An arthritis diet focuses on the relationship between inflammation and food. This is done so as to avoid those that increase inflammation and consume foods that work to reduce it instead. By making these simple dietary changes, an arthritis diet can greatly reduce painful symptoms and restore the natural functioning of joints. Understanding what arthritis is and what causes its symptoms helps in better understanding how an anti-inflammation diet works.
Joints are the area in which two bones meet. They are what enable the movement of the bones and the body parts they support. However, when one or more of these joints become inflamed or swollen, this is referred to as arthritis.
Classified as a rheumatic disease, arthritis encompasses many different forms of the illness, each defined by its own set of symptoms and all of which have a similar tendency to attack the joints, tendons, muscles, cartilage and ligaments. Some advanced forms of arthritis even affect the body’s internal organs.
There are over 100 different forms of arthritis making all of them combined the leading cause of chronic illness and pain in the United States. Depending upon the type of arthritis, the cause of it may vary from heredity, to food allergies, to infections, to torn or worn out cartilage, to problems with the immune system. In fact, in some cases, such as lupus, it is unknown what the exact cause actually is.
There is also an association between arthritis and food in that certain foods can cause inflammation, while others soothe it.
Symptoms of Arthritis
The symptoms of arthritis are as follows:
- Pain or tenderness in the joints
- Swollen joints
- Reduced movement of the joints
- Joint stiffness
- Redness in the joint area
- Warmth or the feeling of a fever in the joints
In some forms, arthritis symptoms might also include an actual fever, fatigue, unintended weight loss and swollen glands. Advanced types of arthritis may even interrupt the natural functioning of the kidneys, heart and lungs.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids act as very powerful anti-inflammatory agents and should be made an immediate part of an arthritis diet. These can be taken in supplement form or can be obtained by food sources such as oily, cold-water fish, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds. Another substance that is known to reduce inflammation in the body is olive oil, which is also an effective agent against pain and reduces the risk of heart disease.
SAM-e is a supplement that European studies have proven is an effective agent against pain and inflammation, particularly when combined with vitamins B-6, B-12 and folate. It is even believed to be helpful in repairing and rebuilding damaged cartilage. SAM-e is recommended as a healthy part of an anti-inflammation diet as it is an effective treatment for arthritis, without the side effects sometimes associated with synthetic medications used to treat it.
One of the reasons that people experience success from an arthritis diet is that it promotes a healthier lifestyle and assists most in healthy weight loss. Because obesity causes excess pressure on weight bearing joints, when weight is lost, the symptoms of arthritis often disappear or are reduced, as well.
An arthritis diet also includes the introduction of foods that are known to reduce inflammation and includes avoiding foods that contribute to it. Some of the foods that are recommended for a healthy arthritis diet include:
- Salmon, halibut, sardines and other cold water fish
- Soy products
- Fresh green vegetables
- Potassium broth
- Ginger (also helps reduce pain associated with inflammation)
- Wheat grass products
- Barley products
- Whole grains
- Herbal tea
- Green tea
- Vegetable juices (preferably home made to avoid the high sodium content in bottled vegetable juices.)
- Consuming between 6 and 8 glasses of pure water daily (not only does water hydrate, but it helps with circulation and the elimination of toxins, which can build up in the bloodstream and cause inflammation.)
Foods that should be strictly avoided in a healthy arthritis diet include:
- Foods high in salt
- Foods that contain white sugar or artificial sweeteners
- Foods containing caffeine
- Nuts (including nut butters)
- Seeds with a high oil content
- Red meat
- All animal fats
- Dairy products
Not only does an anti-inflammation diet reduce the symptoms of arthritis, but also it helps in guarding against other diseases that are caused by poor nutrition and helps a person maintain a healthy weight. An arthritis diet should always involve avoiding fast foods, processed foods, fried foods and those that are high in saturated fats. This includes, of course, ingredients that include hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, as these also contribute to joint inflammation. Fresh foods are always a better choice than processed or packaged foods and it is important for anyone using an arthritis diet to very carefully read the ingredients on any packaged food that is bought.
To reduce unhealthy snacking or overeating at mealtime, it is best to eat several small portions of food throughout the day instead of eating three regularly sized meals daily. Also, snacking on seeds, nuts, fresh cut vegetables and whole fruits throughout the day, reduces the chances of reaching for unhealthy snacks when hunger strikes.
Anyone suffering from the symptoms of arthritis is advised to investigate the relationship between inflammation and food further. While direct studies relating to arthritis and food are still being conducted, millions of people who are consuming an arthritis diet are finding relief from their symptoms. Understanding how diet and lifestyle contributes to illness is key in using natural cures and home remedies to avoid sickness and to reverse its effects. Even for those who are currently receiving medical treatment for arthritis are advised to speak with their doctor about an arthritis diet to be used in conjunction with the care offered by traditional medical treatment.