Most people living with sickle cell have problems with their bones or have mobility issues. I always say that the symptoms and complications of SCD are different for each person and can range from mild to severe. Orthopaedic complications of sickle cell disease include vaso-occlusive bone pain, osteonecrosis, and infections (osteomyelitis and septic arthritis). Food and vitamins can support flexibility and mobility goals if one makes the right choices. Let’s have a look at what we could do better to help those bones.
Our joints are vital to daily movement and quality of life across the life span. Keeping them strong and mobile is critical for overall musculoskeletal support. Joints are complex structures that are located where one or more bones meet. They are made up of bones, muscles, connective tissue (specifically, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and the synovium), and a joint capsule, which is a bubble-like structure that surrounds the joints.
Protein is an essential nutrient, responsible for multiple functions in your body, including repairing and building tissue, cells, and muscle, as well as making hormones and antibodies. We all need protein in our diet, especially older people because it helps minimise muscle loss associated with aging.
Dietary protein is available in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, yoghurt, seafood, chicken, turkey, nuts and seeds, pork and dairy products. However, plant-based sources, such as beans, tofu and Edamame are also a helpful way to increase your protein intake.
It can be helpful to think of our body as a sponge. Without enough water, the sponge becomes stiff, weak, and brittle. Red blood cells with normal haemoglobin are smooth, disk-shaped, and flexible, like doughnuts without holes. They can move through the blood vessels easily. Cells with sickle cell haemoglobin are stiff and sticky. When they lose their oxygen, they form into the shape of a sickle or crescent, like the letter C. These cells stick together and can’t easily move through the blood vessels. This can block small blood vessels and the movement of healthy, normal oxygen-carrying blood. The blockage can cause pain. When we drink up and have enough water, inside us, the red blood cells become flexible, agile, and supple.
Natural ways to support flexibility, mobility
Certain herbs, nutrients and vitamins can aid in being active and filled with energy, whether this is to get healthier overall or to become a more flexible and mobile individual.
Fresh turmeric spice
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. Turmeric contains curcumin, which belongs to a family of powerful compounds called curcuminoids. It is widely believed that curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Turmeric is a great option for promoting overall musculoskeletal health, including those precious joints.
The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger seem to help relieve pain and improve joint function. Comprising the active compounds gingerols, ginger is revered in eastern medicine. Aside from supporting digestion and circulatory health, ginger is often recommended for movement and agility. Gingerols work to eliminate compounds in the body that result in pain. Anti-inflammatory properties in ginger reduce the pain associated with arthritis and increase joint mobility.
Rich in the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), oily fish are now believed to support many areas of health, including mobility. These oil fish are salmon, sardines, pilchards, trout, mackerel, and herring–are the best source of long-chain omega-3 fats, which are important for overall health and can help people with joint pains.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. Some would call it the ‘glue’ that holds our skeletal structure together. Vitamin C contributes to the normal collagen formation for the normal function of cartilage. Eat it: Spinach.
Not only is watermelon high in water, it also contains the amino acid L-citrulline, which enhances athletic performance and assists with post-workout recovery. Eat watermelon to train harder, go longer and recover quicker. And contrary to popular belief, watermelon is low in sugar.
Other fruits and vegetables high in water content that will help you stay hydrated are strawberries, peaches, oranges, cucumber, lettuce, soups, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, and grapefruit.
An enzyme mixture found in fresh pineapple, bromelain is thought to offer some help with sprains and strains. People often take bromelain with turmeric and glucosamine as they make a perfect supplement partnership.
For centuries, herbalists have referred to the rosehip as a ‘super-fruit.’ Rosehip extract contains polyphenols and anthocyanins, which are believed to ease joint inflammation and prevent joint damage. It’s also rich in vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties. Practitioners often recommend rosehip to those with active lifestyles or people who take glucosamine, turmeric, and ginger.
A supplement to consider – Devil’s Claw
A traditional herbal medicinal product used for the relief of backache, rheumatic or muscular pain and general aches and pains in the muscles and joints.
In addition to keeping skin youthful-appearing and healthy, glycosaminoglycans are used in the body as a lubricant for joints, for supporting connective tissues such as cartilage and tendons.
Compounds called glycosaminoglycans may be helpful for active, on-the-go individuals. For dietary supplements, glucosamine is harvested from the shells of shellfish (like shrimp, lobster, and crab) or made synthetically in a laboratory. Glucosamine—a natural amino sugar produced by your body—makes up the structure of glycosaminoglycans. Glucosamine sulphate supplements are usually taken to ease joint pain caused by avascular necrosis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Avoid inflammatory foods
If you want to support your joints and muscles, watch your intake of the following foods which may cause inflammation.
- Sugar: Any kind of sweet treat rich in refined sugar (hello, fizzy drinks, chocolate, and pastries) will likely contribute to inflammation in the body.
- Saturated fats: Foods high in saturated fat, like cheese, often have a ‘pro-inflammatory status.’
- Refined carbs: Takeaways, fast food and microwave meals are known to increase inflammation in the body.