Diet and Arthritis
There has been a lot of discussion about the role of diet in the management of arthritis. There have also been some myths about the possibility of certain foods causing arthritis.
My approach to helping patients manage their arthritis is to offer advice and treatments that are holistic and complement each other. Whether the best treatment path proves to be a medical or surgical approach, diet and exercise are extremely important in complementing that treatment program.
No foods or supplements will cure arthritis. The best diet for someone living with arthritis is a healthy well balanced one. A well-balanced diet includes eating a variety of foods from the five food groups;
- Vegetables and legumes
- Grains and cereals
- Lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts
- Reduced fat dairy
Sensible portions from these five food groups will help achieve general good health and weight reduction. Healthy eating from these food groups will provide you with a diet that is naturally low in salt, sugars and saturated fats and high in fibre, healthy fats and essential vitamins and minerals. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water too to maintain good hydration and cellular function.
Eating for a healthy heart
There has been a lot of publicity around eating for a healthy heart. These diets recommend eating healthy fats and avoiding bad or saturated fats. There is some research that does support a reduction of inflammation in patients with diets high in monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats. Foods high in these fats include fish, olive and canola oils, avocados and many nuts.
Maintaining your weight
Being overweight can put additional stress on our weight bearing joints. This can worsen the joint pain from arthritis. When we walk along level ground, our knees are subject to a load that is 1.5 times body weight. When an incline or step is introduced, this load goes up even more. A healthy balanced diet combined with regular exercise can help reduce weight and thus lessen the pain from joint disease and arthritis.
Types of exercises for arthritis
I am often told by patients that they want to exercise but their arthritic joints prevent them from their usual activities and exercise. There is a lot of research that supports exercise programs in the management of arthritis and in the reduction of joint pain.
Programs need to not just target the sore joint but work on improving overall strength, condition and biomechanics of movement. Seeing a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can be valuable in guiding you on a suitable program that is considerate of the pain you may be experiencing yet treats the arthritis and allows you to start exercising again. I think hydro or aqua therapy is very valuable in treating arthritis. Many patients find the support and warmth of the water comforting and allows them to move and exercise in a way that they find difficult on land.
Gout and arthritis
Gout is a condition whereby there is elevated levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. Uric acid is produced by the breakdown of purines, which are a found in certain foods. In patients that suffer with Gout, the normal excretion of uric acid is impaired, and they can suffer with episodes of inflammation when the uric acid accumulates in joints and soft tissues. Certain foods high in purines such as red meats and offal, seafood and high yeast foods including beer. Avoiding diets high in these purine rich foods can reduce the symptoms of gout in those susceptible. If you find that you suffer with intermittent episodes of severe joint pain and swelling you may be suffering from gout. Your doctor can do a simple blood test and start you on some simple medication that can control the symptoms and flare ups.