Fight arthritis with the right diet

Sufferers of arthritis know what a painful and uncomfortable condition it can be. It may affect a variety of joints and symptoms may include stiffness and inflammation, which can make even basic everyday activities a painful ordeal.

So what role can diet play? While there is no ‘miracle food’ that will produce sudden or dramatic results, diet is certainly an important facet of a good management plan and can make a difference in reducing the impact that Arthritis can have on your everyday life.

Balance is key
The important first step is to make sure your overall diet is healthy and well-balanced to promote general good health. Making sudden dramatic changes or restrictions in your diet may be a waste of time and you should consult with health professionals before taking any drastic steps.

If your weight is an issue, then this may well be contributing to the severity of symptoms, so weight control through diet is important. Osteoarthritis, in particular, has a well-documented connection with excess weight as a major risk factor. Your condition may restrict your ability to exercise, which makes it important to eat in moderation, avoid binging, and maintaining a healthy and balanced diet with a limit on the nasties, such as fat and sugar.

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There are various sources of omega-3 in fishes, good oils, spices and vegetables.

What specific foods may help?
Once you have the basic balanced diet in place, you can start to focus on specific foods that may have some direct benefit to your condition. Omega-3 fats are possibly the most widely recognised dietary element for helping sufferers improve their symptoms. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 may be of real benefit if inflammation is an issue, as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis.

Omega-3 may be taken in supplement forms to achieve greater concentration, but it is present in a variety of everyday foods. These include walnuts, seaweed, soybeans and foods fortified with omega-3, such as margarines and eggs. Omega-3 fats are also found in oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, herring, anchovies and mackerel.

Spices like ginger and turmeric are purported to have anti-inflammatory effects and they have the added benefit of being a tasty inclusion in many recipes. Certain oils are also a good source, including flaxseed canola and olive oil (ideally choosing extra virgin as it contains a natural anti-inflammatory compound called oleocanthal).

By obtaining omega-3 through diet you can avoid any possible side effects of supplements and you may also achieve other health benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease.

What about supplements?
Generally speaking, supplements will only be of limited value and in some cases they may conflict with other medications you are taking, so there is no imperative to add supplements if you are eating a well-balanced diet. While there is no conclusive proof, glucosamine and chondroitin are two supplements that seem to offer relief for some sufferers, especially for osteoarthritis. Any use of these supplements, however, should be in consultation with your doctor in case they are not compatible with other medications.

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It is best to consult with a health professional to see which source is best for you.

Foods to avoid
Theories have developed in recent years regarding certain foods, such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and dairy, being responsible for aggravating arthritis. The reality is that there is little hard evidence to support this, so there is no need to miss out on the nutritional value that these foods offer.

The exception to this rule is gout, which is a form of arthritis that can be alleviated by reducing certain foods that cause a build-up of uric acid in the joints, such as shellfish, animal proteins, alcohol and sugary drinks.

Experiment to see what works for you
While the advice above provides a general background, there are some people who do report that restricting certain foods does provide some relief. If you do want to experiment by eliminating some types of food, it may be useful to keep a food diary for a period and see if any effects can be noted when particular foods are removed.

This should be done in a controlled way, rather than making large sudden changes and you should always discuss the outcome with your doctor.

Let us know below, how do you deal with arthritis?