You and Your Health - Can your diet help arthritis?



Photo property of Metro Creative Connection

By Dr. Mark Perrett

BSCs DC Chiropractor

According to Statistics Canada, in 2014, 16.5 per cent of Canadian aged 15 and older (around 4.8 million people) reported that they had been diagnosed with some form of arthritis  by a health professional. The two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint change where the cartilage at the end of the bones wears away. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory change that often is associated with red and swollen joints.  Arthritis diagnosis starts to accelerate at the age of 50 and peaks at the age of 75. With this condition being so common and affecting so many Canadians, is there away to help stop the pain and inflammation of arthritis by changing our diet?

Eat your veggies!

Yes, your mom was right, you should always eat your vegetables. There are multiple studies on the effects of decreased arthritic inflammation when abiding by a plant-based diet.  Most of these studies are small and there are some mixed results, but in general, eating your veggies helps both OA and RA. Veggies are packed with phytochemicals (plant-based compounds) that include antioxidants, flavonoids and carotenoids, all of which help reduce inflammation and protect the tissues from oxidation, which can damage them. Aim for nine cups of fruits and vegetables per day.  Colourful fruits and veggies are best - the darker or more brilliant the colour, the more antioxidants it has. Good ones include blueberries, cherries, spinach, kale and broccoli.

Go nuts!

Multiple studies show that nuts and seeds can have a positive effect on decreasing inflammation in the body. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011 found that over a 15-year period, men and women who consumed the most nuts had a 51 per cent lower risk of dying from an inflammatory disease (like RA) compared with those who ate the fewest nuts. Eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and almonds is a great way to decrease inflammation and joint pain. Nuts and seeds are packed with inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fats.  The added benefit of including nuts in your diet is they are a great source of fiber.

Something is fishy

More recently, researchers have shown that taking fish oil supplements helps reduce joint swelling and pain, duration of morning stiffness, and disease activity among people who have RA.  Fish contain Omega-3 fatty acids that also help decrease inflammation in the body.  Most research looks at the effects of fish and fish oils on rheumatoid arthritis, however there are many other benefits to incorporating Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.  This is another great reason to tell your spouse you need to go fishing for the weekend! There is no one diet that is specifically shown to help either OA or RA. However, many studies show that you can live better with OA and RA by adding lots of fruits and vegetables to your diet, eating nuts and having fish at least twice per week.  Foods to avoid include items with high sugar content, highly processed foods, dairy, and fried foods.  Evaluate your diet for two weeks and log what you are eating. There are many online calculators that you can use.  Simply log  what you ate over the span of a week or two, and the program will tell you your weekly consumption of fats, sugars, and proteins. Then make some changes and start feeling less arthritic pain.

Activity fact: Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in adults in the USA.