Arthritis is a disease, characterized by inflammation and loss of function in some parts of the body that causes painful joints and disability to move properly. It affects most of us in old age.
Some recent studies have revealed, there is now increasing evidence that an anti-inflammatory diet helps to relieve arthritis symptoms. We have spoken to many experts to explore, whether food can be an effective alternative to medication?
Although there is no complete diet cure for arthritis, but whether you have osteoarthritis, the most common wear-and-tear type, or the debilitating autoimmune variety, rheumatoid arthritis, a growing body of research suggests that certain foods have been shown to fight inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system – all of which can help ease arthritis symptoms. These dietary changes to your balanced diet may help alleviate the chronic pain associated with this condition. Read on to find out how?
To quote singer Paul Young: “I found modern eating habits – too many processed foods, carbs, sugars and a severe lack of fibre – could trigger the release of inflammatory messengers, cytokines, that are linked to arthritis. I stopped eating these and started eating more inflammation-fighting foods and am now living pain free.”
Marina Young revealed in a new book – A Quest For Well-Being: How Much Does Food Hold The Key?, a successful diet-based strategy to deal with her rheumatoid arthritis, which cut down the symptoms to a level where she could even stop medication completely. To quote her: “The more I looked into the latest scientific papers, the more convinced I was of a link between certain foods and inflammatory conditions like arthritis.”
Inflammation Role In Arthritis
When the immune system is under attack, inflammation occurs as in rheumatoid arthritis. This damages body tissues, which leads to release of inflammation-causing chemicals.
New studies now believe inflammation also has a role in the joint damage that leads to osteoarthritis.
Does Food Help To Beat Arthritis?
To quote Professor Phillip Calde, a nutritional immunologist, from Southampton University: “What seems to happen is certain nutrients dampen the production of these chemicals that trigger inflammatory processes. They reduce inflammation and, as a result, the pain this causes.”
What You Need To Eat To Ditch Medication?
Studies have found a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytochemicals provides the body with potent anti-inflammatory nutrients. To quote Professor Calder: “These foods are commonly part of a Mediterranean-style diet of fish, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans.”
Such kind of diet has also been found to reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, in comparison to those who eat a more sugar-laden Western diet. Some other studies too have found switching to a Mediterranean diet can alleviate pain and stiffness in those who are already suffering from arthritis.
On the other hand Professor David Isenberg, a leading rheumatology expert and spokesperson for Arthritis Research UK says that “everyone is different” and what works for one person, like Marina, might not work for another. He also points out; no one should leave medication without checking with their doctor.
He further stresses: “Some people find changing their diet improves their symptoms,” he says. “Some find that following a Mediterranean-style diet is helpful.”
Best Foods For Arthritis
1. Oily Fish (Omega-3 Fats): Because certain types of fish are packed with inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, experts recommend at least 3 to 4 ounces of fish, twice a week. Aim for at least one portion of salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, herring or tinned sardines per week. A Swedish study published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases stresses that eating a portion each week may halve the risk of even developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Family Fitness Tips:
(i) Not an aficionada of fish, but yet wish for the inflammation-busting benefits of omega-3 fatty acids? Consider heart-healthy soybeans (tofu or edamame). Soybeans are also low in fat, high in protein and fiber and an all-around good-for-you food.
(ii) Omega-6 fats are dominant in a typical American diet, found in meat, corn, snack foods, and sunflower oil. Consider cutting down your intake of these fats while augmenting your consumption of healthy omega-3 fats, which are found in salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, flaxseeds and walnuts.
2. Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats, as well as oleocanthal, which has similar anti-inflammatory properties to ibuprofen and non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs – thus can help to alleviate both the chronic and acute inflammation and stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis, as per a research published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
Family Fitness Tip: To slot in more olive oil in your diet, ditch store-bought salad dressings for a homemade kind. Mix 3 parts olive oil to 1 part vinegar or lemon juice. Add herbs and spices of your choice. Drizzle on to salads and steamed vegetables.
3. Green Tea: This is known to be rich source of polyphenols – antioxidants believed to ease inflammation and slow down cartilage destruction.
Studies also have found that another antioxidant in green tea known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) prevents the production of molecules that lead to joint damage in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Fitness Tip: Ditch your morning cuppa for a green tea.
4. Dairy Products: Low-fat dairy products, like milk, yogurt and cheese are full of calcium and vitamin D, both work to augment bone strength. Vitamin D is crucial for calcium absorption, and it has been found to make better the immune system. If you are not a fan of dairy, opt for other calcium and vitamin D-rich foods like leafy green vegetables.
Family Fitness Tip: Fermented foods (like yogurt, kefir – consider eating at least once a day) can help enhance the number of good bacteria in your tummy that keeps the immune system resilient and lessens inflammation in the body.
Caution: For some people dairy, however, may exacerbate arthritis inflammation and pain.
5. Broccoli: Packed with vitamins K and C, broccoli also contains a compound known as sulforaphane, which according to a study at the University of East Anglia, could help thwart or slow down the progress of osteoarthritis (OA). The researchers have also found that it works by blocking the enzymes that cause joint damage. Moreover, broccoli is also a rich source of calcium, which is known for its bone-building benefits.
Fitness Tip: As per a Mayo Clinic 11-year study, broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables were found to guard against the development of arthritis.
6. Citrus Fruit: These fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and limes are full of vitamin C. Studies have found that intake of the right amount of vitamin C helps in averting inflammatory arthritis and retaining healthy joints for those with osteoarthritis (OA). As per a study published in American Journal Of Epidemiology, greater intake of vitamin C was linked with a 30 percent reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
(i) Begin your day with a grapefruit and add slices of lemon and lime to plain water to liven it up.
(ii) Incorporate vitamin C-rich bell peppers, oranges, mangos, strawberries, pineapple, and kidney beans in your grocery list.
(iii) Make sure to opt for dietary sources of vitamin C rather than supplements because high vitamin C doses have been found to exacerbate symptoms of arthritis.
As per the USDA, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 90 mg/day for men and 75 mg/day for women.
7. Whole Grains: Whole grains reduce levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. CRP is a pointer of inflammation connected with heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. They contain fiber that helps supplying the good bacteria into your gut, which are important for combating inflammation and improving immunity.
Tip: Switch over from white varieties to foods such as whole-meal bread, pasta, cereals, oats and brown rice.
8. Beans: They are full of fiber, a nutrient that helps lower CRP. They are also a great – and cost effective – source of protein, which is vital for muscle health. Some beans varieties are rich in folic acid, magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium, all of which are good for their heart and immune system benefits. Go for red beans, kidney beans and pinto beans.
9. Garlic: Studies have found that people who regularly ate foods from the allium family – such as garlic, onions and leeks – indicated fewer signs of early osteoarthritis (OA). According to researchers at King’s College London, the allium vegetables – a group that also includes leeks and onions – seem to have a protecting effect by restraining the amount of cartilage-damaging enzymes.
10. Spices: Many spices produce an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. According to a study in Alternative Medicine Review, taking a turmeric supplement recuperated long-term pain and mobility in patients having osteoarthritis. As per a University of Miami study, a ginger supplement reduced arthritis pain by 40%.
Tip: Use generously to flavor curries and stir-fries. You can also sprinkle them on to soups, sauces and salads.
Supplements That Help Control Arthritis
(i) Omega-3: To quote Professor Calder: “ When it comes to relieving pain for existing arthritis sufferers, studies show a relatively high dose is needed – 3g a day or equivalent to two or three fish oil capsules – for at least three months.”
(ii) Vitamin D: A Framingham Study found a reduced risk of osteoarthritis progression in the knees of participants who consumed greater amounts of vitamin D. Moreover, a Women’s Health Study of 29,000 women participants without a history of arthritis found that those who in take more dietary vitamin D had a reduced risk of acquiring rheumatoid arthritis.
Besides oily fish, few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Direct exposure to sunlight is necessary for our bodies to generate vitamin D naturally, which is why many of the people living in regions that lack sunshine are low in this nutrient that’s so important for immunity, bone health and much more. Some studies reveal vitamin D supplements can help in arthritis and relieve arthritis pain.
A Case Study – Is Diet Effective In Beating Arthritis?
Marina Young, 50, a resident of Lymington, Hampshire, U.K. says by taking new diet she could stop taking her pills!!
Excerpts from a new book by Marina Young – A Quest For Well-Being:
“I was just 43 when I noticed my thumb joint hurt, and within weeks I couldn’t use my hands properly, struggling to open jars and grip.
I put it down to the stress; until I suffered what I now know was a rheumatoid attack.
Every joint ached, I couldn’t get out of a chair and could barely climb stairs – I felt like an old woman.
After several doctors’ appointments, I was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
I was shocked as I thought it was an older person’s disease, but have since discovered that the majority of people are actually diagnosed in their forties and fifties.
I was prescribed Prednisolone, an oral steroid, and Methotrexate, an anti-rheumatic drug that’s also used for chemotherapy.
It blocks the immune system from attacking the joints, slowing the progress of the disease. It worked – the pain went.
But when the doctor explained I’d need to take the medication for life, I started to worry about the long-term effects.
Over time, the drugs can cause liver damage and suppress the immune system. Sure enough, I started catching every cold going.
I decided to do my own research, looking for diet changes that might help and found a link between certain foods and inflammatory conditions.
I saw I was eating too many processed foods and too many refined carbs like bread, pasta and biscuits.
So, I cut out sugar, bread and anything containing refined flour.
I avoided vegetable oils, opting for butter, coconut oil or olive oil, ate masses of fruit and veg and plenty of anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic and onions.
In less than a month, I felt better. My sleep and energy improved and I could swim every day.
And after three years of healthy eating, I stopped taking the medication and to my relief I was pain free and, four years on, still am.
I now feel healthier than ever.”
Your Overall Anti-Arthritis Diet
In general, you should opt for a diet that’s high in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, legumes, and olive oil. Limit or avoid red meat, dairy (if it does not suit you), saturated fats, and sugar to help avert arthritis and deal with arthritis-related inflammation and pain.