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The Importance of Nutrition for Musculoskeletal Health in Peri and Post Menopause

Good musculoskeletal health is central to our wellbeing. The ability of your body to carry out daily activities free of pain and discomfort has an enormous influence on your quality of life.

Healthy bones, muscles, joints, and connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) work together to produce a healthy musculoskeletal system. Just as a healthy diet is essential to support good health and prevent disease, good nutrition is also essential for the maintenance of a healthy musculoskeletal system.

Joint and Muscle Pain in Perimenopause

The musculoskeletal system is significantly affected by hormonal shifts that occur as women transition through perimenopause. Muscle, bone, tendons and ligaments are directly affected by oestrogen. The natural decline in oestrogen may result in a loss of muscle mass, reduced production of collagen for connective tissue integrity and increased risk of injury.

Many women may also experience muscle and joint pain as a result of the loss of the natural anti-inflammatory benefits of oestrogen and progesterone.

As bone mass peaks around 30 years of age for women, is also important to look after bone mass during perimenopause in preparation for rapid bone loss in post menopause.

Bone Density in Post Menopause

Loss of oestrogen also has a dramatic impact on bone density and bone loss temporarily accelerates in the first 5 years after menopause. This loss of bone mass results in an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

What Role Does Diet Play in Musculoskeletal Health?

The food we eat is broken down into nutrients in our digestive system. These nutrients are absorbed into our bloodstream for use in immune regulation, hormone regulation, weight management, inflammation, tissue growth and repair etc.

Muscles, bones, joints and connective tissue require specific nutrients for tissue growth and repair as well as other nutrients to reduce the inflammation that causes pain and slows recovery.

Your body needs fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and good quality proteins. A balanced diet, high in these wholefoods provides essential nutrients for musculoskeletal health including minerals (potassium, iron, zinc, calcium, boron, magnesium), collagen, omega-3 fats and vitamins (A,C, D, E and K). These nutrients are essential for the maintenance of muscle and bone mass, strength and connective tissue integrity as well as tissue growth and repair - processes that are constantly taking place in your body, throughout your lifetime.

A diet that is high in sugar and processed foods, and low in beneficial nutrients, can contribute to inflammation which, in addition to causing joint pain, can disrupt nutrient absorption and deprive the body of many of the essential nutrients it needs for recovery.

Likewise digestive disorders, underlying medical conditions and some medications can prevent the proper absorption of important nutrients.

Together, good digestion along with nutritional supplements and a diet rich in nutrients that reduce inflammation and support repair are essential for musculoskeletal health and can be pivotal in the recovery and management of musculoskeletal conditions.

Top 8 Nutrients for Musculoskeletal Health

1. Protein. When you eat protein it is broken down into amino acids - building blocks that can be used to synthesize proteins for cell and tissue growth, hormones, enzymes, immune factors and more. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are a group of essential amino acids that can only be obtained through diet. BCAAs Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine support muscle growth and repair, reduce muscle soreness and fatigue and prevent muscle wastage. Good sources of BCAA’s include: eggs, salmon, beef, poultry, dairy, nuts, seeds, soy, beans and lentils.

2. Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids. Omega-3 fatty acids produce anti-inflammatory signalling molecules, or eicosanoids. These eicosanoids help prevent muscle damage, reduce joint inflammation and support normal blood pressure by relaxing the arteries and blood vessels and decreasing blood lipids. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in: oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies etc), walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds.

3. Vitamin C. Vitamin C plays an essential role in collagen synthesis. Collagen is a protein that is the main component of connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, skin and muscles. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant that reduces oxidative stress during inflammation, supports healing of connective tissue and accelerates bone healing after fractures.

Vitamin C-rich foods include: red capsicum, berries, citrus fruits, green leafy veg, parsley.

4. Boron. Boron is a trace mineral that is important for bone growth and maintenance. It extends the half-life of vitamin D, which means that it increases the amount of time that vitamin D can actively enhance your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Food sources of boron: apples, coffee, dried beans, milk

5. Calcium. Almost 99% of the body’s calcium is found stored in the bones. It is essential for building and maintaining strong healthy bones. The remaining calcium circulates in the blood and is used to conduct nerve impulses to the muscle fibres, facilitate proper muscle contraction, and also plays important roles in blood clotting, blood pressure, heart rhythm, metabolism and fluid balance.

If there is not enough calcium in your diet, your body will withdraw what it needs from the calcium stored in your bones for use elsewhere in your body. Overtime this weakens your bones, reduces your bone density and puts you at risk of developing osteoporosis.

Good sources of dietary Calcium comes from: dairy foods (milk, cheese, yogurt), sesame seeds (tahini), almonds, calcium-set tofu, broccoli, brussel sprouts, dark green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, silverbeet), canned sardines & salmon (with bones), chickpeas, soybeans.

6. Vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium from the digestive system to be used in bone. It is an essential nutrient that supports bone growth and maintains bone strength.

The most available and well absorbed form of Vitamin D is direct sun exposure through the skin. During the summer incidental sun exposure should be adequate to maintain Vitamin D levels, or else 20 minutes unprotected sun exposure before 10am. In the autumn/winter you can spend time in the midday sun.

There are also some food sources of Vitamin D: oily cold water fish (salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel), Cod liver oil, egg yolks, mushrooms.

7. Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is a lesser-known vitamin which plays an essential role in bone health, heart health and blood clotting. Vitamin K2 activates a protein that removes circulating calcium from your blood and helps it bind to your bones. This metabolism of calcium, helps to prevent calcification of the kidneys, blood vessels and arteries, thus reducing the risk of heart disease.

Studies show that vitamin K2 can slow the loss of age-related bone mineral density on postmenopausal women. improves bone density and reduces the risk of bone fractures.

Dietary sources of Vitamin K2 include: full-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows, eggs, liver and organ meats. As Vitamin K2 is a fat-soluble vitamin, low fat dairy products are not a good source.

8. Magnesium. Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical processes in the body. It is involved in the regulation of protein synthesis, energy production, blood glucose regulation, blood pressure, heart rhythm, bone development, nutrient transport, nerve impulse conduction and muscle function.

In the musculoskeletal system magnesium plays a central role in muscle relaxation, working opposite calcium to release muscle contraction.

Magnesium is easily found in a range of food sources: green leafy vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas etc), nuts, seeds, whole grains, banana, avocado, chicken, beef, salmon, yogurt and more.

If you are concerned about your bone density, affected by joint or muscle pain or struggling with other symptoms of perimenopause/post-menopause, book in here for a complementary, 10 minute Discovery Call with me to find out how I may be able to help.

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