Did you know that inflammation is at the heart of arthritis? That’s why it makes perfect sense to eat foods that help fight inflammation and reduce the chronic pain and joint damage that comes with this condition.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form, is one of the most prevalent major health concerns in the world, according to the 2010 Global Burden of Disease, Injuries and Risk Factors Study. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions reports that 78 million adults over the age of 18 will have arthritis by the year 2040.
Mother Nature provides the most efficient way for you to manage that swelling and improve your mobility while reducing pain at the same time. The anti-inflammatory diet isn’t the latest craze in Hollywood, but it is one of the most promising approaches to enriching your overall health and managing inflammation and arthritis.
What Is The Anti-inflammatory Diet (Arthritis Friendly Diet)?
The idea behind this diet is to focus on foods that reduce inflammation naturally using nutrients, while avoiding choices that tend to increase it. Human studies correlate a connection between eating habits and markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein (HS-CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α). The presence of these elements in the body tells researchers more about the types and levels of inflammation each person experiences.
The typical North American and Northern European diet tends to be heavy in foods like fatty red meat that increase inflammation and cause pain. If you have a condition like arthritis, then eating foods that increase chronic inflammation may exasperate your symptoms and increase your pain.
What Constitutes An Arthritis Friendly Diet?
There are many versions of the anti-inflammatory diet out there, but, in general, they all ask you to:
- Eat nine or more cups of fruits and vegetables a day. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that improve the body’s natural defence
- Try for two to three tablespoons of olive oil a day. It is rich in healthy fats that inhibit COX enzymes, making it powerfully anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen. Avoid saturated and trans fats.
- Fish are good sources of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. It is recommended that you eat three to four ounces twice a week for heart health, but you can increase that if you have arthritis
- Unless you are sensitive to gluten, you can eat up to 6 ounces of grains per day. You must make 3 of them whole grains like oatmeal, bulgur or brown rice.
- Switch out fatty animal protein like red meat for 1.5 ounces a day of nuts and seeds. Plant proteins contain monounsaturated fat which helps fight inflammation.
These diets also encourage the use of spices that have an anti-inflammatory effect such as turmeric, ginger and curry leaves.
There are a few foods you should avoid when planning your AF diet:
- Nightshade vegetable like eggplant and red bell peppers – many people with arthritis find that they are allergic to these and makes their pain worse
- Refined carbohydrates such as white flour, pure sugars like candy and soda.
- Highly processed foods like frozen meals or fried meats.
Same AF diet for different types of arthritis?
There are different types of arthritis, with a variety of causes, risk factors and symptoms, but, ultimately, it boils down to inflammation.
There isn’t one magic formula for osteoarthritis and another for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) because they have different causes and that will affect your food choices.
The inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis is a direct response to an immune system attack of the synovia, the lining of the membranes around your joint. The inflammation that occurs as a result of this condition causes thickening of the tissue that will destroy the cartilage and bone that make up the joints over time.
The Mediterranean approach is often considered the best option for those with RA because it increases the levels of nutrients that reduce the inflammatory activity of the immune system.
A Mediterranean based diet focuses on fish, vegetables and healthy oils, while reducing the amount of red meat and processed foods. A 2003 study found that introducing RA patients to an anti-inflammatory diet based on eating habits found in the Mediterranean lead to a reduction in damaging inflammation.
Osteoarthritis is often age and weight related. For this reason, weight management, lifestyle changes and calorie intake are critical. Switching to an all-vegetarian diet may reduce inflammation and improve osteoarthritis symptoms because it promotes weight loss, bone health and balanced nutrition. A plant-based diet would include healthy and anti-inflammatory options like fruit, leafy vegetables, legumes and whole grains. These foods are rich in protective compounds like antioxidants and polyphenols to promote healing and fight disease naturally.
However, when it comes to an anti-inflammatory diet to combat arthritis, the bottom line is that no one size simply fits all. Barbara Allan, arthritis sufferer and author of the best selling book “Conquering Arthritis: What doctors don’t tell you because they don’t know” found that foods that caused inflammation in her did not necessarily do so in other people suffering from arthritis pain. So, be patient and try a few diets for what suits you best.
Can An Anti-Inflammatory Diet Replace Drug Therapy For Arthritis?
At the moment, most of us manage the chronic pain of arthritis with medication, but the potential side effects are problematic.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) tend to cause heartburn and can lead to stomach ulcers. They may also increase the patient’s risk of blood clots leading to heart attack or stroke. With long term use, they steal nutrients from you body folic acid, vitamin C, iron, potassium, and sodium from your body, that you often need to put back.
- Corticosteroids are linked to cataract formation, increase in blood fats and sugar and to bone loss.
The goal of any arthritis treatment is to lower inflammation and reduce pain. Drug interventions may offer short-term relief, but lifestyle changes such as an anti-inflammatory diet provide a long-term solution – possibly one that gets you off the medication completely.
If what you eat is part of what triggers the inflammatory response that causes your pain, then changing your diet eliminates that part of the problem, especially when combined with other positive lifestyle changes like weight loss and exercise.
Focusing on a more natural and less processed diet can affect your life in many ways. It will improve your moods; reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease like diabetes.
The persistent inflammation from arthritis threatens your joint health with every attack. Why not try changing what you eat to control it, so you can rely more on the grocery store for your health than the pharmacy? Go ahead, eat your way out of pain!