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How to Strengthen Cartilage

Most people associate cartilage with their earlobes or nose, but this soft, flexible tissue is found all throughout the body. It’s also in the larynx, respiratory tract, intervertebral discs and the rib cage. Perhaps most importantly, cartilage serves as the protective cushion between bones and joints.

Considered a connective tissue, cartilage is a flexible, white substance that’s similar to rubber. At times, however, it can be rigid and firm in order to hold certain tracts open, such as the trachea. While healthy cartilage is strong, it's easily damaged. The result? Painful inflammation that many of us are all too familiar with. 

What Weakens Cartilage?

Cartilage loss is often seen as a normal part of aging. We’re led to believe that joint pain is unavoidable with age as the articulating cartilage in our joints break down.

the hands of an older man who experiences joint pain

However, there are several specific causes of weak or damaged cartilage that has nothing to do with age:


Excessive body weight puts extra pressure on joints and breaks down cartilage. 


Cartilage injuries can occur from a single traumatic event or from small, repetitive injuries, such as those associated with sports.


With connective tissue deficiency syndrome, the body breaks down its own cartilage.


Constant high levels of the hormone leptin can lead to metabolic syndrome, which also causes the body’s cartilage to deteriorate.


Overuse of certain over-the-counter drugs (like ibuprofen and naproxen) can damage otherwise healthy cartilage.

Why Is It Important to Strengthen Cartilage?

The effects of compromised cartilage are impossible to ignore. For most people, their first experience with this painful condition is in their joints. When cartilage in this area is worn away, the joints are no longer protected from impact. Eventually, bones start rubbing against each other, making simple activities more difficult and painful.

red and inflamed knee caused by cartilage damage

Likewise, cartilage also serves to protect our joints’ synovial fluid. A decrease in this critical fluid leads to painful inflammation.

Also, it’s quite difficult to rebuild this protective tissue once it’s been worn down – yet another important reason to strengthen cartilage now before it’s too late. If or when cartilage does regrow, it often comes back lumpy and doesn’t provide the smooth movement it once did.

Ways to Rebuild and Strengthen Cartilage

Since cartilage damage occurs slowly over time, rebuilding connective tissues also takes time. One of the best ways to strengthen cartilage is to eat nutritious foods. Focusing on a diet high in essential fatty acids can help increase cartilage. These fatty acids are easily found in foods such as coldwater fish, avocadoes and flaxseed oil.

Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center showed that lysine is needed to regenerate damaged tissues, including cartilage. Lysine-rich foods include legumes, red meat, eggs, cheese and gelatin.

Of course, a part of rebuilding cartilage includes taking steps to prevent further damage. Depending on the person, this may mean losing weight and participating in low-impact exercises several times a week. Easy workouts are especially helpful because joint cartilage requires both motion and strength training to remain healthy.

Natural Ways to Strengthen Cartilage

Natural remedies are an excellent way to boost cartilage health because they’re easy on the body, available without prescriptions and safer than medications like corticosteroids.

A few natural supplements that combat cartilage deterioration include glucosamine, chondroitin and coenzyme Q10. Fish oil supplements are also effective since they help reduce inflammation. 

Another natural and highly effective option is herbs. White willow bark, ginger, cayenne and boswellia are all proven anti-inflammatories that take pressure off damaged or thinned cartilage.

herbal tincture to strengthen cartilage

Comfrey root, gravel root, marshmallow root and skullcap are a few herbs that can actually repair malformations of the bones and connective tissues as well as strengthen weak areas.

Because it can be difficult to repair cartilage once it’s been damaged, prevention is the best form of medicine. Taking a daily supplement to strengthen cartilage can lead to less joint pain as you age, while also ensuring optimal cartilage health for years to come.