What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a general term encompassing over 200 conditions that share joint pain and inflammation. It affects about 7 million people in the UK and around 50 million people in the US – and all types have similar symptoms of swelling, inflammation of joints, stiffness and restriction of movement.
Most of ustake our joints for granted until they start causing us discomfort, by which time significant damage may already have occurred. So the sooner you start looking after your joints, the better.
The good news is that many cases of arthritis can be relieved, postponed or even prevented by good joint care. Current treatment involves pain-reducing medication. While there is no definitive arthritis diet, research suggests including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet and limiting foods that may trigger joint pain.
Foods to Eat
Here are my top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Papaya contains the enzymes ‘papain’ and ‘chymopapain’, which help reduce inflammation in the body (and they also improve digestion). Papaya has powerful antioxidants including beta-carotene and vitamins C and E, which combat free radicals in the body that trigger inflammation-related diseases.
The high content of vitamins A, C, and E, and beta-carotene is also very good at reducing inflammation. According to a study in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, those who do not eat sufficient amounts of vitamin C-rich foods like papaya regularly are more likely to develop arthritis than those who consume such foods on regular basis.
Avocados are an inflammatory superfood that are made up of: Phytosterols, Polyhydroxylated Fatty Alcohols (PFA’s) and Oleic acid. Phytosterols and PFA’s are key components in our body’s inflammatory system and help to keep inflammation under control.
Numerous studies have been published, which have shown a direct correlation between Avocado’s anti-inflammatory benefits and arthritis relief and gout.
Cranberries contain important anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that protect the cardiovascular system and prevent hardening of the arteries.
They also prevent inflammation-associated diseases of the urinary tract (urinary tract infections), stomach (ulcers), and mouth (gingivitis). In a study published in the March 2006 journal “Clinical and Developmental Immunology,”researchers found a connection between the bacteria Proteus mirabilis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The researchers believe that this bacteria, a cause of urinary tract infections, is a possible trigger for rheumatoid arthritis. Cranberry juice is able to block this bacteria from growing and multiplying; researchers believe that patients in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis can benefit from a high intake of cranberry juice.
Broccoli is an incredible anti-inflammatory food; thanks to its abundant sulforaphane compounds, which help the body, get rid of potentially carcinogenic compounds and relieve inflammation and oxidative stress.
It is also very high in vitamin C, another powerful anti-inflammatory agent that can cut the level of inflammation markers by up to 45%!
Red Cabbage – Anthocyanin’s found in red cabbage have been researched numerous times and time and time again they have been found to be one of the best anti-inflammatory vegetables out there!
Blueberries – Inflammation and damage by free radicals have been linked with almost every disease seen today. Many studies have found that blueberries prevent oxidative stress and inflammation.
Blueberries help increase natural killer cell activities that help eradicate free radicals and fight disease. They also promote the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines in the body, which leaves us with lower levels of inflammation and a reduced chance of falling ill.
Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, phytonutrients (tannins, phenolic acids and flavonoids), quinones and other anti-inflammatory nutrients. Incorporating walnuts into the diet may provide benefits for arthritis sufferers.
Walnuts are one of the best nuts for arthritis because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat that helps reduce inflammation and can help lower the risk of developing arthritis.
Turmeric is one of the best anti-inflammatory foods. This is due to its active ingredient, curcumin, this root can inhibit the activity and synthesis of COX-2 and 5-LOX, two important enzymes involved in the inflammatory response.
One study found that osteoarthritis patients had significantly reduced pain and increased mobility when taking just 200 mg of curcumin per day (the control group with no curcumin had no significant improvements).
Curcumin has also been found to block inflammatory pathways, and thus prevents proteins from triggering pain and swelling.
Celery – a specific nutrient in celery, called “luteolin”, is particularly effective against inflammation. This compound is found in smaller amounts in peppers, parsley, thyme, basil and peppermint. It is a bioflavonoid, which means that it has double the antioxidant properties of vitamin C!
Luteolin essentially prevents the inflammatory pathway in the brain to get switched on, and thus helps reduce the amount of inflammatory responses triggered in the body.
Celery is good for people suffering from arthritis, rheumatism and gout. Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce swelling and pain around the joints. Celery sticks contain a diuretic substance, which help to remove uric acid crystals that build around joints.
Foods to Avoid
Fried and Processed foods – Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine examined disease prevention through diet. Findings showed that Reducing Processed and Fried Food Intake Lowers Related Health Risks and Restores Body’s Defenses.
When eaten fried foods are eaten in excess, these foods can increase body fat, which puts extra stress on the joints and amplifies the risk of wear and tear.
Plus, body fat is not an inert substance; it is metabolically active, capable of producing hormones and chemicals that actually increase levels of inflammation. That’s not too mention the hydrogenated fat that fast food restaurants fry them in (see below on trans fats).
AGEs – An advanced glycation end product (AGE), is a toxin that appears when foods are heated, grilled, fried, or pasteurized. AGEs damage certain proteins in the body, and the body tries to break these AGEs apart by using cytokines, which are inflammatory messengers.
Depending on where the AGEs occur, they may result in arthritis or other forms of inflammation. A 2009 study found that reducing the amount of foods cooked at high temperatures in your diet could potentially help reduce blood AGE levels.
Sugars and Refined Carbohydrates – High amounts of sugar in the diet result in an increase in AGEs, which results in inflammation. Refined carbohydrates are found in anything baked with white flour, such as white bread, rolls, crackers, and most baked goods — as well as white rice and junky cereals.
They produce a state of inflammation in the body, causing increases in cytokines and other pro-inflammatory compounds, which makes arthritis worse.
Dairy products may contribute to arthritis pain due to the type of protein they contain. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, for some people this protein may irritate the tissue around the joints.
Some sufferers of arthritis pain have success switching to a vegan diet —which contains no animal products whatsoever. Choose vegetarian and vegan proteins instead e.g. tofu, eggs, beans and lentils.
Alcohol and Tabacco – Tobacco and alcohol use can lead to a number of health problems, including some that may affect your joints. Smokers are more at risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis, while those who consume alcohol have a higher risk for developing gout.
Salt and Preservatives – Know what’s in your food. Many foods contain excessive salt 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 intake to as modest an amount as is reasonable.
Corn Oil – Many baked goods and snacks contain corn or other oils high in omega-6 fatty acids. While these treats may satisfy your taste buds, they may trigger inflammation.
Some studies have looked at the pain-relieving effects of omega-3s on individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, and have found that fish oil, which contains omega-3s, may help with joint pain relief in certain people.
I suggest that you replace foods containing omega-6 fatty acids with healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 alternatives such as olive oil, nuts, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
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Why is this blank?
Because it is meant for you to fill in with the food that you are sensitive to. Most people are sensitive to certain foods but are totally unaware of it. Unlike food allergies whereby symptoms are very severe and possibly life threating, symptoms caused by food intolerance may take a longer to manifest.
Consequently, when symptoms of food intolerance do appear, they are often brushed off as common minor ailments such as tiredness and headaches. But repeated, long-term exposure to food that irritates causes inflammation and lead to chronic disease.