June 22, 2009
UK Daily Mail
Arthritis is the term used for nearly 200 painful conditions of the joints and bones. It affects about 7million people in the UK and all types have similar symptoms of swelling, inflammation of joints, stiffness and restriction of movement.
The good news is that many cases of arthritis can be relieved, postponed or even prevented by good joint care.
Research shows a definite link between the food you eat and the severity of your symptoms. Like your heart, your joints thrive best on plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Try to eat at least five (and preferably eight or more) servings a day.
Fruit and vegetables provide an array of antioxidants that reduce the rate at which cartilage breaks down, helping to slow the process of osteoarthritis. Antioxidants can also reduce inflammation and help combat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and gout.
Apples and avocados are anti-inflammatory superfoods. Don’t peel your apples – the skin contains five times more antioxidants than the flesh. Oily fish are a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acids that oil the joints and damp down inflammation.
Research shows that omega-3 can reduce the long-term need for painkillers in those with joint problems. You should aim to eat oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herrings and mackerel two to four times a week. You can also take an omega-3 fish oil supplement.
Drink plenty of fluids – approximately three to five pints (two to three litres) – a day to maintain good hydration and a steady flow of nutrients to your joints. Choose from water, soups, tea and juices.
You may find your symptoms are triggered by particular foods. Culprit foods vary, so it’s important to keep a food-and-symptom diary to help pinpoint the foods that irritate. This is not always easy, as symptoms can worsen up to 36 hours after eating a trigger food.
The foods most commonly found to worsen arthritis are wheat, corn, rye, sugar, caffeine, yeast, malt, dairy products, oranges, grapefruit, lemons and tomatoes. Meats most likely to provoke symptoms are bacon, pork, beef and lamb.
A number of foods may trigger joint pain in those with arthritis. Research shows that when these are avoided, about 70 per cent of sufferers report less pain and improved mobility.
Some are particularly sensitive to foods from the nightshade (Solanaceae) family. Commonly eaten nightshade foods include potatoes, tomatoes, aubergine, sweet peppers, paprika, cayenne and all other types of pepper (except black pepper).
Try to minimise your intake of vegetable oils rich in omega-6, such as sunflower oil, because these promote inflammation. Switch to olive oil for cooking, and macadamia nut oil or walnut oil for salad dressings.
Studies have also shown an association between the amount of meat and offal consumed and arthritis.
Eating a vegan (no animal products) diet can reduce the number of tender and swollen joints.
Weight loss is one of the most effective ways to reduce pain in your knees and hips, whatever form of arthritis you have. When you walk, the load on your knees increases by four times your body weight. This means that if you are 10lb (4.5kg) overweight, the load on your leg joints is up to 40lb (18kg) more than if you were at a healthy weight.
Studies show that weight loss can at least halve the level of pain experienced by those with arthritis affecting their lower limbs – this is a better result than standard drug treatments.
The foods below have a natural anti-inflammatory action that’s particularly beneficial for those with arthritis – however, some (such as chilli peppers) may trigger an idiosyncratic reaction in some sufferers:
Apples: Contain anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Red Delicious apples contain the most. The antioxidants are five times more concentrated in the apple’s skin than the flesh.
Avocados: Contain antioxidant monounsaturated oils, essential fatty acids and Vitamin E. Promote cartilage repair in osteoarthritis.
Chillies: Contain capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin which block transmission of pain messages. They also trigger endorphins - the brain’s own morphine-like painkillers.
Dark green leafy vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, cabbage and parsley, for example, supply antioxidants, Vitamin C, calcium and magnesium.
Macadamia nuts: The richest source of monounsaturated fatty acids. Also contain Vitamin E and selenium.
Oily fish: A great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Red wine: A good source of antioxidant polyphenols which reduce inflammation.
Walnuts: A rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Some research shows that eating them daily can help alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis