In a search for relief from painful and potentially debilitating health conditions such as arthritis, people are often drawn to the radical, unusual or outright bizarre. It’s reassuring to think a great new solution is out there waiting to be tried. But in most cases, it’s actually the more basic, down-to-earth approaches, which can offer the most help – even though they don’t attract the shock headlines.
Arthritis is a disease that affects millions and to date has no obvious cure. Its symptoms, however, can be dramatically reduced with common sense lifestyle changes. Specifically, the biggest change arthritis sufferers can make (apart from regular exercise) is to their diet. And we are not talking about drastic fasting, eating like a caveman or eliminating everything you really like. Let’s not punish ourselves; it’s just about eating smarter.
Evidence is steadily growing that shows the decisions you make on what to eat and drink may hold the secret to reducing symptoms of arthritis. By making informed food choices, people with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and other forms of arthritis can make a huge difference to their lives. Yes, you can literally cook yourself healthier!
At the heart of all forms of arthritis is inflammation and research now shows certain food groups encourage inflammation. Eating lots of these foods can accelerate arthritis, so they should be avoided. Thankfully, many foods are anti-inflammatory and can help reduce symptoms.
“Almost everything we eat either encourages or discourages inflammation“ – Cleveland Clinic Academic Medical Center
While it has been common knowledge for a long time that inflammation is a major driver for rheumatoid arthritis, recent scientific evidence now also shows that osteoarthritis is not just ‘wear and tear’. Researchers at Stanford University found that, “development of osteoarthritis is in great part driven by low-grade inflammatory processes”. So, it does make sense to switch to an anti-inflammatory diet even for osteoarthritis.
Identifying the good guys from the bad is not easy, as every food type needs to be examined on its own merits. But multiple studies have been conducted across the globe, so a clearer picture is emerging. For example, trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils found in many processed foods) and refined sugars (again, found in processed foods) are clearly linked with causing inflammation. In contrast, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish, flaxseed and nuts) can reduce inflammatory processes in the body.
Based on all the evidence gathered so far, there are five tips every person with arthritis should know about and act upon:
- Eat lots and lots of different vegetables because each one has a different beneficial property (mix up the colours as an easy way to get variety).
- Eliminate added sugars, trans fats and saturated fats, as they are all linked with causing inflammation (if you cut out processed food, you’ll skip a lot of these).
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids – proven to be anti-inflammatory – in the form of fish and certain nuts, like walnuts or seeds like flaxseed.
- Consume whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, spelt, brown & wild rice or buckwheat (whole grains are said to reduce inflammation whereas refined grains can increase it).
- Use spices, such as ginger and turmeric, which are known to have an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Swap coffee and black tea for green tea – studies suggest green tea may help ease symptoms of arthritis – and drink sufficient amounts of plain water throughout the day.
As you can see, there is no magic bullet in these tips. It’s plain old common sense, backed by a bit of science. By starting with these simple guidelines, you can take at least some control of your condition, on your own terms, from the comfort of your own kitchen. Best of all, you can still eat a lot of the things you love. No need to live of kale juice only just yet!
Do you have arthritis? How do you manage your symptoms? Have you tried any of these suggestions? Tell us below.