Tips for Healthy Bones & Joints

September 1, 2012

By Anna Varriano

I hope that you are all settling into the routine that comes to most of us when ‘back-to-school’ time rolls around. I had a great summer, capped off with a recent trip to Cape Cod and Boston. We stopped in Burlington, Vermont on the way home, where my daughters and I took in the fascinating ‘Our Body: The Universe Within’ exhibit.

The exhibit consisted of an ‘under the skin’ look at the various systems of the human body. As a Natural Health Practitioner and an Anatomy & Physiology instructor, you can imagine what an interesting experience this was for me. The part of the exhibit where I spent the most time was the skeletal system display. It contained so many interesting cross-section specimens through various bones and joints in the body. It was incredible how the bones all fit together to offer so many services to us: the shape and size of our bodies, protective caverns for our vital organs (e.g. the cranial bones to protect our brain, the ribs to protect our lungs and heart), turning frequencies/vibrations into audible sounds thanks to three extremely tiny bones in our ears (one was barely the size of a grain of rice!), and providing a strong foundation for our muscles to attach to providing us with our awesome mobility (our bones allow our muscles to function properly).

Since I found the skeletal system exhibit so interesting, and since September is National Arthritis Month, I thought it would be fitting to make this month’s tip about what we can do to support the health of our bones and joints.

There are so many things that affect the health of our bones and joints that there is no way I can cover them all in this monthly tip; however, I will give you one key recommendation from three different aspects of health: 

  1. Food
  2. Supplements
  3. Lifestyle

Note that for those of you who would be interested in a lot more information on how to keep your bones and joints healthy and strong, I’ll be giving a live presentation on Saturday, September 29th, from 9:30am to 12:30pm, at the International Academy Health Education Centre, 380 Forest Street (at Carling Avenue). The cost is $40 per person, and as always, will include a ‘loot bag’. Space is limited, so please email me at or phone me at 613-299-4022 to register.


An important food recommendation that will help both our bones and our joints, is to make sure that the majority (75% to 80%) of the foods that we are eating are ‘alkaline-forming’ foods.  Let me explain what this means. Foods can be either alkaline-forming or acid-forming – and it is not related to the amount of ‘acid’ a food contains, but rather how the food will affect our body’s pH (acid-alkaline balance) after it is digested.  For instance, lemons contain a significant amount of acid in the form of citric acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and malic acid. If you dipped a piece of pH paper into fresh squeezed lemon juice, you’d get a very acidic reading; however, once you digest it, it will create an alkaline ‘ash’ in the body – and this post-digestion ash by-product is what impacts the body’s pH. 

Without going into great detail, some of the most acid-forming foods are meats and dairy products from conventionally raised animals, most grains, and sugar. There is one food group that shines in terms of being highly alkaline-forming, and that is vegetables. So if you want your meals to be 75% alkaline-forming, then make 75% (three quarters) of your plate vegetables!  For those of you who attend the presentation, you will receive a detailed chart identifying foods in various categories (e.g. grains, dairy, fruit, nuts, fats & oils, sweeteners, etc) as either acid-or alkaline-forming. This chart is based on my review of numerous books, websites, and articles. I’ll also show you examples of delicious alkaline-forming meals. Why is striving for an alkaline body so important? One reason is that if our pH becomes too acidic, our body will respond by leaching calcium (our most alkaline mineral) out of our bones! Additionally, most chronic diseases thrive in an acid body. 


There is a mind-boggling number of products on the market for bone and joint care. Some of them deliver great results, some not so much. I’m betting that if I asked you what you thought the most important supplement was for healthy bones, most of you would say calcium. If I asked you what the most important supplement was for healthy joints, most of you would say glucosamine. Would you be right? Well, yes and no.

Not everyone needs calcium supplements, and too much calcium (especially the wrong kind), can lead to other problems, as excess calcium can deposit itself in the wrong places (think bone spurs, kidney stones, and calcification of various tissues in the body – including blood vessels). Not everyone needs a calcium supplement.  If you eat mostly alkaline-forming foods, you’ll be more than likely to be eating foods that are good sources of highly absorbable calcium (and homogenized/pasteurized milk isn’t one of them!). You should also beware of the foods that are ‘calcium thieves’, including sugar, wheat in all its forms, soft drinks, alcohol, excess table salt, some teas, and coffee (caffeine binds to calcium making it difficult to absorb). If you do take a calcium supplement, it’s important to take a form of calcium that will work with your body chemistry, and one that is combined with other minerals that assist the proper absorption of calcium, such as magnesium, and vitamins D and K, to name a few. I’ll talk more about supplements during my live presentation.

As for glucosamine, it can promote joint health, but dosage is important, as well as the presence of other supporting nutrients such as chondroitin, hyaluronic acid and collagen. The source of these nutrients is also very important as it affects how well the body can absorb and utilize them. The products that I have had the best results with among my clients are those that contain natural eggshell membrane (NEM). The action of the nutrients found in NEM is primarily to maintain the structure of the joint; however, in cases of arthritis, it is also necessary to deal with decreasing the inflammation in the joint. This can be done through avoiding inflammatory foods (wheat is a major one), and by adding anti-inflammatory foods and spices (such as turmeric and ginger), and anti-inflammatory supplements (such as omega-3 essential fatty acids) into our day. I’ll be sharing more ways to decrease inflammation in my live presentation.


Finally, there is lifestyle. There are certain factors that can increase our risk of developing unhealthy bones and joints. Let’s start with bones. Bone tissue is dynamic – it is constantly ‘remodelling’ itself through cycles of formation and destruction, both of which are normal processes. The problem occurs when destruction happens more rapidly or more frequently than formation.  Bone formation is encouraged whenever there is stress of a weight-bearing nature exerted on the bone; therefore, weight-bearing exercises are extremely important to promoting strong, dense bones. During my presentation, I’ll demonstrate a few bone-strengthening exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere! Even though bone strength typically begins to decline after the age of 30, it’s never too late to start rebuilding.

As for our joints, one of the main lifestyle risk factors for developing problems such as osteoarthritis (aka ‘wear and tear’ arthritis) is being overweight or obese, as the excess weight adds extra strain on the joints – especially those of the knees. In addition to exacerbating osteoarthritis, a recent study by researchers at the Mayo clinic found that obese individuals were 25% more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis compared with people of normal weight. Apparently, proteins produced by the body’s fat cells are a major contributor to the development of the disease. I share numerous proven and practical tips for weight loss in my Mindful Weight Control Program webinar series. The program focuses on implementing step-by-step changes  to your nutritional and lifestyle choices, which will lead to many health improvements, including successful, long-term weight loss and maintenance. You can sign up to receive the first 30 minute webinar for free, and learn more about the program by visiting

I hope that you will join me on Saturday, September 29th to learn more about what you can do to help promote the health of your bones and joints. Reserve your spot now by emailing or calling 613-299-4022. I look forward to seeing you there.

Take control of what you can!

Yours in health,



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