Diet and Arthritis
The relationship between nutritional intake and arthritis is complex and poorly understood. This may be because of the over 100 different types of arthritis that have been diagnosed and the multitude of different vitamins and minerals which have an effect on our health. Researchers do know that individuals who have osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, will benefit greatly from achieving a normal weight in order to decrease the stress on the joints. (1)
Scientists and physicians do understand that what we eat will affect the entire body. They know that food is much more than a combination of vitamins, minerals, fat, carbohydrates and proteins. It is also known that foods that contain certain chemicals can increase inflammation or reduce the inflammation in our bodies. For instance, sugar, which is an addictive food that provides no nutrients, reduces the ability of the T. cells to fight infection and alters the immune system. (2)
But the concepts of nutritional intake and treatment of arthritis are much more complex than that. Unfortunately, there is a plethora of information on the market about nutritional intake and osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Most of this information wishes to sell individuals who have arthritis a particular supplement or book that claims to relieve or cure their arthritis.
Some of these claim that by eliminating foods in the nightshades category, such as potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants, individuals will find relief from their arthritis. While this particular type of diet is not harmful, there are no clinical studies that support it and very little case study.
Another dietary change that reportedly helps individuals who have arthritis is an alkaline diet. Proponents of this diet believe that osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are caused by too much acid in the body that is perpetuated by the diet we eat. Proponents of this method exclude sugar, coffee, red meat, most grains and citrus fruits. It is meant to be followed for just 30 days. While there are no studies to support this diet, it might be that individuals feel better because they lose weight, which reduces stress on the joints and eases pain.
The same can be true for a vegetarian diet. However, there was one study of people who had rheumatoid arthritis which showed improvement in four weeks and in follow-up studies who continue to follow a vegetarian lifestyle. (3) Another known correlation between nutritional intake and arthritis involve Omega six fatty acids. Researchers know that these fatty acids will increase inflammation in the body and in increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids will also reduce inflammation. Individuals who have arthritis should limit their intake of meat and poultry and increase their food intake of cold water fish. Salad dressings should use corn oil, safflower oil or sunflower oil instead of olive oil, canola oil or flax seed oil.
While grapes and raisins do have anti-inflammatory compounds, soaking them in gin has had no clinical evidence for improvement. The gin may help to dull the pain but an excessive alcohol will actually sabotage any health benefits of heating a well-balanced diet. The Arthritis Foundation has funded research which showed that mice who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis will benefit from drinking three to 4 cups of green tea each day. (4) At this point, no human clinical trials have confirmed these results.
Another nutritional or dietary supplement which is popular with individuals who suffer from osteoarthritis is glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. These two supplements have been used in Europe for many years and there have been some studies that have shown it stops the joint degeneration as well as improving the function. Individuals who choose to use the supplement will find it takes up to two months or more to enjoy the benefits.
Shark cartilage is in another holistic medicine supplements that is fairly popular for the treatment of inflammation of arthritis. These supplements use cartilage from Pacific Ocean sharks that is ground-up. While animal and lab studies are promising, there are no current human studies to support these claims.
Turmeric is a supplement used in traditional Chinese medicine to relieve pain, stiffness inflammation. One small study has shown that a combination of turmeric, bosellia and zinc would decrease the pain of individuals who suffered from osteoarthritis. At this time the use of turmeric alone has not been studied.
While many of us would like to believe that there is an overall supplement or fruit that might answer the question of how to reduce the pain and inflammation in the body of an individual who suffers from arthritis, this may just not be the case. At this time, every study which has been done on health has shown that eating more fruits and vegetables will improve your health and decrease inflammation in the body. It is important to eat dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and collards. Other great vegetable choices include broccoli, cabbage, carrots and parsnips. (5)
Another recent study has shown that individuals who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis may benefit from excluding suspected foods that are identified within an elimination diets. This supposes that each individual may have specific foods that trigger their pain and inflammation that may be different from foods that trigger the same reactions and other individuals. An elimination diet helps an individual to remove suspected trigger foods from their daily diet. After a period of time when symptoms have subsided, they can slowly add a suspected foods back in and watch for any increased pain and stiffness. (6)
Some researchers have concluded that there is enough evidence to support taking supplemental vitamins A, C, E or selenium for those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. While it appears that there may be a benefit from using the antioxidant therapy it would be to prevent the arthritis rather than to treat it.
Before trying any nutritional supplements or dietary changes it is important to speak with your primary care physician, dietitian and pharmacist to ensure that you are not making any changes which will affect any other underlying medical conditions as well as the intake of any prescription medication you’re already using. For the most part, it is or need a wide variety of foods from all the basic food groups, maintaining your ideal body weight, avoid fat, saturated fats and cholesterol, even adequate amount of fiber, avoid too much sugar and too much sodium and avoid alcohol altogether.
(1) The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center: Role of Body Weight in Osteoarthritis
(2) Mercola.com: This Addictive Commonly Used Food Feeds Cancer Cells, Triggers Weight Gain and Promotes Premature Aging
(3) BioMed Central/Arthritis Research: Gluten Free Vegan Diet May protect Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients from Heart Attack, Stroke, Study Suggests
(4) Arthritis Foundation: Green Tea May Block Inflammation
(5) Arthritis Today: Good Greens
(6) Journal of the American Dietetic Association: Effectiveness and safety of dietary interventions for rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials