The term ‘arthritis’ is used to describe more than 100 different conditions causing pain, stiffness and occasionally inflammation in your joints. There is no special food or ‘miracle’ cure for arthritis, but some conditions can be alleviated when you change your diet.
According to Arthritis Australia there are a number of myths about food and arthritis, but one thing is certain: a healthy balanced diet is important for you to be able to maintain your general health and wellbeing.
The American Arthritis Foundation says there are certain food ingredients you should however avoid if you have arthritis because they can increase inflammation and put you on a path to other diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Processed sugars have been found to trigger inflammation. You’ll find these sugars in chocolate bars, desserts, fruit juices and soft drinks. If you’re interested in reading food labels, look for any ingredient ending in ‘ose’ such as fructose or sucrose.
Studies have found that saturated fats trigger your fat tissues and this can lead to heart disease and worsen your arthritis inflammation. When it comes to saturated fats, think about how much cheese you are eating, as well as fast foods (takeaways) meat products, grain-based dishes and pastas.
While trans fats have been of concern in your diet for at least 20 years — found in things like frozen snack foods, donuts, cookies, crackers and margarine — they are bad if you have arthritis because they increase inflammation, heart disease and other problems. You can assess the amount of trans fats in your foods by looking at the food label, and where possible you shouldn’t be consuming any additional trans fats or hydrogenated oils.
While a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids is said to help your arthritis, omega-6 fatty acids can trigger your body’s production of pro-inflammatory chemicals. You need to be aware of how much, if any, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, soy, peanut oil, vegetable oil, mayonnaise and off-the-shelf salad dressing you are consuming.
Anything you eat that has been baked with white flour — bread, bread rolls, crackers — as well as white rice and some breakfast cereals falls into the ‘refined carbohydrate’ category and won’t be good for your arthritis. Again, refined carbs are bad for increasing inflammation of your arthritis. Instead opt for whole gran cereals, pastas, breads, and brown or wild rice.
This flavour-enhancing food additive — mono-soium glutamate — is most commonly found in Asian cuisine and soy sauce, but you’ll also find it added to fast foods, prepared soups and soup mixes, salad dressings and deli meats. Not only will MSG affect your inflammation, but it could lead have a negative impact on your liver health. Instead of MSG, look to replace it with spices to add flavour and use natural foods like honey to add sweetness.
The proteins found in some dairy and wheat products are known to cause an allergic reaction, but what about their impact on your arthritis? You guessed it… Inflammation. It’s said to be worse if you also suffer from coeliac disease or a dairy intolerance.
Read more: How to exercise with arthritis
Some foods will contain excess amounts of salt and preservatives to give them a longer shelf life, but if you want to avoid increasing your arthritis inflammation reducing your salt intake is certainly something to look at. A number of pre-packaged meals contain high levels of salt, so be sure to read the labels if they form part of your diet.
When it comes to managing your arthritis the method is somewhat straight forward. Eat a well-balanced diet, including fruit and vegetables, proteins, full fat dairy, cereals and grains; avoid fat diets or fasting (unless advised by your health care professional); increase the amount of dietary calcium in your diet to decrease the risk of osteoporosis; drink plenty of water; and keep a check on your weight as being overweight can increase the impact on your joints, especially your knees and hips.
You might also find that fish oil can relieve the symptoms of inflammation.
Naturally, it’s recommended you consult your health care professional, a qualified dietitian or your local arthritis association to get help.