Home Care in Suffield CT, Somers CT and all North Central CT and Western Mass
Article originally published in the Journal Inquirer
“Arthritis” is a general term to describe conditions that cause joint inflammation, with symptoms like pain, stiffness, and swelling. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, and psoriatic arthritis are a few of the existing types of arthritis. It is often related to aging and may lead loss of mobility.
Typical treatment involves anti-inflammation and pain-reducing medications, some of which may have collateral effects. However, one can fight arthritis not only with drugs.
Experts also recommend the practice of low impact exercise and diet. Exercise increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue.
The effect of nutrition in arthritis was controversial until the early 1990s when research studies finally established its role beyond a reasonable doubt.
Foods affect the joints in two ways. Certain foods trigger the inflammatory symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Eliminating these foods may reduce the inflammation-related pain or even remit it entirely. Certain fatty acids, on the other hand, have a proven anti-inflammatory effect that can reduce joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.
The rule of thumb is to follow a diet low in processed foods and saturated fat. Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and beans. Gout, because of its relationship with uric acids, requires a specific diet.
Before engaging in a diet, it is recommended to talk to your doctor. A nutritionist can also help to find the dietary replacements that are right for you.
Lower the AGEs
No, this is not about getting younger. The acronym AGE refers to “advanced glycation end product.” AGEs, also known as
However, researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found that eating some fried, roasted, seared or grilled foods at high temperatures produce AGEs as well. AGEs are also present in raw animal products, including meat. Cooking, especially at high temperatures, forms new AGEs in foods.
Although sometimes AGEs are not harmful, high levels in the tissues and blood can trigger an inflammatory response. Reducing the number of foods cooked at high temperatures in your diet could potentially help reduce blood AGE levels.
Research also determined that a high level of AGEs in the diet could also be related to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Here are a few foods you should avoid, for their potential to trigger arthritis:
- Fried and processed foods
Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine examined disease prevention through diet. In their study, they found that “cutting back on the consumption of fried and processed foods, such as fried meats and prepared frozen meals, can reduce inflammation and help restore the body’s natural defenses.”
Therefore, cut down on the amount of fried and processed foods you consume, such as fried meats and prepared frozen meals, and include more vegetables, nuts, and fruits in your diet.
- Sugars and refined carbs
Many industrialized foods contain added sugar, like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup. They contain a high number of calories with no other essential nutrients. That’s why they are called "empty" calories. Moreover, an excess of sugar in the diet is also related to obesity and diabetes.
But that is not all. High amounts of sugar in your diet may also cause an increase in AGEs, which can trigger inflammation. Therefore, cut out candies, processed foods, white flour baked goods, and sodas to reduce your arthritis inflammation and pain.
- Dairy products
The jury is still out on whether dairy products are good or bad for arthritis. It’s clear that a diet high in saturated fats – which are plentiful in cheese and whole milk products – can increase inflammation. However, studies are pointing that the consumption of milk and yogurt may be beneficial for gout patients. Evidence also points out that yogurt may have anti-inflammatory properties, probably due to its probiotics.
Given the conflicting research findings, what types of dairy (if any) should an arthritis patient consume? The answer: It depends.
Dairy can be harmful to people who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to A1 beta-casein protein, present in most milk in the U.S. For some people, this protein irritates the tissue around their joints.
Some people with arthritis and related conditions find that avoiding dairy foods can reduce flares. For others, reducing dairy doesn’t seem to make a difference. To find out, you might consider an elimination diet. Just cut out dairy for a while and then reintroduce it to see how your joints respond.
Because of the saturated fats, avoid dairy products rich in whole milk. Choose skimmed milk and no-fat yogurt, for example. Some types of cheese may also have more fat than others. Overall, to avoid arthritis pain, reduce the protein intake from meat and dairy. Get the bulk of your protein sources from vegetables like spinach, nut butter, tofu, beans, lentils, and quinoa.
- Alcohol and tobacco
Tobacco and alcohol use can lead to health problems, including some that may affect your joints. Smokers are at a higher risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis, while those who consume alcohol have a higher risk of developing gout.
Healthy joints require a balanced diet, physical activity, and an adequate amount of rest — all of which can be compromised by alcohol and tobacco use. Cut back on drinking and smoking, and ramp up your eating habits with healthy choices, regular exercise, and quality sleep.
- Salt and preservatives
Many industrialized foods contain excessive salt, and other sodium-based preservatives added to increase their shelf lives. For some people, excess consumption of salt may result in inflammation of their joints. It may be worth trying to reduce your salt intake to as modest an amount as is reasonable.
Eating less salt may also reduce calcium loss from bones, reducing osteoporosis and fracture risk. People with rheumatoid arthritis may feel salt's effects even more.
Read labels to avoid preservatives and additives. Home cooked meals without added salt are better than prepared meals. Avoid microwavable meals, which are usually very high in sodium.
In 1981, the British Medical Journal reported the case of a woman whose arthritis symptoms disappeared after she had corn eliminated from her diet. After 25 years of suffering, her joint pains were no more.
Many baked goods and snacks contain corn or other oils high in omega-6 fatty acids that may trigger inflammation. Some studies have found that fish oil, which contains omega-3s, may help with joint pain relief in certain people.
Replace foods containing omega-6 fatty acids should with healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 alternatives such as nuts, olive oil, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
The bottom lines
There is no recommended arthritis diet plan. What works for one person may not work for someone else. To discover what is best for each person, try to eliminate certain foods and observe what happens. Over time, it will be possible to define the optimum diet for each person. In general, specialists advise arthritis patients to maintain healthy body weight, practice low impact exercise and eat a balanced diet.
Overall, avoiding saturated fat, salt and sugar in your diet helps not only to reduce arthritis pain but also prevents diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
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