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Five Ways to Naturally Maintain Strong Bones and Joints

Article at-a-glance:

  • Naturally supporting bone and joint health can be achieved through diet, exercise, hydrotherapy and nutrients.
  • Exercise improves physical and mental health, but it must be the right exercise so it doesn’t create more damage.
  • Dietary supplements, MK4 and Collagen have been widely studied for their remarkable protective effect on bones.
  • Proteolytic enzymes such as bromelain, or a blend of enzymes promote healthy inflammation balance, joint health, movement and physical function. 
Caution Sign
by Dr. John Neustadt

People often think of the skeleton as something that’s fixed and unchanging, like a steel beam in a building. But your skeleton is a living, dynamic tissue. Through the process of bone remodeling, old and worn-out bone breaks down and new, healthy bone is created. This constant cycle is required for healthy bone. The entire adult skeleton replaces itself every decade.1,2

It’s also important to realize that bone is not just a scaffold but a living connective tissue that plays an important role in nourishing our immune system.3 In addiitin to producing collagen, your bone marrow produces platelets and red and white blood cells. Keeping your bones and joints healthy is important for maintaining health throughout your body.

Exercise

Bones and joints need movement and stimulation. Helpful activities for promoting healthy bones and joints include aerobic exercise, strength and flexibility exercises, core or balance training programs, as well as yoga, Pilates, and tai chi.4 Fortunately, there are many exercises you can do at home while working them into your daily routines. For example, the Stork Exercise is a simple one you can do while brushing your teeth to improve balance and reduce the risk of falls and injury. 

The exercise chosen must be appropriate for your particular goals. If you’re looking to support knee health, non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming or riding a bicycle, rather than lifting weights or pounding the pavement as a jogger, are most appropriate. It’s important to find the right type and amount of physical activity that’s both safe and effective.5 

Exercising in a heated pool where water helps provide gentle buoyancy can be effective for helping knees. In a randomized, controlled study of 73 women aged 64 and older exercising in a heated pool twice a week for six weeks helped increase flexibility and strength. Not only was overall joint health and physical funtion significantly improved, knee flexibility and strength were specficially better.  Exercises included stretching and walking in water, exercises with floats, breathing exercises, and finally relaxation exercises using circular floats.6 

Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is an ancient approach that uses water to improve health. Most people are already familiar with some applications of this approach. Exercising in water, which I described above, is a form of hydrotherapy. Immersing an ankle in ice water immediately after a sprain is a form of hydrotherapy. 

There is one form of hydrotherapy, however, that most people don’t seem to know about, and that’s contrast hydrotherapy. This approach can be done at home and has been used to increase circulation to a specific area of the body, flush out toxins, and increase oxygen delivery. Contrast hydrotherapy involves the alternating application or hot water to the affected area for three minutes, followed by thirty seconds of ice-cold water. This approach also acts as a local analgesic and can reduce pain for several hours. 

According to a review on the topic published in the Journal of Lymphoedema, “In Europe in particular, it is a respected approach for promoting cardiovascular health, with Japanese studies also showing it’s helpful.”7 In a 2019 clinical trial published in the International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences, volunteers with were randomized to receive contrast hydrotherapy or placebo.8 Receiving twice-daily contrast hydrotherapy for seven days significantly promoted joint health, movement and physical function compared to the control group. 

This approach, however, isn’t for everyone. People with peripheral vascular disease and decreased blood flow, limb paralysis, and restricted movement should discuss this approach with their healthcare provider and ensure it is appropriate prior to doing it. 

MK4

One of the most remarkable nutrients for bone strength and health is a form of vitamin K called MK4. Instead of being a single vitamin, Vitamin K is a category that of structurally similar vitamins, and MK4 is a naturally occurring form of vitamin K2 that has been shown to promote fracture healing and grow stronger bones. 

People typically know about vitamin K for its ability to support healthy blood clotting. Less well known, however, is the vast amount of research showing that the MK4 form of vitamin K also promotes healthy platelet and blood production,9,10 maintains bone strength,11-13   promotes healthy inflammation balacne,14,15 is associated with producing healthy nerves in the brain,16,17 and promotes connective tissue (collagen) production.18 

The ability of vitamin K to promote strong bones has been known since 1960.19 In animal experiments, MK4 has been shown to reduce bone breakdown and stimulate new bone formation.20,21 MK4’s health benefits have been studied in 28 human clinical trials with more than 7,000 people. It has been shown to support healthy bone laboratory markers and bone density and help reduce the risk of fractures. 

For example, in one 24-month, randomized, controlled, open-label study of 241 women (average age of 67) MK4 significantly reduced new fractures. About half the women simply took 150 mg of calcium daily, while the other half received 150 mg of calcium daily plus 45 mg per day of MK4. Over the two-year period, the number of new fractures in the MK4 group was significantly lower than in those volunteers who only received calcium. There were only 13 fractures (10.9%) in the women who supplemented with 45 mg/day of MK4 compared to 30 new fractures (30.3%) in the women who did not take the MK4.22 

A second study evaluated the ability of MK4 to promote healthy bones in sixty volunteers (21 men and 39 women). They took MK4 (45 mg/day) for 18 months. The MK4 group maintained bone density while those not taking MK4 saw their bone density decrease.23

In 2006 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a systematic review of clinical trials was published that evaluated whether MK4 improves fracture risk in people with osteoporosis. Their analysis of data from seven clinical trials determined that MK4 (45 mg/day) reduced fractures more than 70%.24

In the US, MK4 has not been approved by the FDA as a medication to treat, cure, or prevent disease, but is instead in Osteo-K and Osteo-K Minis to naturally support healthy, strong bones. 

Collagen

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body, and a critical building block for the matrix of molecules that support cells, connective tissue, organs, and bones. It’s found in our skin, hair, and nails as well. Collagen comprises 90% of the organic matrix of bone.25 Healthy bones are made of a matrix of collagen that is hardened by calcium phosphate.

Collagen has also been shown to promote bone and joint health. Research shows that supplementing with 10 grams daily collagen hydrolysate promoted knee mobility and physical function. According to a review of several studies, collagen was significantly superior to a control powder in promoting joint healthy.26

One particular study mentioned in the review article found a statistically significant advantage of collagen peptides over placebo for knee health. The study was a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that followed 389 patients in 20 different centers for six months.

A study in China of 100 women between the age of 40 and 70, found a highly significant benefit for knee health after 6 months of taking collagen peptides, compared to placebo.27

A recent study published in 2015 provided 10 grams of bovine collagen daily for 13 weeks to 30 men and women.28 The study was a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The age range of the study volunteers was 30-65 years old. People taking the collagen experienced significant improvement of more than 60% in knee mobility, physical function and quality of life.

Bromelain

Promoting healthy inflammation balance by breaking down inflammatory proteins is an important approach for musculoskeletal health. Numerous herbs and enzymes can help promote healthy inflammation balance and maintain joint health, movement and physical function. 

One example is bromelain. Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes and molecules derived from the stem and fruit of the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus). Bromelain has a long history of use by herbalists for joint health and is absorbed from the gut without losing its potency or activity.29 

One study of forty volunteers found that bromelain significantly improved knee function and supported healthy levels of blood markers associated with inflammation.30 And a review of ten separate studies on bromelain—from case reports to randomized trials—found that bromelain supports joint health, movement and physical function.31 To promote joint health, bromelain is available in Joint Relief, along with other synergistic nutrients.

References
Lian JB, Gravallese EM, Stein GS. Elsevier; 2011:101-40.

2 Caetano-Lopes J, Canhão H, Fonseca JE. 2007;32(2):103-10.

Geneen LJ, Moore RA, ClarkeC, et al. 2017, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD011279.

Booth J, Moseley GL, Schiltenwolf M et al. 2017;15(4):413-421.

Dias JM, Cisneros L, Dias R, et al. 2017;21(6):449-456.

Baker PW. 2011;6:72-80.

Thenmozhi P, Nisha P, Prema J, et. al. 2019;10(4):3217-3222.

Takami A, Asakura H, Nakao S. 2002;81(1):16-19.

Akiyama N, Miyazawa K, Kanda Y, et al. 2010;34(9):1151-1157.

10 Kodama Y. 2017;39(10):846 – 850.

11 Je SH, Joo N-S, Choi B-h, et al. 2011;26(8):1093-1098.

12 Shikano K, Kaneko K, Kawazoe M, et. al. 2016;55(15):1997-2003.

13 Jiang Y, Zhang ZL, Zhang ZL, et al. 2014;9:121-127.

14 Ozaki I, Zhang H, Mizuta T, et al. 2007;13(7):2236-2245.

15 Ohsaki Y, Shirakawa H, Miura A, et al. 2010;21(11):1120-1126.

16 Carrié I, Portoukalian J, Vicaretti R, et. al. 2004;134(1):167-172.

17 Ferland G. 2012;3(2):204-212.

18 Shiraki M, Itabashi A. 2009;27(3):333-340.

19 Fusaro M, Noale M, Viola V, et al. 2012;27(11):2271-2278.

20 Weng SJ, Xie ZJ, Wu ZY, et al. 2019;63(2):376-384.

21 Iwamoto J, Seki A, Sato Y et al. 2010;86(3):234-241.

22 Shiraki M, Shiraki Y, Aoki C, Miura M. 2000;15(3):515-522.

23 Shikano K, Kaneko K, Kawazoe M et al. 2016;55(15):1997-2003.

24 Cockayne S, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, et. al. 2006;166(12):1256-1261.

25 Tzaphlidou M. 2008;34(1-2):39-49.

26 Moskowitz RW. 2000;30(2):87-99.

27 Jian JX, Yu S., Huang QR et al. 2014; 25(2):19-23.

28 Kumar S, Sugihara F, Suzuki K, et. al. 2015;95(4):702-707.

29 Castell JV, Friedrich G, Kuhn CS et al. 1997;273(1 Pt 1):G139-146.

30 Kasemsuk T, Saengpetch N, Sibmooh N et al.. 2016;35(10):2531-2540.

31 Brien S, Lewith G, Walker A et al. D. 2004;1(3):251-257.

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