If you suffer from discomfort, pain, stiffness or fatigue in the joints, you may have arthritis and it may be worth discussing these symptoms with your doctor. Stiffness after inactivity for more than 15 minutes, morning stiffness, persistent swelling of joints, painful joints, crackling joint sounds, enlarged bone growth or localised joint pain worsened by movement and improved with rest are all arthritis symptoms.
- Experiencing the symptoms in the small joints of hands and feet can often indicate arthritis is the cause.
- Symptoms such as fever, weight loss, sickness, fatigue may also accompany joint pain and discomfort.
Arthritis may be caused by inflammation of joint tissue lining; signs of inflammation are redness, heat, pain and swelling. Exercise, stretching, ice packs or heat (depending on the type of arthritis), a bath, massage therapy and losing weight may all help relieve arthritis, but for this article, we will focus on diet alone.
Within the body, there are various inflammatory pathways. At present medication to block these pathways has come up against barriers. However, a natural substance, Boswellia has been identified as a likely inhibitor. Foods can influence the inflammatory response and block the pathways involved in cartilage destruction. Diet can help by having either a beneficial inflammatory reducing effect or the opposite, a pro-inflammatory diet.
There is a strong link between inflammation and fatty acid imbalance. Scientific studies have shown that people with osteoarthritis have a higher proportion of arachidonic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid in their body. Too much omega 6 may cause an increase in inflammatory hormones.
Omega 6 containing foods are:
- Egg Yolks
- Fat-containing dairy products, shellfish and organ meats (liver, kidney etc)
- Pasta, juices, rice
Eating less of these foods may help you have less severe and frequent symptoms and speed up the healing process. Consumption of trans-fats including hydrogenated vegetable oil used in baked goods and eating excessive amounts of carbohydrates can contribute to arthritis symptoms. Reduce or avoid foods containing trans-fats, omega 6 rich food, alcohol and carbohydrates.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids potentially reduce joint inflammation. To increase omega 3 in your diet, eat foods such as omega-3 rich fish mackerel, salmon and tuna, flaxseed oil, omega-3 rich eggs or supplementation.
High Glycemic Foods
There is a link between chronic inflammation and over-consumption of high glycemic carbohydrates. High glycemic carbohydrates cause excessive production of insulin, which can lead to an increase in arachidonic acid. High glycemic foods are ones that digest quickly, including:
- Fruit juice
- White bread foods
- High in saturated or polyunsaturated fat
- Foods high in omega 6
Low glycemic foods that are better alternatives are salmon, fish, oatmeal, fruit and vegetables, olives, olive oil, peanuts, whey protein.
Nightshade Family Of Foods
The nightshade family, also known as the alkaloids, includes potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, chilli, red and green peppers, paprika and aubergines. These foods, especially potato and tomato, are very common in processed foods. Tobacco is a member of the nightshade family and by smoking, you have a direct shot of nightshade into the body.
The nightshade family can worsen arthritis symptoms and cause a reaction in your body. Nightshade foods have a negative effect, particularly on rheumatoid arthritis-related symptoms and the normal repair of joint collagen.
All of the below food products contain nightshade foods:
- Red and green peppers
Meaning That Nightshade Foods Can Be Found In:
- Potato starch
- Potato water can be found in soups, stews, bread, biscuits, doughnuts, stuffing, gravy, sauce and sauces, sometimes seafood and sausages, tomato, spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, Bloody Mary mix, sun-dried tomatoes and pizza.
- Condiments such as steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and barbecue sauces, peppers, jalapeno, chilli and pimentos, cayenne, chilli, ground red pepper, crushed red pepper, curry and paprika.
To determine if the nightshade family affects your arthritis, try eliminating these foods for 30-60 days to see an effect. This extensive list includes many foods but there are still many vegetables and spices that are not members of the nightshade family that can be consumed to maintain a healthy balanced diet. There are dedicated cookery books that will help make it easier, with recipes that may help to support arthritis sufferers and offer guidance on nightshade-free cooking.
Beyond the dietary factors already discussed, there are also supplements that may help relieve arthritic symptoms. Scientists’ identification of the underlying factors involved in the pathology of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis has enabled natural therapies to be identified that potential help reduces arthritic symptoms.
Some of such supplements are listed below:
Nettle leaf has been shown to work as an anti-inflammatory in rheumatoid arthritis. No studies have shown that it works in osteoarthritis, but due to it being an anti-inflammatory it may work for osteoarthritis too.
Boswellia contains the active ingredient boswellic acid; found in the Boswellia serrata tree native to India. It works to inhibit one of the inflammatory pathways.
Glucosamine is crucial in the body to produce joint cartilage. In osteoarthritis, the synthesis of glucosamine is thought to be defective. Supplementation has been shown to be useful as it helps the body to produce joint cartilage and also inhibits certain enzymes that can destroy cartilage. If glucosamine is going to benefit you, it may take one to eight weeks as the effects are not immediate.
Curcumin comes from a plant similar to ginger and is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects and also be effective in lessening tissue damage. Antioxidants may help to support the body from cell damage caused by oxidative stress or free-radical damage. Oxidative stress and free-radical damage to cells contributes to the ageing process and other degenerative diseases and is thought to be an important factor in the development of osteoarthritis. Deficiency of vitamin C may impair collagen production.
Copper Deficiency has been shown to be common in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. Copper is an anti-inflammatory agent and so if it is not present in the body in correct quantities, people cannot benefit from its anti-inflammatory effects.
Probiotics help support the digestive system. Poor digestive health has been linked to arthritis. Boosting your digestive support and taking a probiotic will be beneficial to your digestive system and overall health.
It may seem that this article has provided a long list of foods not to eat, however, there are still many foods that can be eaten. There are some strict and detailed elimination diets that may improve arthritic symptoms and provide a more accurate picture of which foods you should personally avoid. Such diets have specific methods and may span approximately six weeks.
The majority of elimination diets work based on removing quite a lot of foods from the diet initially and reintroducing foods gradually to determine if they aggravate health conditions. If you are interested in such elimination diets, ask your health professional for guidance. If avoiding some of the foods helps reduce pain, it may well give you a new lease of pain-free living.