Written by Benjamin Semmens, Registered Nutritionist (BHSc)
Do you suffer from arthritis or joint pain and want to know how to move with ease and improve the function of your joints?
Maybe you’re carrying some excess weight and don’t know why or how to keep the weight off?
Or perhaps you’ve heard to avoid sulphites as they may be harmful to your health?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered in this week’s edition of 3 question Friday where you’ll learn how to improve your joint mobility, simple ways to increase your metabolism to support weight loss, and the truth about sulphites and your health!
Congratulations to Dawn, Gary, and Mary-Jane who all won $20 gift vouchers just for asking Ben a question! You can always send your questions to email@example.com
This week’s questions are:
- Dawn explained “I have arthritis, how can I improve my joint mobility?”
- Gary was concerned “I am struggling to lose weight I think a have a slow metabolism, can you help?”
- Mary-Jane: “Should I be worried about sulphites?”
1. I have arthritis, how can I improve my joint mobility?
Although arthritis is a general term that refers to over 150 different conditions, these conditions could be more accurately described as ‘musculoskeletal conditions’ as they affect your bones, joints, and muscles that are all part of the musculoskeletal system.
Musculoskeletal conditions affect the function of the joints, muscles, bones and surrounding structures that can cause pain, stiffness and inflammation in one or more joints and muscles.
Though it may seem that exercise would aggravate your joint pain and stiffness, exercise can actually help to reduce these symptoms, with lack of exercise exacerbating symptoms.
The good news is that regular exercise can help to reduce arthritic symptoms and improve your joint mobility and strength! In fact, keeping your muscles and surrounding tissues strong is critical to reduce symptoms of arthritis (1, 2).
Exercise can help to do the following
- Strengthen the muscles around your joints
- Help you maintain bone strength
- Give you more energy to get through the day
- Make it easier to get a good night's sleep
- Help you control your weight
- Enhance your quality of life
- Improve your balance (3)
Disclaimer: before commencing any of the training and exercises below first consult with professionals, such as your doctor, exercise physiologist, physiotherapist or registered exercise professional.
1. Range of Motion exercises
Range of motion exercises (ROM) help to relieve stiffness while increasing mobility to allow full range of motion (4).
Exercises may include moving your head from side to side or raising your arms above your head. These exercises are easy to do as you don’t need any equipment and can do these exercises at any time, any place!
Start by doing ROM exercises once or twice a day and slowly build each day. Move until you feel a slight stretch but be sure to not force a movement.
If you feel a sharp or deep pain stop immediately! If this is the case a physical therapist will be able to support you further with these movements.
Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/135108057545311216/
Click here to see some more range of motion exercises with diagrams
2. Resistance training
Resistance training or sometimes otherwise known as strength training increases your muscle strength by making your muscles work against a weight or force.
Overtime your muscles become stronger that supports and protect your joints by strengthening the surrounding muscles.
There are many different types of resistance training that include:
- Free weights: dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells
- Weight machines
- Resistance bands
- Body weight exercises
- Medicine balls and sandbags
- Suspension equipment
There are also other popular methods of resistance training such as circuit training, yoga and pilates.
When beginning resistance training its recommended to train two to three times per week maximum to get the most benefit. As you progress you can increase training frequency.
In order to recover correctly its best to rest each muscle group for at least 48 hours after strength training.
Australia’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines recommend that adults participate in muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week.
A good resistance training program should vary every 6 to 8 weeks by making changes to the number of sets, repetitions, types of exercises, intensity, frequency, and rest time.
Resistance training can also reduce sarcopenia (muscle wasting that occurs with age), therefore strength training should be something everyone participates in, with the earlier you start the better! (5)
To learn more about resistance training click here.
3. Aerobic exercise
Aerobic exercise aka cardio can help with your overall fitness and health. There are many benefits to aerobic exercise that include improving heart health, weight management, increased mood and increased energy (6).
Low impact exercises are less stressful on your joints are ideal for arthritis such as walking, cycling, swimming and elliptical machines.
The physical activity and exercise guidelines for Australians recommends 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity, and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days, if not all for adults over the age of 65.
Starting to do aerobic exercise can be difficult for beginners. If this is the case, start with 5 - 10 minutes a day and slowly work your way up to 30 minutes a day. If you’re not sure where to start speak to your healthcare professional.
4. Other activities
Even moving in any way shape or form is beneficial. Daily activities such as mowing the lawn, gardening, and even walking the dog are all considered exercise.
Daily activities that improve health and fitness include:
- Brisk walking
- Golf with no cart
- Aerobics or water aerobics
- Yard and garden work
- House cleaning
- Walking the dog
Certain activities can also help to improve your flexibility and mobility that can help you to move more easily. Flexibility and mobility activities include:
- Tai chi
- Bowls (indoor and outdoor)
- Mopping or vacuuming
- Stretching exercises
2. I am struggling to lose weight I think a have a slow metabolism, can you help?
Many people claim that they struggle to lose weight due to a slow metabolism, while this seems logical, this is extremely rare and it’s often not the reason for excess weight gain.
Instead, there are combination of many other factors that are far more likely in explaining weight gain such as genetics, diet, physical activity and other variables.
What’s your metabolism?
Metabolism is the process where your body breaks down food and drinks from your diet into energy.
Energy from foods is measured in calories (or kilojoules), and your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is the number of calories you burn each day through movement/exercise.
When there is excess energy in from foods and not enough energy out from movement/exercise this can cause an energy imbalance that results in excess fat being stored in the body (7).
In order to lose weight, your body must use more energy from movement/exercise than energy coming in from foods – what’s called a calorie deficit (8).
What determines our metabolism (metabolic rate)?
Our metabolic rate or better known as our total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is divided into three components:
- Basal metabolic rate (BMR)
- Thermic effect of food (aka thermogenesis)
- Physical activity
1. Basal metabolic rate (BMR)
Even when resting your body requires energy to perform important functions such as breathing, pumping blood around the body, regulating hormones and repairing cells.
These factors are known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR) that accounts for the largest amount of energy used daily (approximately 50-80% of your daily use).
Your BMR is mainly determined by your lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass requires a lot of energy to mainain (hence why bodybuilders need to eat so much!)
Considering that BMR contributes a large amount to your TDEE (around 50%) increasing your lean muscle mass through resistance training can help you to lose weight. Aim for minimum 2 days per week (9).
You can calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) here.
What factors affect your BMR?
Your BMR is influenced by multiple factors that include:
- Body size – The larger your body is the higher the BMR due to more metabolising tissue.
- Lean muscle mass – muscle burns calories rapidly
- Body fat – fat cells are ‘sluggish’ and burn far fewer kilojoules than most other tissues and organs of the body.
- Crash dieting, starving or fasting – eating too few kilojoules encourages the body to slow the metabolism to conserve energy. BMR can drop by up to 15 per cent and if lean muscle tissue is also lost, this further reduces BMR.
- Age – metabolism slows with age due to loss of muscle tissue, but also due to hormonal and neurological changes.
- Growth – infants and children have higher energy demands per unit of body weight due to the energy demands of growth and the extra energy needed to maintain their body temperature.
- Gender – generally, men have faster metabolism because they’re typically larger.
- Genetic predisposition – your metabolic rate may be partly decided by your genes.
- Hormonal and nervous controls – BMR is controlled by the nervous and hormonal systems. Hormonal imbalances can influence how quickly or slowly the body burns kilojoules to some extent (eg. thyroid disorder)
- Environmental temperature – if temperature is very low or very high, the body has to work harder to maintain its normal body temperature, which increases the BMR.
- Infection or illness – BMR increases because the body has to work harder to build new tissues and to create an immune response.
- Amount of physical activity – hard-working muscles need plenty of energy to burn. Regular exercise increases muscle mass and teaches the body to burn kilojoules at a faster rate, even when at rest.
- Drugs – like caffeine or nicotine, can increase the BMR to some extent.
- Dietary deficiencies – for example, a diet low in iodine reduces thyroid function and slows the metabolism to some extent (11).
2. Thermic effect of food (TEF)
Your body uses energy to digest, absorb, transport and store nutrients from the foods and drinks in your diet. Thermogenesis accounts for about 5-10% of your daily energy use.
Different types of foods affect your BMR differently
- Fats increase TEF by 0–5 per cent.
- Carbohydrates increase TEF by 5–10 per cent.
- Proteins increase TEF 20–30 per cent.
Spicy foods (for example, foods containing chilli, horseradish and mustard) can also have a thermic effect.
Although 5-10% of your daily energy use isn’t a great deal, eating protein with every meal can support weight loss by increasing TEF and maintaining muscle mass. Aim for 1g (sedentary lifestyle) – 1.6 (active lifestyle) of protein a day (12).
3) Physical activity
This is the energy used by physical movement and it varies person to person based on the amount of energy they use a day. Physical activity accounts for approximately 20% of our daily energy use based on a person who participates in 30 -45 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a day.
Physical activity includes exercises such as going for a run, swimming, riding a bike or playing sports. However, you don’t need to these things in order to increase your physical activity.
Instead, you can use energy even from doing daily activities like cleaning the house, playing with the dog or even fidgeting (known as NEAT - non-exercise activity thermogenesis) (13).
The take home message
While there are many factors that can impact your metabolism, having a naturally slow metabolism is unlikely to be the cause of excess weight gain.
In order to lose weight, it helps to increase the amount of energy you use each day. You can do this in multiple ways that include weight training and aerobic exercise.
Eating less calories can also help to create a calorie deficit (less energy in from foods) by eating smaller meal portions and getting enough protein in your diet.
3. Should I be worried about sulphites?
What are sulphites?
Sulphites are mainly used as food additives to enhance flavour and preserve freshness. Sulphites are not new a thing, in fact they have a long history in our foods and have been used for centuries.
Interestingly, sulphites also occur naturally in foods, such as fermented foods and drinks. Sulphites are also used as a preservative to increase the shelf-life of a variety of medications.
Who is affected by sulphites?
For many people sulphites aren’t an issue, however sulphite exposure can affect sensitive individuals causing a variety of symptoms such as dermatitis, hives, flushing, low blood pressure, headaches, abdominal pain and diarrhoea to life-threatening anaphylactic and asthmatic reactions.
The good news is sulphite sensitivity or allergy is not that common and mainly affects approximately 3-10% of asthmatics. The severity of these reactions varies, and steroid-dependent asthmatics, those with marked airway hyperresponsiveness, and children with chronic asthma, appear to be at greater risk.
Although a number of potential mechanisms have been proposed, the precise mechanisms underlying sulphite sensitivity remain unclear.
How can I be exposed to sulphites?
Exposure to sulphites mainly comes from the consumption of foods and drinks containing sulphites. However, people can also be exposed through pharmaceuticals and their environments.
Foods containing sulphites include dried fruits, dried vegetables, pickled onions and bottled soft drinks and cordials (14).
The addition of sulphite additives to beer and wine is permitted in most countries, and although the use of sulphites in fresh salads, fruit salads, mincemeat or sausage meat, is illegal in many countries, it may occur illegally.
What are common sources of sulphites in the diet?
- Cordials, fruit juices, beer, wine, soft drinks, instant tea.
- Other liquids
- Commercial preparations of lemon and lime juice, vinegar, grape juice.
- Commercial Foods
- Dry potatoes, gravies, sauces, fruit toppings, maraschino cherries, pickled onions, Maple syrup, jams, jellies, biscuits, bread, pies, pizza dough.
- Dried apricots, and sometimes grapes will be transported with sachets of the sulphites containing preservative. Dried sultanas do not normally contain sulphites.
- Restaurant may add sulphites to preserve their colour of salads and fruit salads.
- Sulphur powder may be added on top of crustaceans to stop them discolouring.
- Sulphites are sometimes added illegally to mincemeat or sausage meat.
- Other foods
- Gelatin, coconut (15)
What are other sources of sulphites?
In addition to food, exposure to sulphites can occur through the use of cosmetics and medicines.
Cosmetics containing sulphites include hair colours and bleaches, creams, and perfumes. Medicines containing sulphites include eye drops, topical medications, and parenteral medications such as adrenaline, phenylephrine, corticosteroids and local anaesthetics (16, 17, 18).
How do I know I have a sulphite allergy?
There is currently no reliable available test for sulphite allergies. Instead, sulphite allergy is usually diagnosed after a history of adverse reactions after ingesting sulphite-foods or medications.
If you believe you have a sulphite allergy its best to discuss with your healthcare professional (21).
Should I avoid sulphites?
If you suspect you have a sulphite allergy you should avoid foods and medications that contain sulphites, however it’s best to first get a diagnosis to confirm that the cause is sulphites and not another type of allergy.
Our TheraJoint+ contains trace amounts of maltodextrin (a type of carbohydrate) as part of the production process.
Maltodextrin has 10mg/kg of sulphites max, meaning that the sulphite amount found in our capsules is less than 0.001% that could be considered negligible, therefore should be of no concern! We are still required to list this on the label, just in case you were wondering why!
Take home message
Sulphite allergies are uncommon and are mostly seen in people who have severe asthma. If you have asthma, you don’t need to avoid sulphite containing foods and drugs unless you have been diagnosed with a sulphite allergy.
If you have any questions or need support with your health, feel free to email our head nutritionist Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your personal circumstances. Please see your medical professional before implementing the above