We all know someone, or may even suffer ourselves, with arthritis. If you work in an office environment, you can almost guarantee someone complains about having sore wrists and hands, while those with physical jobs always have someone who complains about a bad knee. It can be very painful and uncomfortable and can make your way of living difficult.
Who’s at risk? Can it be prevented? Does our diet have anything to do with it? We’re going in depth to answer all of these questions and more. Some LFLC arthritis-friendly recipes are even included at the bottom.
What Is Arthritis?
The technical definition of arthritis is inflammation of the joints, in one or multiple throughout the body. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, but the two most common are called Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Osteoarthritis (OA). It affects about 350 million people in the world, and about 40 million are in North America. Arthritis is more common in women than men, has a greater chance of developing in people who are overweight, and age is also a risk factor. Most cases are with people over 65, but it can affect everyone, including children.
Symptoms often appear gradually over time, but there have been cases where it appears suddenly. Pain in the joints, stiffness, decreased range-of-motion and redness on the skin near the infected joint are all symptoms that people with arthritis will experience. Symptoms are usually worse in the mornings after being asleep (read: not moving) all night.
In all types of arthritis, except RA, it is usually caused by normal wear and tear of the joints. An infection or injury to a certain joint can escalate the natural breakdown of the cartilage.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system will attack the joints because it views certain tissues as invaders to the body – this isn’t limited to joints but can also occur in the organs, nerve tissue and even your blood vessels. In the case of the joints, it causes the tissues around the joints to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain. RA can be very dangerous because if it goes untreated, it can cause irreversible damage to the cartilage and bones. Over time, the space between the bones can decrease and may result in deformed joints.
Arthritis usually affects the hands, feet, wrists, knees and ankles. Normally, but not always, it will be symmetrical, meaning both hands, both feet, etc.
Is There A Connection Between Nutrition And Arthritis?
Yes, there is – a huge link actually!
Maintaining a healthy weight can greatly reduce the risk of developing arthritis of any form (except Rheumatoid arthritis) because there is less strain on the joints, bones and muscles of the body. If you already have arthritis, don’t think that it’s too late to get to a healthy weight. Research has shown that it can reduce symptoms and can stop it from worsening.
It’s hard to argue against nutrition having an effect on arthritis and the symptoms that stem from it. One study done in the 1990’s placed patients with arthritis on a 7 – 10 day fast, switched them to a vegan diet and then transitioned them to a gluten-free vegetarian diet. The results showed a drastic improvement in symptoms right away, and even one year after the study was done and the patients went back to eating a normal diet.
Another study showed that patients who followed a Mediterranean diet (which put an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, seafood, olive oil, eating poultry, eggs and cheese in moderation and avoid sugar-laden beverages, soda, refined oils, processed meats and all highly processed convenience foods) experienced reduced inflammation, higher physical function of the swollen joints and improved vitality.
A more recent study done in mice showed that supplementing with krill oil or fish oil also reduced inflammation and swelling, compared to those mice who didn’t have any EPA or DHA in their body.
Nutrition For Arthritis Broken Down Into Simpler Terms
It is great to learn about all the studies and research done on what improved symptoms or prevent arthritis all together, but if that still leaves you wondering how you can do it, we broke it down!
Arthritis is inflammation in the body. To prevent it inflammation from forming, it only makes sense to reduce inflammatory foods and increase foods that are natural anti-inflammatories.
Foods that cause inflammation in the body are:
- fried foods such as fries, chicken wings, anything deep-fried
- processed foods that come in packaging – these usually contain chemicals, additives and unnatural ingredients
- red meat
- refined carbs such as white bread, pasta and bagels
- refined oils such as canola or vegetable oil
If you’re an avid LFLC article reader, then this probably isn’t your first time seeing the harmful effects that the above-listed foods can cause in the body. Preventing arthritis or improving symptoms is just another reason to avoid them.
When choosing to eat healthy for arthritis purposes, it is important to choose foods that are high in anti-oxidants because they fight the free radicals in the body and choose foods that are anti-inflammatory.
- Fresh fruits
- Olives and olive oil
- Walnuts and walnut oil
- Avocado and avocado oil
- Fish and seafood
Healthy fats including omega 3, EPA and DHA are all anti-inflammatory and most healthcare professionals will recommend increasing them to help lessen the severity of symptoms.
Can You Exercise With Arthritis?
Short answer, yes. Regular forms of exercise can keep joints flexible. Swimming has been shown as a great low-impact workout to keep bones and joints limber. However, be very careful not to overexert yourself.
The American College of Rheumatology suggests that people with RA can benefit from moderate intensity workouts with weight-bearing activity. For other types of arthritis, aerobics and strength training workouts may help improve joint range of motion, reduce symptoms and control body weight. They also suggest that if someone with arthritis wakes up stiff in the morning with the worst of their symptoms, that may be the best time to do a flexibility or range of motion exercise routine.
Participating in regular physical activity may make you less likely to develop arthritis in the future. It keeps joints, muscles and bones strong and limber. It also makes you more likely to stay at a healthy weight and reduce your risk of arthritis even more.
Please talk to your doctor before including big changes to either your diet or your activity level.
Arthritis Friendly LFLC Recipes
If you’re looking for a healthy anti-inflammatory recipe, here are some you can make tonight!
A fresh citrus salad is a perfect dish to get your anti-inflammatory vegetables in! Feel free to add a handful of spinach or kale to really boost the nutrient content!
Salmon is high in healthy fats that reduce inflammation in the body and can help improve joint pain.
A nutrient-packed vegetarian meal is a perfect way to ensure you aren’t consuming any foods that cause inflammation in the body!
This website contains general information about medical conditions, nutrition, health and diets.
To view our disclaimers click here.