If you are living with arthritis, you’ll know that it can be a debilitating condition. Did you know, though, that your diet may help you to manage the pain? Although there is no definitive diet to eliminate arthritis, many people have found relief from their symptoms as a result of changing their diet.
One of the most significant symptoms of arthritis is inflammation in the joints, and this can be dramatically reduced when inflammatory foods are removed from the diet and the correct nutrient balance included. A healthy diet is a great place to begin, and you can talk to your specialist about this, but there are also some specifics factors which can make a difference to people who have arthritis.
What is a healthy diet for arthritis?
Eating well for arthritis means eating a healthy diet and paying particular attention to certain nutrients. The following are considered to be very important in a healthy diet for arthritis:
- Calcium. Calcium is an important mineral for our bones, although it must be consumed in conjunction with magnesium in order to maximise the benefits of it. A diet that includes calcium can help to prevent conditions such as osteoporosis, and many people believe that dairy products are a good source, recommending the regular inclusion of milk, cheese and yoghurt. Milk replacement products, such as rice or oat milk, are often enriched with calcium, and nuts and fish are also naturally high in calcium. Fish such as sardines and mackerel, in which the bones can be eaten, are a particularly good source of calcium that can help to maintain strong bones.
- Iron. Many people who experience arthritis and joint pain also live with anaemia. This can be caused by the medications used in some arthritis treatment plans, and can lead to further health complications. Increasing your iron intake is a good way to boost your energy levels and maintain your health, and you may experience fatigue if you have low iron levels. Iron rich foods include oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, as well as lean red meats and some darker chicken meat. Pulses are also high in iron, particularly lentils and haricot beans
- Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential part of a balanced diet and help to improve brain health, fight depression and anxiety and regulate hormones, as well as reducing inflammation and stiffness in the joints. This is often very helpful for people who experience pain in their joints due to inflammation, such as those with rheumatoid arthritis. Excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids include free range eggs and linseed oil, as well as oily fish, as mentioned above.
- Fresh vegetables. Vegetables are vital as part of a healthy diet, and this is especially important if you have a condition such as arthritis that can benefit from specific vitamins and minerals. Broccoli is believed to be of particular benefit to those with osteoarthritis, as it contains a compound that has been shown to slow down the progress of the condition in studies.
- Citrus fruits. Citrus fruits have been identified as of benefit to people with rheumatoid arthritis, as they contain antioxidants that fight inflammation. These fruits, particularly lemons, are also very high in vitamin C, which is crucial for a healthy immune system and very helpful as a regular part of your diet.
- Spices. Some spices are excellent at reducing inflammation in the joints, such as turmeric and garlic, both of which have many other health benefits. Many people enjoy turmeric milk in the evenings as an alternative hot drink, a spicy milk that is often recommended to boost immunity and reduce the pain caused by inflammation in conditions including arthritis.
- Avoid inflammatory foods. As arthritis is a condition that involves inflammation of the joints, it is often helpful to avoid foods that contribute to inflammation in the body. Fried and processed foods are particularly likely to cause inflammation, along with sugars, refined carbohydrates, alcohol and tobacco. Many people also avoid vegetables in the nightshade family, including potatoes, bell peppers, aubergines and tomatoes, as these have also been shown to cause inflammation in the joints.
Research into foods that can help with arthritis is ongoing, and you may find that dietary changes are very helpful to you. You can talk to your doctor or your specialist about the types of foods that may make a difference to you, particularly in reducing the inflammation in your joints and reducing the pain you are feeling on a daily basis.
Do You Live With Arthritis?
If you have arthritis, or have been experiencing pain in your joints and think that you may have the condition, it is important to visit your doctor and ask for a referral to a specialist. Arthritis affects different people in many different ways, and the most effective treatment path for you will depend upon your individual experience and prognosis. Working with an experienced specialist will enable you to follow an appropriate plan in order to manage your pain and improve your mobility, and you can seek advice on lifestyle factors, such as the dietary changes mentioned above, as well.
Peter Browne, Consultant Rheumatologist in Ireland
If you have been experiencing pain and inflammation in your joints, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible and ask to be referred for specialist treatment. Arthritis usually begins to affect the joints of the hands or the feet first, although this is not the same for everyone, and you may find that you initially notice pain on waking.
Dr Peter is a qualified rheumatologist who sees patients in Tralee and Limerick. To make an appointment, you will need to visit your GP or other healthcare professional, who can refer you to our rheumatology clinic. If you have a query, you can contact us online for more information.