Diet for Cartilage Regeneration
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Cartilage is a very flexible substance that supports structures like the outer ear, nose, and joints such as knees, hips, elbows, shoulder joints and in-between our spine discs. We get natural deterioration of the cartilage as we age, and through damage due to injuries, infection or overuse.
There is current research that shows that cartilage can be regenerated by eating the right foods.
One of the most important nutrients for the rapid regeneration of cartilage is an amino acid called lysine. It is responsible for absorbing calcium and producing collagen that rebuilds damaged tissue. Lysine is also very good for improving the appearance of your skin as well as supporting tendons and other connective tissue strength.
Another special nutrient for regeneration of cartilage, collagen and connective tissue is Vitamin C. We know about the many virtues of vitamin C for our immune system, but it is also super important for tissue repair as well.
Essentially, a diet for cartilage regeneration combines an anti-inflammatory diet with foods for cartilage regeneration i.e. lysine, vitamin C rich foods plus other other restorative foods.
- Legumes, especially lentils and beans
- Cod, other fish and shellfish
- Red meat, turkey, chicken, pork
- Eggs of any poultry
- Soy products (not good with some hormone imbalances)
- Nuts and seeds (also high in silica, another good nutrient for cartilage)
- Gelatine from bone broth or pure gelatine not only contains lysine but also contains other aminos such as glycine (which also helps you to sleep and decrease anxiety) and proline that help to build cartilage and collagen.
However, take care with cold sores (herpes 1) as gelatine has a higher ratio of arginine (another amino acid) to lysine, so it’s not so good for current outbreaks. Also, if you have a histamine intolerance then gelatine may not be appropriate for you either.
- Capsicum (bell peppers)
- Most fruits especially citrus (limes, oranges, grapefruits, lemons)
- Paw Paw, Papaya
- Kiwi fruit
- Leafy vegetables
- Brussel sprouts
Foods to avoid
A diet for cartilage regeneration combines an anti-inflammatory diet with foods for cartilage regeneration. Anything that is acidic is inflammatory and should be avoided. Here’s a list of foods and drinks that are acid forming, which can increase inflammation in the body.
- Processed foods contain lots of sodium chloride (table salt) which can constrict blood vessels and create acidity.
- Cold cuts, processed and conventional grain fed meats.
- Eating too many animal sources of protein can contribute to acidity. Beef, pork, chicken, cold cuts and shellfish can all contribute to sulphuric acid build-up in the blood as amino acids are broken down. Pasture raised and organic meats are less acidic to the body. Vary your intake of protein foods to best balance your pH level.
- Processed packet breakfast cereals.
- Eggs – however a small amount of pasture raised organic eggs can be OK.
- Lentils – however are less acidic if soaked and sprouted and not cooked.
- All grains, even gluten free ones, create acidity in the body.
- Dairy products are acidic in nature and some research shows populations that consume lots of dairy products have some of the highest rates of osteoporosis. That’s because dairy creates acidity in the body. When any part of your body becomes too acidic, your body will steal calcium (a more alkaline substance) from the bones to try to balance out the pH level. So the best way to help prevent osteoporosis is to eat lots of alkaline green leafy veggies which also contain calcium in a more bio-available (absorbable) form.
- Peanuts and walnuts are more acidic than all other nuts. However, almonds are the only alkalising nut – if eaten in moderation and preferably soaked to remove the enzyme inhibitors (intended to stop the nut from germinating too early if not in the ground with enough water etc). These enzyme inhibitors will also inhibit your digestive enzymes and make nuts difficult to digest unless they are soaked (or roasted) first. Soaked is healthier than roasted in the oven. You can re-dry the soaked nuts in a dehydrator (or oven on lowest heat setting) to get the crunch back but they don’t last as long, so just soak and dry a batch that lasts no more than a week. Or eat them soaked (and rinsed) and they taste like coconut flesh.
- Pasta, rice, bread and packaged grain products
Rebuilding cartilage is particularly important if you have had a virus like Ross River, Dengue fever or similar as these viruses destroy the cartilage of your joints.
Many other infections, as well as inflammation and arthritis in the body, can also cause degeneration of your cartilage.
Inflammation can also break down connective tissue in the body. In a way, this is how the body tries to ‘shed off’ the damaged inflamed layers. It happens in our gut, on our skin, our joints and pretty much everywhere in the body, but sometimes the breaking down happens quicker than the rebuilding and we can have a net loss of supportive tissue.
A regeneration diet is not considered a cure, but it includes foods to support the body with the nutrients needed to repair and rebuild any loss or damage to help your body to stay strong, or rebuild lost cartilage.
Important: Before you commence a new diet, see your medical or health care professional for qualified guidance and also do not stop any medications or supplements previously prescribed unless advised otherwise by your medical or health care professional, who may even prescribe extra supplementation.
Note: During the early stages of a new diet, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, headaches or body aches, which may occur because your body is detoxifying. However, if you are unsure about a symptom at any time, check immediately with your medical or health care professional.
Client name and identifying information changed
Jenny had contracted Ross River Virus 10 years previously, but never fully recovered. The disease left her with creaking joints, poor mobility and pain in the joints she used the most.
It is thought that the virus can stay in the body for many years, waiting for the body to be run down enough for it to flare back up again. Jenny had stopped getting the recurring viral type symptoms, but was left with ‘bad’ knees, ankles, shoulders and wrist joints.
She visited me for recurrent headaches, but when we also discussed her symptoms, I couldn’t ignore her joint problems. I felt the joint problems were related to her headaches which appeared to be aggravated from her neck, although stress and mental exertion also made the headaches worse.
I suggested an anti-inflammatory diet plus also lysine and vitamin C rich foods, an extra vitamin C supplement and magnesium rich foods for her neck tension and stress support.
I suggested she eat lots of fish and seafood for their anti-inflammatory good oils, plus raspberries and blueberries for their antioxidant nutrients.
I wanted her to make bone broth (for the gelatine-cartilage food) but she protested because she thought it was ‘yucky’ to boil up bones, so instead she agreed to make regular batches of home-made sugar free jelly from good quality, no additives gelatine and add cherry juice concentrate (known to be good for arthritis).
She was also advised to go gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol and caffeine free for the duration for the treatment. I encouraged her to drink plenty of water and to walk and swim for gentle exercise.
After only one month on the above program, she noticed a remarkable change in the joints. No longer creaking, with more mobility and a lot less pain. She could even go back to the gym to do more exercises with weights and stretching.
Another two months on the plan, she felt like she was completely back to normal, including no more headaches, unless she did something silly like become dehydrated, over-do the exercise or get super-stressed about something.
Wow what a change from the symptoms she had carried for ten years.
You do not need to have had a virus to get cartilage regeneration results. The body is amazing if you give it the right conditions to heal itself.