The next time you experience pain when you flex your fingers or bend your knees, you should reconsider turning to your favorite soda or sweet snack for comfort. Recent studies confirm a link between joint pain and sugar intake.
Dr. Henry Nuss, a health nutritional scientist at Louisiana State University, recently appeared on WVUE-TV news in New Orleans to discuss the research and the connection. According to Nuss, excessive sugar consumption can deplete your body of important minerals like magnesium and potassium, which in turn contributes to problems in joints and muscles. The body is more likely to cramp and feel stiff, unable to relax.
The USDA recommends limiting sugar consumption to ten percent of your overall calorie intake. Adults abiding by the 2,000-calorie maximum would have to eat no more than 200 calories in sugar to meet this guideline. On average, according to New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, the current consumption rate is over triple this amount.
So, what can a person suffering shoulder or knee pain do? The logical answer would be to reduce the amount of sugar you consume, but it isn’t that simple. Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are among the most prevalent ingredients in processed foods. While it’s ideal to maintain a diet of whole foods – and shop at stores that offer more choices for clean eating – to combat joint pain, people who have fixed incomes and/or live in “food deserts” may not have that luxury.
Vigilance is one key to reducing the risk of joint pain brought on by hard-to-break eating habits. Simple changes in the way you cook and dine out, along with other lifestyle adjustments, can help improve mobility and joint flexibility.
Sip without the sweets. Water is always the best choice to quench a thirst. Instead of popping open a soda or sports drink, fill a reusable bottle with filtered water. When dining out, ask for unsweetened tea and coffee. You can add just enough sugar or sweetener to taste, controlling how much you drink.
Spot hidden sugars. Sugar under any other name is just as sweet, and a potential risk. Check nutrition labels for corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, and lactose…these are all types of sugar. They appear in foods widely believed to be healthy, like cereals and granola. If you want to curb your intake of these ingredients, look for low-sugar versions of your favorite foods when you shop.
Watch intake of substitutes, too. Your first instinct in reducing sugar in your diet may be to switch to an alternate sweetener like stevia or agave syrup. The Arthritis Foundation conducted a survey of the more popular artificial sweeteners, weighing the pros and cons of each. While some products taste sweeter than sugar (so you don’t have to use as much) and have fewer calories, they may cause side effects like headaches and other reactions. Test what’s available and see what works for you and your mobility.
At Bon Secours and Virginia Orthopaedic & Spine Specialists, we offer a full continuum of care to help you overcome joint pain, be it from illness or injury. We offer solutions to suit your needs, and our team of physicians and physical therapists can help you regain flexibility and an optimal quality of life. Contact us today for more information.