
- Finally, undertake your own research and self-experimentation into the possible causes and solutions of symptoms you may suffer from. Don’t simply rely on the advice of ‘professionals’. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn.
My path to better health continues. At the end of February I will have been following my ketogenic diet for a year. My health has definitely improved in that time, however, there is still a lot I don’t understand. I’ve seen other people adopt the diet too with fantastic results. What I and they have learnt is that we are all unique and we respond to diet and lifestyle in different ways. Finding out what works best for you is a fascinating and rewarding journey and if you need any support or guidance please check out my blog or get in contact, I’d be more than happy to help.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy and rewarding 2017!