For me, cartilage is like air. When it’s good, I don’t even think about it; but when it’s missing or bad, my world is suddenly much smaller.
Cartilage, the cushioning between our joints and the rubbery tissue in places like our noses and ears, is rarely a hot topic, even in the health and fitness bubble. This makes it harder to find good information about how to treat worn or damaged cartilage, especially if you want to heal, avoid further degradation and eventual surgery.
Mark Sisson of MarksDailyApple.com came up with 13 ways to pamper your cartilage, whatever condition it’s in. Here are my 5 favorites from his list:
Cartilage is made of water, collagen, and proteoglycans, a protein-polysaccharide bond that provides elasticity. Right there we see one avenue for altering cartilage health—hydration.
1. Stay hydrated. [..Once] you have cartilage damage, hydration is even more important because damaged cartilage is harder to hydrate. In one study, researchers dehydrated and then rehydrated damaged pig cartilage and intact pig cartilage, finding that the damaged cartilage absorbed far less water than the intact cartilage.
2. Eat extra collagen/gelatin. …The reason why drinking broth and eating collagen makes so many people feel better is that we are providing a fundamental nutrient: glycine. See, our bodies need about 10 grams of glycine each day to maintain basic metabolic functions. We only make 3 grams, so 7 grams must come from the diet. A major function of glycine is to maintain and repair cartilage. If you’re training hard or trying to recover from existing damage, your glycine needs skyrocket.
One study found that supplementary collagen improves joint pain in athletes who complain about their knees. And more recently, a study found that giving dietary collagen alongside Tylenol to patients with osteoarthritis improved joint pain and function over Tylenol alone.
My favorite ways to get collagen include bone broth, adding gelatin to pan sauces, and eating Primal collagen bars.
3. Go barefoot. It starts with the foot’s connection to the ground. If you’ve got a big thick slab of rubber blocking the millions of nerves in your feet from sensing the ground, everything up the kinetic chain suffers.
Do so gradually, though. Going barefoot after a lifetime in protective shoes can be a shock. You don’t want to get injured; being sedentary is terrible for cartilage (and everything else).
4. Eat omega-3s and limit excess omega-6s. Eat wild-caught and fatty fish, like wild salmon or sardines. The omega-3s have been shown to improve arthritis symptoms and even slow degradation of cartilage, and in rats, a balanced omega-3/omega-6 intake inhibits expression of MMP13, a gene involved in the progression of cartilage degeneration.
Don’t worry about nuts or avocados or other whole foods containing omega-6s. Don’t go crazy on them, either. Focus on avoiding high-PUFA seed oils, the densest sources of omega-6 in our diets.
5. Get a slackline. Read my post from a couple years back on slacklining. I still have the same one set up in my backyard, and I still take frequent breaks to hop on and balance and walk.
Slacklining forces your body to make micro corrections constantly. That’s why a first timer putting foot to slack line will wobble uncontrollably and feel like they don’t know their own body: they’re placing enormous demands on a neuromuscular system that’s never encountered so unstable and dynamic an environment. It takes a while to get their bearings. And all the while, the knees, hips, and ankles are facing very unique loading patterns.
Plus—and this isn’t “scientific” or cited, just personal instinct—anything that puts a smile on your face while it forces a training adaptation will be more effective than one that makes you grimace. Teach your cartilage that work is fun.
Ok, so slacklining looks like tons of fun and a great way to boost balance, focus and stability!
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