Eat Right To Ease Arthritis

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At some point in our lives we will either know someone who is suffering from arthritis, or we may suffer from the debilitating disorder of the joints ourselves. In fact, arthritis is so prevalent that in the United States, it is becoming the most common form of disability.  

We hear the term arthritis so often but did you know that it is not actually a single disease?  The most common types are rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. However, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis conditions. Arthritis is just an informal way of referring to joint pain or a type of joint disease with common symptoms that include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Studies show that it is actually more common among women, and the number of people (of all ages) with some form of arthritis is on the rise worldwide. But, by watching what we eat, we can actually counteract the damage arthritis causes.

Before we get to the food, we want to mention a few healthy habits one can practice to reduce the risk of painful joints with age. First, we can control our weight.  Our mighty knees have to support our body so being overweight can take a real toll on them.  Keep your weight at a healthy range, and you will be doing your knees a big favor! Secondly, which is a no-brainer,is to exercise regularly. Not only does exercise help keep joints flexible and strong but strengthens the muscles around them.  Go for regular walking, swimming and stretching exercises. Thirdly, avoid injury and protect your joints. Okay, so avoiding injury is not something we can always  control, but we can use safety equipment while playing sports, and take measures to  avoid straining our joints. For example, lift heavy objects with your knees and hips (not your back) and if you sit at work for long periods, always make sure your back, legs and arms are well supported.

 

Photo: https://www.liverdoctor.com/the-best-and-worst-foods-for-arthritis/

Before we get to the good stuff, let’s go over the things to avoid consuming for arthritis.

Sugar – This is pretty much the number one culprit for inflammation.  So avoid things made of refined sugar, such as pastries, candy, soda, fruit juices and chocolates.  Read the label carefully because sugar is also labeled as corn syrup, fructose, sucrose or maltose on ingredient lists. If you need to sweeten your food or beverage, try natural substitutes such as pure maple syrup and honey. You will also need to avoid refined carbohydrates: white bread, white pasta, white rice, muffins, crackers and many cereals. The body processes these foods into sugar.  

Meat is another culprit here being high in saturated fats, which causes high cholesterol and inflammation.  Also avoid meat that is cooked by broiling, grilling (BBQ), roasting or frying as this has very high levels of advanced glycation ends (AGE). You should also stay away from high fat dairy, such as cheese, butter, margarine and mayonnaise.  These are high in both saturated fats and AGE, which stimulate inflammation.  In addition, one should avoid processed foods and saturated fats, like cheese, French fries and pizza, as studies show that they trigger adipose (fat tissue) inflammation, which worsens arthritis.  

Certain oils, such as corn, peanut, sunflower, safflower, and soy oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are healthy in small doses, however, if they are consumed excessively they can trigger inflammatory chemicals.

Finally (and you probably are not expecting to hear this), avoid nightshade vegetables, such as potato, eggplant, tomato and pepper as they can trigger inflammation.  Many people with inflammatory types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis do report a worsening of symptoms such as joint pain and swelling after consuming nightshades. Known in agricultural circles as Solanaceae, nightshades are a botanical family of plants that share certain characteristics. There are some theories on how nightshades and arthritis symptoms are linked, the main one being that nightshades contain alkaloids, which have pro-inflammatory properties in some individuals.

Photo-credit:https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/anti-inflammatory/food-myths-arthritis.php

Okay, so we just read about types of food to avoid for arthritis inflammation. So let’s now look at things we should consume that can counteract arthritis. Mentioned below are some of the best foods, spices and natural supplements proven beneficial for reducing inflammation in arthritis (the natural supplements we have listed can come in many forms, such as concentrated extracts, capsules, powders, dried root form and herbal teas).

Pineapple: Not only does this juicy tropical fruit contain immune-boosting vitamin C, but it also provides a key enzyme called bromelain, which is chock-full of anti-inflammatory substances that can help reduce joint swelling linked to RA (you can read more on bromelain below).

Ginger: For centuries ginger has been used as an inflammation-fighter. More recently, researchers have confirmed that ginger possesses chemical qualities similar to those of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and appears to curb inflammation. You can add a few chunks of fresh ginger to your tea, as well as to soups, stews and even pancakes. Of course, it’s great with sushi made from healthful tuna, salmon, etc. While fresh ginger packs the most punch, it’s also available in bottled and powdered form.

Turmeric: This orange-colored spice has been popular since ancient times, especially in Indian cooking. It has also been used for centuries in Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old natural healing system of India. Turmeric’s secret ingredient is curcumin. This component of the spice helps shut down certain proteins in the body that trigger inflammation. Try sprinkling half a teaspoon into soups, stews or rice during cooking. It is mildly aromatic and has hints of orange and ginger to it making it a versatile spice for cooking. Remember: when you add turmeric powder to your food or drink it should be mixed well with black pepper powder (freshly ground is best). Pepperine, a compound found in black pepper, significantly improves the absorption of the turmeric in the body. On its own turmeric is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. As a result you will be missing out on its advantages to health.

Fish Oil / Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Cod, trout, herring, salmon, mackerel and other cold-water fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are proven natural remedies to help reduce inflammation. Omega-3s help morning stiffness, regenerate joint tissue and have shown to also aid in RA, and other autoimmune diseases like lupus and psoriasis. Experts also recommend cod liver oil for osteoarthritis and RA.  Reminder: It is important to always check the source of fresh fish, so that it is responsibly sourced and free from harmful pesticides and antibiotics.

Garlic: Garlic contains diallyl disulfide, an anti-inflammatory compound that limits the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Therefore, garlic can help fight the pain, inflammation and cartilage damage of arthritis. Luckily, garlic is a tasty addition to just about any savoury dish and is widely used in many popular cuisines, such as Italian and Middle Eastern.

Broccoli: Eating cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and cabbage, and particularly broccoli, releases sulforaphane, which researchers have found could help prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis. Broccoli is also rich in vitamins K and C and in calcium, which is known for its bone-building benefits.  So, what is not to love about this super healthy (and super yummy) green gem?

Berries: You may already know that berries are packed with vitamins and minerals that are good for you. Many berries are also loaded with antioxidants, such ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C) and anthocyanins and carotenoids, which give soft berries their deep colors. These compounds help rid the body of free radicals that promote inflammation. Indulge in blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, cherries, raspberries and anything else ‘berries’ that we may have missed! Plus all berries are great sources of fiber, a nutrient important for a healthy digestive system.  

Citrus Bioflavonoids

Sometimes referred to as vitamin P, citrus bioflavonoids enhance the absorption of vitamin C and act as important antioxidants. Flavonoids also inhibit collagenase and elastase, the enzymes responsible for the breakdown of connective tissue. Connective tissue breakdown is one of the factors that may cause arthritis. Flavonoids reinforce the natural structure of collagen, improve the integrity of connective tissue, protect against free radical damage and are a great natural remedy for inflammation and pain. By the way, the orange peel (the part of the orange we normally discard) is highly rich in flavonoids.

Devil’s Claw

This claw-shaped fruit has been used for centuries by the Khoisan tribes in the Kalahari Desert as a natural remedy for inflammation and to treat arthritis pain. Numerous studies carried out on devil’s claw show it to have powerful natural NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like properties. Furthermore, more recent studies carried out in both France and Germany pointed to devil claw’s effects being similar to cortisone.

Photo of devil’s claw: https://juicing-for-health.com/devils-claw

Proteolytic Enzymes

For arthritis relief, it is important to have proteolytic activity on the systemic level. Known as protease, this category of enzymes acts as a catalyst in the breakdown of proteins into peptides or amino acids. This helps control both systemic inflammation and inflammation resulting from soft tissue injuries, like those associated with both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Our bodies’ proteolytic enzymes, which diminish with age, also provide essential antioxidant and cardiovascular support. Two of the most powerful ones are bromelain and papain:

Bromelain is a mix of proteolytic enzymes (those found in pineapples – that we mentioned earlier), which have been used for centuries to help indigestion and reduce inflammation. Studies indicate this product helps reduce pain associated with arthritis, especially when used in combination with some other natural pain-relieving agents making it a great natural remedy for inflammation and pain. Papain contains a wide array of proteolytic enzymes, incorporating a broad range of substrate specificity and optimum environments. Because of this attribute, papain easily and efficiently hydrolyzes most soluble protein, yielding peptides and amino acids. Papain also has an effective pH range of 3.0 to 10.5.

Boswellia Serrata

This is another traditional Indian Ayurvedic remedy (as we mentioned turmeric earlier) for inflammatory conditions. Boswellia serrata is extracted from the gum of the Indian boswellia tree and has been in use for centuries to treat joint pain and inflammation. It provides anti-inflammatory activity in areas where there is chronic inflammation by turning off the pro-inflammatory cytokines that begin the inflammatory process. Research shows that the acids contained within boswellia extract stop the formation of immune cells known as leukotrienes, which are responsible for inflammation. This then allows blood to flow unobstructed to the joints for healing and improved mobility.

Photo credit: https://healthjade.com/boswellia/

Rutin

Rutin is a flavonoid composed of the flavonol quercetin and the disaccharide rutinose, which is found naturally in a variety of plants. Its dietary sources include black tea and apple peels. Rutin’s natural anti-inflammatory potential is attributed mainly to its powerful antioxidant activity. Rutin also helps maintain the levels of reduced glutathione, which is a powerful biological antioxidant. The combination of these activities helps to minimize the cellular damage and resulting inflammation caused by the various oxidative processes.

 Photo Credit: https://www.remediesforme.com/natural-home-remedies-arthritis-joint-pain-relief/

While not a proven cure, our diet certainly plays a major role in arthritis severity and symptoms. Luckily, a variety of foods and natural herbs with powerful components may offer some relief from inflammation and arthritis, while also promoting overall health. We hope you got some useful tips while reading our blog on foods that impact arthritis.  Remember, it is also very important to know where your food comes from and try to pick organic pesticide and herbicide-free produce. Finally, strive to stay fit and eat well regardless of whether you have joint pain or not!

References:

First picture credit: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/healthy-living/arthritis-food-what-eat-symptoms-research-healthy-eating-diet-a8342846.ht

https://www.arthritis.org/Documents/Sections/About-Arthritis/arthritis-facts-stats-figures.pdf

https://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/natural-remedies-for-inflammation-pain/

https://securessl.naturalhealthreports.net/products/136/sp-5-worst-foods-p7

https://www.healthline.com/health/arthritis-prevention

https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/foods-to-avoid-limit/food-ingredients-and-inflammation-8.php

https://www.arthritis-health.com/blog/kitchen-arthritis-foods-avoid

 

Alia Fawaz is a writer, activist, life-enthusiast and a mother of three. She was raised in Japan and spent most of her adult years between Europe and the Middle East. She has written extensively on a range of topics covering the environment, renewable energy sources and social entrepreneurship for different publications, since taking up writing full time eight years ago.

A storyteller by heart, she also loves to bring out the personal narratives of remarkable individuals who do good deeds through their endeavors. She loves to connect with nature through hiking, which has become her favorite form of therapy. She looks forward to connecting with other like and open-minded people who promote inclusion, love diversity, and appreciate the simple things in life.

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