Natural Health with Megan Sheppard: Benefits of organic foods and glucosamine

I have read that organic foods are the same nutritionally as conventionally grown produce. Am I wasting my money on organic foods?

This is often a controversial topic, especially since organic foods can fetch a much higher price than their non-organic counterparts. The bottom line is that any highly processed and packaged foods are never the best choice for health and wellness, whether they are organic or not. Whole, minimally processed foods are certainly the healthier option.

Organic foods being raised without the use of harmful chemicals or commercially developed fertiliser is the reason why organic foods are touted as being ‘better’ for us. 

While this helps to reduce the toxic burden on our system, it also reduces the environmental burden of intensive farming, commercial fertiliser and pesticide use on our land.

This is where it pays to know where your food is coming from — with farmers’ markets being the ideal place to find out just how your food is raised. 

While some growers may not be organic or certified, they may be using healthy and sustainable practices with minimal or less invasive pest management measures.

Some studies have shown organic produce is higher in trace elements, and lower in heavy metal contaminants. It is worth noting that conventional produce often has a higher water content than organic, which is due to the use of chemical fertiliser. This factor alone would skew the nutrient-density results in favour of organic, making it difficult to compare the two accurately.

There are a number of studies indicating that organic produce is no more nutritious than conventional produce. Nutrient comparisons may be somewhat misleading, however, shifting the focus to what is not found in organic foods might be more useful when deciding whether or not organic is better for us in the long run.

My father swears by glucosamine for joint stiffness and pain. He also gives it to his ageing dog. Should I be taking it to help prevent arthritis, or is it only good for symptom relief?

Glucosamine sulphate works by stimulating cartilage production while also halting the breakdown of cartilage. It is seen to be of particular use in the treatment of osteoarthritis.

The other reason why glucosamine is often recommended to help with arthritic conditions is because it helps to relieve pain. In fact, glucosamine sulphate has been shown in a number of studies to work more effectively than ibuprofen at relieving the pain associated with arthritis, however, it does take longer to work in the beginning.

The recommended dosage is 500mg, three times daily, and it becomes more effective when taken over a longer period of time — so you will need to use it for at least three months for optimal benefits.

For readers wanting to use glucosamine for arthritic dogs, it is worth noting it is best in powder or liquid form and mixed into their food, since the tablets or capsules are likely to pass straight through and therefore be of no real benefit. The suggested dosage for dogs is one lot of 750mg for dogs up to 30kg in weight; two doses of 750mg each for dogs over 30kg.

You asked about the preventative benefits of glucosamine supplementation.

Unfortunately this is somewhat of a grey area, as there is very little scientific evidence to suggest that it works in this manner. What we do know is that it prevents the breakdown of cartilage, helps to lubricate joints, and assists in the repair and maintenance of cartilage for those already experiencing the symptoms of arthritis.

Some things that have been shown to help keep arthritis at bay are omega fatty acid supplementation, eliminating known allergens from the diet, regular gentle exercise (particularly yoga and tai chi), antioxidant supplementation (vitamins A, C, E, and selenium), and taking a comprehensive B-vitamin complex.

NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a subsitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.



Lifestyle

Islands of Ireland: The lady of the lake

Beauty and miraculous evolution of avian flight

Celebrate the pine marten

Who are the top dogs among hyenas?

More From The Irish Examiner