The skeletal system is nourished by the blood and therefore is very much influenced by the foods we eat and digest.
Our nutrition and life style can determine:
The strength, density and composition of the skeletal tissue (bone, ligament, tendon, muscle, capsule, cartilage, and synovia)
The supply of blood to the tissue (e.g. smoking harms minute blood vessels which may cause ruptured disc)
Our weight and the pressure it inflicts on the skeletal system
Our body’s inflammation response (e.g. Solanaceae vegetable group may trigger rheumatoid arthritis)
Which foods can benefit or harm the skeletal system?
The harder tissues and solid part of the bones is nourished by hard and/or mineral dense foods such root vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat and seaweed.
The softer tissues and softer part of the bones is nourished by foods that combine both fats and minerals (calcium) such as meat, nuts, seeds and dairy.
Excess sugar, soft drinks, sweetened dairy and excess fruit consumption will make the tissues too soft, flaccid and deformed, or lead to infections of the skeletal tissues.
Excess animal food will make the tissues too hard and deformed.
Excess of both sugar and animal food will cause inflammation, swelling and deformation of the tissues.
What causes Joint pain?
For proper painless function, joints need good blood supply, lubrication, warmth and regular movement. When joint pain appears there is almost always some kind of underlying deficiency; of blood, lubrication, warmth or normal movement.
There are situations in life when deficiency is prominent, such as in old age, after surgery or after birth. A joint will be more vulnerable if it has been injured in the past. Over use of a joint will erode it and cause injury to the tissues and pain. External climates such as heat, cold, wind or dampness can invade joints and cause pain. The climate to invade the body mirrors what kind of deficiency prevails inside:
Wind invasion is a sign for blood deficiency, cold or damp invasion is a sign of Yang deficiency and heat invasion is a sign of Yin deficiency.
Treatment of joint pain should address the deficiency involved, improving blood composition and blood supply, eliminating offensive qualities from the joint (expelling cold, phlegm, cooling heat and inflammation, moving the blood in cases of blood stagnation etc.) and local external therapy of the joint.
Consider to avoid when skeletal pain is involved:
- Solanaceae vegetable group, especially in cases of blood deficiency, dryness of tissues, rigidity, stiffness, inflexibility.
- Oxalate rich foods – spinach, rhubarb, beets, purple cabbage, nuts, chocolate, cocoa, coffee, black pepper, lemon peel, orange peel, plums. Oxalates’ ability to accumulate in joint spaces, to harm connective tissues, and to trigger inflammation has implications for joint tissues. Inflammation due to oxalate accumulation may induce pain, cause tightness that doesn’t respond to stretching exercises, or lead to joint degeneration.
- Cruciferous vegetable group – cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, radish etc. These vegetables are harmful in conditions of excess coldness and dryness, but extremely beneficial for excess heat and phlegm stagnation.
- Simple sugars –can increase inflammation and weaken the blood.
- Low quality oils – can increase inflammation.
- NSAIDS – can harm the digestive mucus membrane and cause leaky gut syndrome, penetration of proteins directly into the blood stream and accumulation of these proteins in joints that may trigger inflammation or an autoimmune reaction.
- Milk and milk products – can aggravate conditions of cold and phlegm.
- Alcohol – can aggravate conditions of heat, inflammation or dryness.
- Excess animal source protein – especially red meat can aggravate inflammation, but is very beneficial for conditions of blood deficiency.
How to choose food items for treating skeletal disorders:
- Oats – for improving elasticity of connective tissue
- Rye – for strengthening joints and bones
- Quinoa – good source of calcium for treating osteopenia, for conditions of excess heat and dampness
- Amaranth – good source of calcium for treating osteopenia, for conditions of excess heat and dryness
- Rice – for building bones
- Sweet rice – for building muscles
- Millet – for excess dampness or phlegm conditions, for inflammations, for inflamed swollen joints
- Barley – for conditions of excess dampness or damp heat in the joints.
- Avoid for conditions of dryness and eroded tissue
- Soy bean and soy products (tofu, tempeh) – good source of calcium and protein for inflammation conditions, improves elasticity of the connective tissue and treats hardened joints. Avoid when joint is lax or with a tendency for dislocation
- Black beans – for heat conditions
- Adzuki – for drying excess dampness and expelling coldness, to move stagnated blood
- Green mung bean – for heat, damp and swelling of joints
- Watercress – rich in minerals for strengthening bones
- Cabbage – for phlegm, conditions and as an external bandage for swelling and inflammation
- Root vegetables such as carrot, parsnip, celery – strengthening bones and clearing phlegm
- Shitake mushrooms – for clearing excess dampness or phlegm
- Potatoes and tomatoes – for inflammation and phlegm accumulation from excess animal source protein such as in gout
- Chives, green onions, leeks – for cold induced rheumatism
- Pine nut – clearing phlegm stagnation and lubricating joints
- Sesame – strengthening bones and joints, for cold and dry induced joint pain
- Flax – for joint inflammation
- Almonds (soaked) – for inflammation conditions such as bursitis
- Walnuts (soaked in brandy) – for cold induced joint pain
Animal source protein
- Gelatin – for cartilage maintenance
- Bone broth – for bone strength
- Internal organs – for building blood
- Tendons (prolonged cooking) – for strengthening connective tissue
- Animal source protein, especially red meat, is rich in arachidonic acid which is a source for PEG2 inflammation agent, therefore minimize or avoid when sever inflammation is present.
Spices, herbs and beverages
- Celery seeds – clear uric acid from the blood and treat gout, diuretic and treats edema, balances excess animal source protein consumption
- Mumyo (Shilajeet) – for strengthening bones and healing fractures, for cold and damp induced joint pain
- Nigella – nourishes the bones and clears phlegm
- Kombu seaweed – strengthening connective tissue and preserving flexibility
- Ashwagandha – Nourishes the skeletal system and the blood, builds bone and muscle
- Nettle tea – rich in silica, iron, and diuretic, anti-inflammatory. For inflammation with blood deficiency
- Fresh ginger root – for cold and phlegm joint pain
- Turmeric – for swelling, pain and inflammation of joints
- Castor oil – for external use over weak, cold and painful joints. Soak a cloth in oil and lay over the painful joint. Add a hot water bottle to keep the cloth and joint warm
- Green clay – absorbs heat and swelling from inflamed joints
- Sesame oil – useful for dry, cold and hardened joints
- Recommended tea infusions: Fennel, Dandelion, Chamomile, Tilia tea
- Vegetables reduce inflammation, eat cooked vegetables at least twice a day
- Shitake mushrooms reduce inflammation, boost immunity, reduce fat accumulations and lowers cholesterol. Shitake balances long-standing excess of salt and animal protein consumption
- It is important to add to the diet inflammatory reducing spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander seed, fennel seeds, anise stars, celery seeds, and ginger
- Seaweed reduce inflammation and contain minerals which are important for joint rehabilitation
- Oats contain silicone which is essential for cartilage restoration
- Tofu and Tampa are protein and calcium-rich meat substitutes that have a cooling and soothing anti-inflammatory effect
- Excess meat creates stiffness and tension in the body
- Dry foods such as cracker, granola, much bread or spicy foods have a drying effect on the body and joints and hence they increase stiffness
Osteoporosis, and its less severe counterpart osteopenia, is conditions where the bones gradually become thinner, lose density and are more likely to fracture. In Ayurveda, this is a condition related to excess Vata dosha, so a Vata pacifying diet and lifestyle should be followed. Bone broth soup is an essential preventative remedy, as it is nutrient dense, easy to digest, nourishes the bones and pacifies Vata due to its grounding and warming qualities. Bone broth also contains collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin which are essential ingredients for healthy bones. Adding mineral rich foods that are dense, stable and heavy will increase bone density, particularly foods with high calcium content such as seaweed, sardines, tofu, and leafy greens like kale and sesame seeds. Also, adding healthy fats to the diet will nourish the fat and muscle tissue. These act as shock absorbs for the bones and can reduce the risk of fracture.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition of the joints. It occurs when the protective layer of cartilage that cushions the joints and allows for smooth movement breaks down. It can lead to pain, swelling and lack of mobility in the joints. Good alignment gained through physical therapy, yoga and proper posture will prevent excess wear and tear on the joints. Applying castor oil topically to the affected areas can bring relief. Osteoarthritis can be inflammatory causing certain proteins (cytokines) to develop which can further degenerate the cartilage. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can reduce this inflammatory process and prevent further cartilage degeneration.
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine. In minor cases, you can help maintain good spinal alignment by strengthening the muscles around the spine – equally on both sides. This can be done through physical therapy, regular yoga and exercises such as swimming. While this alone is not enough to avoid scoliosis, it can help reduce pain or discomfort experienced in mild cases.
Treating acute arthritis inflammation of the hip and knee joint
A sample daily menu for reducing inflammation and improving the joints condition:
- Home cooking oil should be cold pressed oil only
- Avoid industrial products containing refined vegetable oil
- Salt at home –use Himalayan salt only. Avoid adding extra salt to your plate
- Avoid coffee, soft drinks, sugar-containing products, cocoa, fried foods
- Avoid tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, or potato
- Reduce oxalate-containing foods such as plums and spinach
- Avoid yellow, hard cheeses, salty feta cheese and curds. Small portions of boiled milk and natural yogurt are allowed
- Minimize alcohol consumption, one small glass of wine per day is OK
- Animal source protein can be consumed once a day for lunch, preferably white meat fish. Avoid salted fish or canned fish. Tofu or tempeh can substitute for fish 1-3 times a week. Occasionally diversify fish with turkey, eggs or beef – not more than once a week
- Avoid eating after 19:30
- Oatmeal porridge with a tablespoon of ground flax seeds, a tablespoon of agar, a handful of coriander leaves and half a teaspoon of soy sauce.
- Vegetable soup containing root vegetables, fennel bulb and peas. Add two tablespoons of agar (per pot), a spoonful of wakameseaweed, whole rice noodles, tofu cubes and a spoonful of miso per serving.
- Noodle dish with vegetable sauce such as dill, zucchini and shiitake mushrooms in olive oil.
Fruit such as apple, pear, pomegranate
Or a vegetable such as cucumber
Build your meal by choosing one option from each section
Tofu / tempeh stir-fry with shiitake, coriander and turmeric
Fishcooked with vegetables and garnished with green onion and coriander seed powder.
Vegetable soup made of shiitake, fennel, carrots, radishes, wakame seaweed, pumpkin and sweet potato
Steamed vegetables flavored with a touch of soy sauce
Short grain brown rice cooked with pumpkins
White rice with turmeric
Black wild rice stew with mushrooms
Natural goat yogurt and a hint of honey
Cooked fruit compote with added Agar or Kuzu
Rice noodles with vegetable sauce
Vegetable soup with oats, seaweed and root vegetables
Rye or spelt bread with homemade basil paste, cucumber and soft boiled egg