With majority of the old folks suffering from some form of arthritis, let us take a look at what is arthritis? What treatments for arthritis or arthritis diet are out there to help us with this painful disease? We spoke to the experts to find out if there is any arthritis diet to help us prevent the onset or intensity of arthritis?
What is arthritis?
There are many types of arthritis (over 100 identified, and the number is growing). The types of arthritis range from those related to wear and tear of cartilage (such as osteoarthritis) to those associated with inflammation resulting from an overactive immune system (such as rheumatoid arthritis).
Broadly, arthritis is mainly of three types:
1. Osteoarthritis: This type affects about 33% of people aged over 45 and is the most prevailing form of arthritis. This condition occurs due to the wear and tear of the joints, which obstructs them from being able to move freely and also resulting into pain and inflammation.
To quote, Professor Philip Conaghan – the professor of Musculoskeletal Medicine at Leeds University: “This is a mechanically driven form of arthritis which increases with age. It stems from old injuries, the strains of our jobs and weight gain over the years. You end up living an ever-shrinking life as you stop going out so much because you’re in pain.”
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): This type occurs when the body’s immune system – which generally safeguards its health by attacking foreign substances like bacteria and viruses – mistakenly attacks the joints. This produces inflammation that causes the tissue that lines the inside of joints (the synovium) to thicken, leading to swelling, stiffness and pain in and around the joints.
If inflammation goes unchecked, it can damage cartilage, the elastic tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint, as well as the bones themselves. Over time, there is loss of cartilage, and the joint spacing between bones can become smaller. Joints can become loose, unstable, painful and lose their mobility. Joint deformity also can occur. Joint damage cannot be reversed, and because it can occur early, doctors recommend early diagnosis and aggressive treatment to control RA.
Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly affects the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles. The joint effect is usually symmetrical. That means if one knee or hand if affected, usually the other one is, too. Medication is needed to control the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis such as pain, and to prevent further complications.
3. Gout: This type is another common type of arthritis. It occurs due to build-up of uric acid in the body. It is one of the types of the disease that can be partially treated by a change in diet. A diet low in purine (found in many foods) can help control this type.
According to Professor Conaghan, Gout is common in heavy drinkers. So, the doctors advise to cut down on alcohol, as it contains purines. Sometimes it’s due to genetic tendencies.
There are many other forms of arthritis, ranging from potentially life-threatening lupus, to fibromyalgia, which causes muscle weakness.
What Helps Arthritis Prevention?
1. Weight: After 40, people gain on an average of one kilogram per year and this weight exerts extra stresses on your joints. Keeping your weight under control is one of the most important factors as a remedy against arthritis. As per Professor Conaghan: “A healthy diet is vital to preventing it.”
2. Physical Activity: Retaining muscles strength is another one of the most important factors in preventing arthritis due to the fact that muscle weakness can deteriorate symptoms further. Pushing yourself out of chair, using stair rails for support, difficulties in opening jars and struggling to get out of the bathtub are some of the signs that indicate that your muscles are getting weaker.
To quote Professor Conaghan: “Most of us get a bit weaker as we grow old and we develop joint pain. If we don’t move as much will lead to a downward spiral.”
Try to find out some kind of exercise that you’re able to do, such as building leg muscles by walking, and when you feel a little stronger, use an exercise bike to burn calories. Consult a physiotherapist for exercises, which can help you to recover.
Tip: If you get some sporting injury or any other physical injury, make sure you rehabilitate from it completely and endeavor to get strong again before you go back to sports to cut back on your chances of re-injury.
(i) Osteoarthritis is generally treated with exercise, painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
(ii) Rheumatoid arthritis requires prescription medication to help decrease inflammation and prevent further damage to joints, generally disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.
Arthritis And Diet
Is there any diet for arthritis that can help in arthritis? To quote the Nutritional Immunologist Professor Phillip Calder, from Southampton University:
“What seems to happen is certain nutrients dampen the production of the chemicals that trigger inflammatory processes. They reduce inflammation and, as a result, lessen the pain this causes.”
What You Need To Include In Arthritis Diet
Many researchers studies have shown that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytochemicals can provide potent anti-inflammatory nutrients to your body.
Prof Calder explains, “These foods usually form part of a Mediterranean-style diet of fish, olive oil, fruits, veg, nuts, seeds and beans.” It has also been found that people taking such a diet have lesser risk of rheumatoid arthritis than those who eat a more sugar-laden Western diet. Some other research studies have also observed that changing to a Mediterranean diet can ease pain and stiffness in those already with arthritis.
Professor David Isenberg, leading rheumatology expert and spokesperson for Arthritis Research UK says that everyone is different, so what works for one person, might not work for another. He further says that no one should leave medication without consulting his or her doctor. To quote him: “Some people find changing their diet improves their symptoms,” he says. “Some find that following a Mediterranean-style diet is helpful.”
Arthritis Diet – Foods That Help In Arthritis
1. Oily Fish: They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have great anti-inflammatory properties. Bonus point is that eating a portion of an oily fish 1-2 times a week may reduce the risk of even developing rheumatoid arthritis by one half, claims a Swedish study published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Family Fitness Tip: Eat more oily fish. Try to eat at least one portion of salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna or tinned sardines in a week.
2. Wholegrain: They can cut down levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. CRP is an indicator of inflammation connected with heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Wholegrain also contain high amount of fiber, which is also useful for feeding the good bacteria in your gut that are key to boost immunity and restrain inflammation.
Tip: Substitute whole meal bread, pasta, oats and brown rice for the white varieties.
3. Olive Oil: This versatile healthy oil contains a molecule called Oleocanthal that has similar anti-inflammatory properties like that of ibuprofen, so can help to ease both the chronic and acute inflammation connected with rheumatoidarthritis (according to a research study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry).
Tip: To eat more olive oil, you can drizzle it on to salads and steamed vegetables.
4. Citrus Fruit: Oranges, grapefruits and limes contain high amounts of vitamin C.
It has been found that eating foods that are rich source of vitamin C can help containing inflammatory arthritis and keeping healthy joints for those with osteoarthritis.
Tip: To increase intake of vitamin C, begin your day with a grapefruit and add slices of lemon and lime to plain water to perk it up.
5. Green Tea: This contains high amount of polyphenols – antioxidants that are claimed to cut back inflammation and lessen cartilage destruction.
Research studies have also shown that another antioxidant in green tea; known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), restrain the production of molecules, which otherwise can result into joint damage in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Tip: Substitute your morning cuppa with a cup of green tea.
6. Garlic: As per the researchers at King’s College London, eating plenty of this herb can lower risk of developing osteoarthritis. According to these researches allium vegetables – a group that also includes leeks and onions – seems to have a preventive effect by restraining the amount of cartilage-damaging enzymes.
Tip: To eat more, add liberally to flavor sauces, casseroles, soups and curries.
7. Spices: Many spices contain anti-inflammatory properties. One study in Alternative Medicine Review observed that taking a turmeric powder controlled long-term pain and improved mobility in patients with osteoarthritis. Another study in a University of Miami found that a ginger supplement reduced arthritis pain by 40%.
Tip: Use these spices liberally to add flavor to curries and stir-fries. Another way is to sprinkle them on to soups, sauces and salads.
8. Broccoli: This vegetable contains a compound, known as Sulforaphane, that is believed to an important ingredient in preventing or slowing the progress of osteoarthritis (as per a study at the University of East Anglia).
The researchers believe it could be useful in blocking the enzymes that lead to joint damage.
Tip: Add this vegetable to stir-fries and in soups or steam a little bit and enjoy in salads.
9. Bone Broth: Homemade chicken and meat stock contain minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and others), which your body can easily absorb. These minerals have chondroitin sulfates and glucosamine, which may help in reducing inflammation and joint pain.
Tip: Make your own wholesome broth by boiling up the meat bones with water and vegetables of your choice for several hours.
10. Yogurt: Fermented foods, like yogurt, can help enhance the number of good bacteria in your gut, which can maintain your immune system resilient and also help in lessening inflammation in your body.
Tip: Include in your daily diet live yogurt at least one portion a day. For those who don’t like yogurt, they can opt for kefir (Turkish milk drink), sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) or kimchee (Korean fermented vegetables).
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