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Arthritis and Diet

iStock_000009644942XSmallArthritis is one of those diseases we often think is unavoidable as we age. Anyone with sports injuries or any type of injury is often told that at some point later on in life they will develop arthritis. This may be true but the severity and extent of disability can be reduced with a closer look at diet.

The biggest factor to look at when considering diet related relief of arthritis is actual body weight. Any type of excess weight will put a strain on your joints. Women who have been pregnant can attest to the fact that extra weight equals sore feet, joints and back. Weight loss can also be a preventative measure when looking the potential development of arthritis or the severity of this affliction. So the first step for anyone with arthritis is to lose any excessive weight.

After losing the excessive weight people have to focus on the components of their diet. Certain foods can have very definite effects on the pain and inflammation in the joints. For example animal products can increase the production of leukotrienes and prostaglandins in the body which can increase inflammation. Food allergies are often considered when looking at the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Allergies trigger an immune response in the body which releases inflammatory mediators. It has been found in many studies that people with rheumatoid arthritis also have issues eating wheat and dairy products. A dramatic increase in discomfort and swelling can occur when you eat more of these products.

So an elimination diet is the next step in the path to pain relief. Elimination diets are not that hard to undertake, just time-consuming to start and limiting in options! Basically there are foods which are known to cause arthritis inflammation but not all these foods will affect people in the same way. So the method of finding your individual triggers is as follows:

  1. Eliminate all foods on the list. This will be hard because many of your favourites could be amongst the known offenders.
  2. After your pain and discomfort symptoms have receded add one food group back into your diet for a whole week. Assess your physical reaction. Does your discomfort increase? Is there inflammation?
  3. Eliminate your test product again immediately if you have a reaction. If there is no problem keep that food item in your diet.
  4. Try another food on the list and access your pain again.
  5. Continue this process until all the food items have been tested. Some will cause reactions and some will not.

Now you should have a very good idea of what foods you can consume and what are triggers for pain.

This elimination process might seem tedious but in the end you might discover that you can eat favourite dishes because your body has no problem with item.

The list of trigger foods is as follows:

  • Sugar (you knew it would be here!) This includes sugary products like chocolate, honey, syrup, etc.
  • Red Meat
  • Dairy Products (milk, yogurt, cheese etc.)
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine (coffee, tea, cocoa)
  • Butter and Margarine
  • Cereal Fillers (binders, fillers, wheat starch, corn starch)
  • Processed or Dry Roasted Nuts (Raw are great)
  • Nightshade Vegetables (tomatoes, red peppers, eggplant, white potatoes). These are alkaloid and inhibit collagen repair in the joints.
  • Waxed or Processed Fruits and Vegetables (used to preserve shelf life) Eat organic whenever possible
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Vinegar

If you find after the elimination diet that all animal products cause discomfort then you must use supplements to put certain nutrients back in your system, such as zinc, iron and vitamin B12.

Supplements can be great even if you can eat animal products. People suffering from arthritis can also look into trying natural supplementation instead of pharmaceutical based medication. Obviously this should only be done if your symptoms are not severe and under a doctor’s advice. Some natural remedies which have been very successful in controlled testing include glucosamine sulphate, essential fatty acids, MSM, ginger, devil’s claws, willow and vitamin C. If you are taking a more traditional approach using prescriptions you may use natural supplements to alleviate the side effects of your drugs. Some wonderful herbal remedies for side effects are marshmallow, vitamin B6-B12, calcium, zinc, vitamin A and C, milk thistle, lemon and kava kava.

Diet can play a very important role in making arthritis manageable and not disabling. Eating habits and the judicious addition of the correct supplements can be instrumental in pain management for anyone with arthritis. Try changing even a few dishes in your diet and see the results for yourself.