Don’t Forget to Oil your Joints – Healthy Oils for Joint Health Millions of people today suffer from joint pain. Whether due to injury or general wear and tear, this common condition tends to increase with age and can have a major impact on our quality of life. Although many of us gravitate towards the quick fix approach of NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen, a large and growing body of evidence shows that this approach is doing us much more harm than good. Serious side effects associated with the continuous use of NSAIDs include gastric bleeding, heart attack / stroke and kidney dysfunction. Fortunately, our options are not limited in the realm of natural discomfort and inflammation-relievers that do not carry with them the same barrage of risks. You may be surprised to find out that we can find some of the best options right in our very own kitchens…. This article explores the joint health benefits of healthy oils including omega-3 fatty acids, particularly fish oil, olive and flaxseed oils as well as topical essential oils. Omega-3s Omega-3 fatty acids have been a hot research topic for some time for their beneficial cardio-protective and anti-inflammatory effects. These essential fatty acids are found primarily in fatty fish such as mackerel, trout, herring, sardines, salmon and tuna, as well as in flaxseed and walnut oils. Recent evidence points to their therapeutic benefits of omega-3s in relieving joint discomfort and tenderness, decreasing the need for other (harmful) discomfort relief medications. Fish oil consumption in particular is effective in relieving joint inflammation in patients suffering from joint discomfort. A systematic review of 12 randomized controlled trial studies investigating the efficacy of fish oil in the management of joint discomfort found that 11 out of the 12 studies yielded significant results for the effectiveness of fish oil in the treatment of the symptoms of this disease. Similarly, a meta-analysis of 14 other double blind, randomized controlled trials concluded that fish oil provided an improvement in tender joint count and the duration of morning stiffness. This consistent demonstration of the clinical benefits of fish oil is a testament to the effectiveness of fish oils in the management of the symptoms associated with joint discomfort. Olive oil In addition to fish oil, extra-virgin olive oil consumption also has joint discomfort relieving properties and decreases the swelling of tender or inflamed joints. This analgesic effect is attributed to a compound found specifically in extra virgin oil called oleocanthal, which amazingly has ibuprofen-like effects on reducing inflammation and alleviating joint discomfort. Perhaps not surprisingly, diets containing a combination of both olive oil and fish oil appear to be even more effective at relieving joint discomfort than either of these oils alone. Flaxseed oil Flaxseed oil, which is rich in omega-3 fat ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), also has anti-inflammatory effects. Alpha-linolenic acid is a short chain omega-3 fatty acid that can be converted to its longer chain super health forms, EPA and DHA (found in fish oil). However, it is important to keep in mind that the conversion ALA can be slowed by the presence of omega-6 fatty acids in other foods such as grain products and other vegetable oils such as canola oil. Beyond this conversion factor, women have been found to possess a greater efficiency for this conversion than men. This means that although flaxseed oil aids in reducing inflammation and falls into the joint health oils category, its effectiveness may not always live up to its fish oil or olive oil counterparts. Topical Essential Oils Beyond oils that you may find on your kitchen shelf, topical applications of various essential oils to painful or inflamed joints can also be very effective in reducing joint discomfort and stiffness. A double blind study investigating the effectiveness of aromatic massage with ginger and orange essential oils in 59 elderly subjects with moderate-to-severe knee discomfort found that significant changes were observed within 1 week of treatment. Similarly, another study examining the effect of rosemary and lavender oils on joint discomfort found the topical application these oils to be an effective treatment for patients suffering from knee discomfort. Thus beyond dietary oils, topical essential oils have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects that are also great additions to your natural joint discomfort relief arsenal. Do not underestimate the potential of these natural oils as safe alternatives to NSAIDs and other pain-relieving pharmaceutical options for relieving joint discomfort. And, the health benefits of healthy oils do not stop there. Omega-3 rich oils also offer protective and preventative effects against a wide range of other health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, skin disorders, osteoporosis and mood disturbances. Take home message: protect your joints by oiling them with these healthy oils and check out www.sierrasil.com for supplements that contain these ingredients! References: Bennet, S.M., Hayes, J.E. Differences in the chemesthetic qualities of capsaicin, ibuprofen and olive oil. Chemesthetic Senses. 2012; 37: 471-478. Cicerale, S. Breslin, P.A.S., Beauchamp, G.K., Keast, R.S.J. Sensory characterization of the irritant properties of oleocanthal, a natural anti-inflammatory agent in extra virgin olive oils. Chemesthetic Senses. 2009; 34: 333-339. De Silva, P.V. Efficacy of fish body oil in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review. Galle Medical Journal. 2012; 17(1):18-22. Flax oil for joints. Available at: www.livestrong.com Ghannadi, A., Karimzadeh, H., Tavakoli, N., Darafsh, M., Ramenzanloo, P. Efficacy of a Combined Rosemary and Lavender Topical Ointment in the Treatment of Patients with Osteoarthritis of the Knee. Zahedan Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. 2013; 15(6): 29-33. Olive oil & joint pain. Available at: www.ehow.com Omega-3 Fish Oil & Joint Health. Available at: http://www.livestrong.com Proudman, S.M., Cleland, L.G., James, M.J. Dietary omega-3 fats for treatment of inflammatory joint disease: efficacy and utility. Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America. 2008; 34(2): 469-479. Yip, B.Y., Chung Ying Tam, A. An experimental study on the effectiveness of massage with aromatic ginger and orange essential oil for moderate-to-severe knee pain among the elderly in Hong Kong. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2008; 16: 131-138.