When considering a diet for arthritis, both rheumatoid (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA), and what foods are good and bad a great place to start it to address those that either create or reduce inflammation (histamine) in the body.
By reducing the overall level of inflammation arthritic conditions can be improved.
There are three important facts to remember when considering a diet for arthritis:
1. Anti-inflammatory diets are not a one-size-fits-all solution. We are all unique in our make up so what works for one will not work for another. This means it will take some trial and error to find what works for you as an individual.
2. When seeking natural ways to improve your condition it is not a quick, short term fix. It is a lifestyle change that will need to be maintained long term if you wish to continue to experience the benefits.
3. A diet for arthritis is only a part of the process, many also find that moderate exercise will increase the positive effect of diet on arthritis pain.
Toxins in food
It is well known that pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers are harmful to us. They interfere with our gut health, and in turn affect our immune system and overall well-being.
In addition, foods that are heated, grilled, fried, or pasteurized will contain toxins called “Advanced Glycation End Products” (AGEs).
These toxins damage certain proteins in the body. To address these AGEs the immune system secretes cytokines which are in themselves inflammatory messengers.
High amounts of sugar in the form of processed grains (white flour, white rice, many breakfast cereals), candies, soda etc will also increase the amount of AGEs in the body. If you like sweet snacks try to use natural, fibre rich fruits such as dates and figs, or use stevia instead of sugars.
Fats and Oils: the Good and the Bad
This is found in corn, canola, peanut, sunflower, safflower, and soy oils, and is healthy in small amounts. However, excessive consumption is detrimental as it is converted into pro-inflammatory chemicals called leukotrienes and prostaglandins.
It is important to be aware that many baked goods, commercial snacks and foods contain corn oil, canola oil and other sources high in omega 6.
Omega 3 has been shown by many studies to be beneficial in reducing inflammation in a number of ways. It inhibits the production of other inflammatory molecules and also triggers the production of anti-inflammatory chemicals.
In particular, Olive Oil contains Oleocanthal, which has properties similar to non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. It contains high amounts of Omega 9, along with some Omega 3 and 6.
Omega 3 can be found in fish, flax, hemp, chia.
Trans fats are altered by the addition of a hydrogen molecule to increase stability and shelf life.
They are believed to impact inflammation, heart disease, and cause other health problems.
The dangers are becoming better known and they have been removed from many products, but they can still be found in some baked goods, fast-food items, processed snack foods, and many margarines.
Free radicals will cause oxidative stress in our bodies when their number exceeds our ability to process them.
Creation of these radicals is a normal part of metabolism. However, production is increased by some activities such as smoking and consuming certain foods including alcohol, fats that have been heated to high temperature (including fat in meats) and chlorinated water (let your tap water stand for a while before drinking).
High oxidative stress is linked with arthritic conditions, both RA and OA.
The good news is that there are various antioxidants found in foods, these include those below (just a note that chocolate should always be at least 75% cocoa):
- Allium sulphur compounds: Leeks, onions, garlic
- Anthocyanins: Red and purple fruits – Eggplant, grapes, berries
- Beta carotene: Pumpkin, butternut squash, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach, parsley, cantaloupe, sweet potato, carrots, kale
- Catechins: Tea, dark chocolate
- Copper: Seafood, lean meat, nuts, legumes
- Cryptoxanthins: Red peppers, pumpkin, mangoes, papaya
- Flavonoids: Tea, green tea, dark chocolate, onion, apples
- Indoles: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
- Lignins: Sesame seeds, bran, whole grains, vegetables
- Lutein: Leafy greens – includes spinach, kale, chard
- Lycopene: Watermelon
- Manganese: Seafood, lean meat, nuts, beans, oats, bran, dark chocolate
- Polyphenols: Thyme, oregano
- Selenium: Seafood, offal, lean meat, whole grains
- Vitamin C: Berries, kiwi fruit, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, peppers
- Vitamin E: Cold pressed vegetable oils, nuts, avocados, seeds, whole grains
- Zinc: Seafood, lean meat, nuts
- Zoochemicals: Red meat, offal, fish
An anti-inflammatory diet cuts down or eliminates foods suspected of causing oxidative stress and encourages the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants.
Know what’s in your food
Many foods contain excessive salt (sodium) and other preservatives to promote longer shelf lives. For some people, excess consumption of salt may result in inflammation of the joints. It may be worth trying to reduce your salt (sodium) intake to as modest an amount as is reasonable.
When determining what diet for arthritis works for you, your local Naturopathic doctor, Functional Medicine practitioner or Holistic nutritionist will be able to help you work out which foods aggravate your arthritis and which help to reduce your symptoms.
One to try at home!
You may wish to sample this anti-inflammatory cocktail.. Enjoy!
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon grated turmeric
1 stick cinnamon, crushed
1 jalapeno or 1 habanero, diced
1 tablespoon raw honey
In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
Pour into your favourite glass and let sit for 30 minutes.
Add ice or club soda, drink, and enjoy!