5 Things You Can Do Now That Will Give You Relief From Arthritis6 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 54 million adults in the United States have some form of doctor-diagnosed arthritis. And this number is projected to increase to 78 million by 2040.
- Arthritis is essentially inflammation of the joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, it is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and there are more than 100 different types of arthritis!
- Osteoarthritis (OA), also called degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis, is the most common kind of arthritis (affecting around 27 million Americans). In OA, the cartilage breaks down. Although it can happen to anyone, it is most common in people over the age of 65.
Many people think of arthritis as being an “old people’s disease,” but this is completely false.
Thirty-six-year-old professional golfer Kristy McPherson was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at the age of 11.
Back in 2008, a 32-year-old Tiger Woods underwent knee surgery to repair a torn ACL.
“After a ligament is repaired, there is a risk of developing arthritis earlier than normal, but that depends on the amount of damage to the cartilage,” according to this source.
“When the knee is destabilized by an injury, it’s more likely that the end of the bones will rub together and wear away the cushiony pads that protect them.”
Reportedly, Woods developed arthritis after his ACL surgery. This is an example of post-traumatic arthritis.
- There is also rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints.
Joint pain, stiffness and swelling are the most common symptoms of arthritis.
There is no cure for arthritis, but one of the best ways to manage the symptoms is through nutrition and preventing or reducing inflammation.
This medical review discusses adequate intake of specific nutrients as it relates to the risk of developing or progression of osteoarthritis (OA).
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
These are healthy fats found in foods like salmon, vegetable oils and some nuts and seeds. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are specific types of PUFAs. Although omega-6s fall under the category of good fats, the “Western diet has a high ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids, predisposing to inflammation,” according to the review.
So this means we may need to get more omega-3s which are found in flaxseed oil, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, grass-fed beef and oily fishes like salmon, sardines and mackerel.
Additionally, one report suggests that just one gram of fish oil a day could help reduce the pain of patients with osteoarthritis.
“Essential fatty acids in fish oil [which is an omega-3] reduce inflammation in joints, helping to alleviate pain,” the report says.
- Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. The review showed that vitamin C supplementation appeared to reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis.
Foods rich in vitamin C include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, cantaloupe, spinach, bell peppers, kiwi, strawberries, mango, kale and papaya.
- Vitamin D.
As you probably know, this vitamin plays a key role in building and maintaining strong, healthy bones. And there are a few reasons why vitamin D may help with the management of arthritis. The report says that vitamin D has a major role in the regulation of mineral homeostasis and bone metabolism.
“Thus, inadequate vitamin D status is thought to impair the ability of bone to respond to the pathophysiological process of OA and influence disease progression...Furthermore, a number of trials have shown that vitamin D supplementation has positive effects on muscle strength; this may be beneficial in OA, which is often associated with marked weakness of the quadriceps muscles.”
You can increase your vitamin D levels by spending time in the sun, eating vitamin D-fortified foods and/or taking supplements.
- Vitamin K.
This vitamin plays a role in bone and cartilage mineralization. “In longitudinal studies, vitamin K-deficient subjects were found to be more likely to have articular cartilage and meniscus damage, often developing OA in one or both knees,” according to the review.
“Vitamin K is needed for vitamin-K-dependent (VKD) proteins, which are found in bone and cartilage. An inadequate intake of the vitamin adversely affects the working of the protein, affecting bone growth and repair and increasing the risk of osteoarthritis,” says this source.
Vitamin K may also help maintain healthy bones in older adults. Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are some great veggies rich in vitamin K.
In general, eating a diet rich in nutrient-dense, antioxidant filled foods, such as fruits and vegetables, may help reduce inflammation throughout the body. If you can reduce inflammation, you may be able to stave off pain and a myriad of diseases.
Getting an adequate fiber intake may also reduce pain from arthritis.
It is so important to maintain a healthy weight, because being overweight or obese may increase the risk of developing arthritis or make symptoms worse if you already have it. Excess weight contributes to inflammation and puts so much strain on your bones and joints.
To read about specific nutrients that may help with weight loss and management, read here.
One report found an interesting connection between the use of baking soda and arthritis management.
The Journal of Immunology reported evidence that drinking water mixed with baking soda could possibly reduce someone’s chances of getting illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis.
“Experts say baking soda can help to alkalize a too-acidic environment in the body. Many holistic and naturopathic doctors, as well as nutritionists, health coaches, and dietitians tout the idea that an alkaline body environment is better than an acidic one — and while that’s true in general, it’s important to note that being too far at either end of the spectrum can result in medical woes,” according to the report.
Exercise is also key.
“Physical activity is essential to optimizing both physical and mental health and can play a vital role in the management of arthritis,” according to John Hopkins Medicine.
“Regular physical activity can keep the muscles around affected joints strong, decrease bone loss and may help control joint swelling and pain. Regular activity replenishes lubrication to the cartilage of the joint and reduces stiffness and pain.”
If you have arthritis and/or are in pain, speak with your doctor about what exercises might be appropriate for you. You may find that yoga or swimming is easier on your joints. Every person is different, and every case of arthritis is different. But you can make small, daily lifestyle changes that may have major benefits to your health and quality of life.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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