Part 1: What an Arthritis Diet Should Do for You
Although the focus of this book is on foods that can address arthritis and joint inflammation, it would do you well to know what to look for when considering whether or not to include a particular food or food group in your diet. Ultimately, your aim is to have an “Arthritis diet” that helps you to focus on your whole body, rather than just one specific area. Ideally, your food choices should be able to:
Help Curb Inflammation
Arthritis is characterized by inflammation, which is the body’s attempt to protect itself. Harmful stimuli, including an injury, pathogen, damaged cells or irritants can all cause inflammation. Acute inflammation is an indication that the body is trying to heal itself. Eating foods that relieve the inflammation in your body will help expedite the healing process. It is important to note that the presence of inflammation does not automatically mean that there is an infection in the body. Infection is caused by bacteria, a virus or fungus, and inflammation is simply and indication that the body is aware of the problem and is trying to fight it.
Inflammation is not always bad, and it is important to distinguish between the two types of inflammation that may be present in the body.
Acute inflammation comes on suddenly and is the result of an illness or injury to the body. It may be present for a few hours, days or weeks; however it is usually not a permanent condition.
Chronic inflammation is a long-term condition that can result from not treating acute inflammation, as an autoimmune response to otherwise healthy tissue, or as the result of an irritant that persists over a period of time.
Protect Against Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Celiac Disease, Graves’ Disease and literally hundreds of others are caused when the body initiates an immune response to healthy cells. Inflammation occurs as the body attempts to fight the “imagined” threat to its systems. Acute inflammation is nearly always a part of an autoimmune disease, and some researchers believe that acute and prolonged inflammation in the body can actually trigger an autoimmune disease.
Help You Manage or Lose Weight and Reduce the Strain on Your Joints.
If you are struggling to lose weight, recent studies indicate that there may be inflammation running unchecked in your body. A diet high in processed foods, which contain high amounts of sugar and fats, can lead to inflammation and cause your weight to balloon. This excess weight places a strain on your joints, which then initiate an immune response to fix the problem.
Recognizing your unhealthy eating patterns and initiating changes in your diet can help to decrease the inflammation in your body, leading to a gradual weight loss and reducing the strain on your joints. Prolonged stress and strain on your joints can lead you to develop arthritis, turning a temporary condition into a permanent one.
Substances That Relieve Arthritis and Reduce Inflammation
There are many compounds in food that are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Here are some of the more common ones, as well as the foods in which they are found.
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Also known as PUFAs or polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3s are essential fatty acids. They are necessary for a healthy body; however the body cannot produce them naturally and so they must be obtained from food sources. Omega-3s can be found in healthy oils (e.g. olive oil, grapeseed oil, and safflower oil), fish oils, and fatty/oily fish (e.g. salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, and herring).
Omega-3 fatty acids first became popular because they help keep the heart healthy. Recent studies have shown that they may be able to reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
2. Vitamins that Fight Inflammation
Antioxidant vitamins such as C, D and E have properties that have been shown to fight inflammation in the body and reduce the harmful effects of free radicals.
3. Vitamin A
Found in vegetables such as kale, sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, broccoli and collard greens, as well as in beef liver, and milk, this vitamin has been shown to effectively reduce inflammation in the body when paired with beta-carotene, a provitamin that converts to Vitamin A in the body.
4. Vitamin C
Studies have shown that increased or adequate vitamin C intake reduces the level of C-reactive proteins or CRP in the blood. CRP is a marker for inflammation that is present when there are high levels of inflammation present in the body.
5, Vitamin E
This vitamin is found in green leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds, almonds and avocados, and can also be taken as a supplement. Some experts believe that vitamin E causes inflammatory substances that cause damage to the heart to be released more slowly into the body, minimizing the effect that they have on the system and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. The alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E has also been found to reduce lung inflammation in animals.
Found in onions, tea, citrus fruits, and apples, quercetin is a flavonoid that contains antioxidant properties. It eases inflammation by inhibiting inflammatory agents, including histamines, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins, which are substances in the body that cause inflammation and can lead to conditions such as osteoarthritis and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Like quercetin, anthocyanin is also a flavonoid with antioxidant properties. This plant pigment is found in purple and red fruits, including blueberries, raspberries, and cherries. Anthocyanins are believed to have antioxidant and more importantly, anti-inflammatory properties. They prevent inflammation by neutralizing enzymes and inhibiting oxidants that cause damage to the blood vessels’ connective tissues. When these tissues are destroyed, blood leaks into other tissues, causing pain and inflammation. They also ease inflammation by repairing damaged blood vessels and thereby putting a stop to blood leakage.
There are food sources containing the substances above that are not discussed in this book. The inclusion of this chapter is meant to guide you towards choosing foods that will provide you with the right nutrients to address arthritis and/or reduce joint inflammation, however we strongly recommend that you do diligent
research to ensure that you are choosing the proper foods for your body.
Part 2: Foods to avoid if you have arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis or RA is an inflammatory disease. What you eat affects how extreme or how often your flare ups will be. To avoid this, you may want to consider removing these foods that are deemed to cause flare ups: Fried food: Deep-fried food such as potato chips, French fries, calamari, and even onion rings are high in food additives, trans fat, saturated fat, and sodium. All of which we could do with avoiding.
Trans Fats: this causes systemic inflammation and are mostly be found in processed snacks, frozen products, fast food, donuts, fried products, crackers, stick margarines, and cookies.
Saturated Fats: Some of the foods that trigger inflammation and worsen arthritis include pizza, red meat, pasta, full-fat dairy products, and sweet desserts.
Refined sugar: Did you know that the body’s response to sugar intake is an increase in the production of stress hormones and insulin? These can greatly contribute to inflammation. So instead, try replacing them with complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, fruits, and vegetables. Eating fruit will not only help you manage your inflammation, but also help you control your sweet tooth.
Processed food: Fast food packaged meals are examples of overly processed food. These are loaded with food additives, sugar, unhealthy oils, and artificial flavors. Avoid calling for a fast food delivery or stopping at a drive thru, make it a habit to plan your meals for the week and have go-to snacks for when you’re in a rush.
Sugar: processed ones found in sodas, chocolates, pastries, and even fruit juices can trigger the release of an inflammatory called cytokines. These are a large group of signaling molecules that are secreted by specific cells of the immune system and regulate inflammation, immunity, and hematopoiesis.
Salt: Too much salt can encourage inflammation. Processed foods are generally high in sodium. Those with lingering inflammatory conditions can benefit from a low sodium diet, preferably less than a teaspoon of salt or 1,500 mg a day.
Margarine: Trans fats found in margarine are considered a harmful ingredient and promote inflammation. Baked goods like biscuits, pies, and buns contain margarines and hydrogenated oils that are bad for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Pork: arachidonic acid contained in red meat like pork are considered pro-inflammatory. Apart from this, processed pork products such as hotdogs, sausages, and bacon have added nitrates meant for color preservation that are found to also increase the risk of diabetes and heart diseases.
Beef: Fats from animals are mainly saturated fat. High-fat beef is linked to inflammation and has the possibility of altering the gut bacteria, which mainly causes immune response thereby stimulating inflammation.
White grain products: Some examples include pasta and breads that are made from refined grains. These quickly break down and convert into sugar, causing inflammation. Go for whole grains instead since they take longer to break down in the body.
Alcohol: excessive consumption can cause inflammation and weakens the proper function of the liver.
Part 3: 12 Foods that relieve arthritis
1. Fatty Fish
Fatty or oily fish are cold-water fish. They differ from white fish in that their whole body contains oil, while the latter only have oil in their liver. They should be a staple in any “arthritis diet” because they contain nutrients that effectively deal with inflammation and diseases such as arthritis. Examples of fatty fish are the following: eel, herring, kipper, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna.
How Fatty Fish Reduce Inflammation
Fatty fish are an excellent source of omega-3s or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which, as mentioned in the first chapter of this book, not only ease inflammation but also reduce symptoms of arthritis. Omega-3s do this by promoting the production of resolvins - a type of fat that may prevent inflammation.
Walnuts have the highest concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids of any nut on the planet. They have also been shown to inhibit the production of neurotransmitters, which can increase inflammation and cause pain in the body.
Walnuts are rich in fiber, unsaturated fat, protein, vitamin E, and antioxidants. They also supply the body with copper and manganese. Unlike other nuts, walnuts contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Walnuts do a lot for the body. They promote heart and bone health, and improve blood flow to your muscles. They also prevent cell damage caused by free radicals. Walnuts are likewise believed to have anti-cancer properties.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids in animal products: specifically in fish oils: are known to reduce joint pain and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. It is still unclear whether the omega-3s in walnuts produce similar results, but in a related study it was found that people who increase their intake of these nuts are able to reduce the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood. This means that walnuts may be able to ease inflammation, too.
4. Whole Grains
Whole and refined grains are similar in that they are both cereal grains. The difference lies in their composition. Refined grains such as white flour and white bread only make use of the cereal grain’s endosperm: that is, the protective covering of the germ or the plant embryo. Whole grains, on the other hand, include all the parts of the grain, namely: the endosperm, the germ, and the outer layer or the bran. Examples of whole grains are brown rice, quinoa, and oats. They also include wholegrain products like whole wheat bread and flour.
Whole grains are high in dietary fiber: making them a very effective weight loss tool. They also provide magnesium, iron, selenium, and several B vitamins.
Consuming whole grains has a positive effect on your overall health. These foods keep your brain and heart healthy. They also boost your immune system and reduce your risk of developing chronic conditions.
The positive effect of whole grain consumption on inflammation is well documented. A study done in Germany established that people who do not consume a lot of whole grains during pre-adolescence are prone to having higher levels of interleukin-6 (which indicates the presence of inflammation in the body) during adulthood. Related studies showed similar results: intake of whole grain products has a direct correlation to the levels of inflammation markers such as C-reactive proteins or CRP in the blood. Simply put, when you eat more whole grains, your CRP levels decrease, which means inflammation is reduced. In another study, this time done in the US, it was found that consumption of whole grains led to a decrease in systemic inflammation.
5. Avocado Oil
Green and mild tasting, this healthy oil derived from the avocado fruit has yet to become a kitchen staple in many households. Given its many benefits, though, you might want to give this healthy oil a try.
Avocado is a high fat fruit…but it’s a good fat. One avocado contains almost 22 grams of monounsaturated fat and provides an excellent nutrition boost for any meal that it is added to. Avocados also boost the absorption of various nutrients found in other food because of its high unsaturated fat content, as well as raise the levels of HDL or good cholesterol and lower blood pressure in the body.
Avocado oil is likewise being looked into as a natural cure for psoriasis and periodontal disease.
This healthy oil reduces inflammation by reducing the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. Research that was done in Europe indicated that a supplement that combined soybean oil and avocado oil extracts successfully improved arthritis and osteoarthritis symptoms. So convincing are the results of this study that the said supplement is now recognized as a prescription drug in
6. Grapeseed Oil
Grapeseed oil is a by-product of the winemaking process. Also known as grape oil, it is produce by pressing the grape seeds: in particular, the ones that have been discarded during winemaking. It is usually extracted chemically since each grape seed yields only a very small amount of oil. Grapeseed oil is known for its culinary and cosmetic uses.
Grapeseed oil contains an omega-9 fatty acid called oleic acid that has been shown to help control food cravings. This makes it an effective tool for losing and managing weight. It was also found to reduce bad cholesterol or LDL levels and raise good cholesterol levels in the body.
Grapeseed oil is an excellent source of polyunsaturated fats or omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E: substances known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
7. Olive Oil
Olive oil is undoubtedly the best-known healthy oil in this chapter. It is a staple in different cuisines around the world and brings added flavor to many dishes. It also provides a host of health benefits that should convince you to give this oil a permanent place in your pantry.
Olive oil has many health benefits. It contains polyphenolic compounds, which promote heart health, and hydroxytyrosol, which was found to protect the nervous system against diseases. Recently it was established that when mixed with vitamin D, olive oil could help to prevent bone loss.
Olive oil contains oleocanthal, a substance that is believed to have
the same effect as NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Oleocanthal works the same way as ibuprofen by blocking the production of COX-1 and COX-2: enzymes that promote inflammation and increase the body’s pain sensitivity.
8. Safflower Oil
Safflower oil is derived from the seeds of the safflower plant. It has two variants: high-linoleic and high oleic. The former is best used in unheated food since it contains polyunsaturated fats/omega-3s. The latter, on the other hand, is rich in monounsaturated fats and can be used in place of olive oil in cooking.
Safflower oil is high in vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties, and polyunsaturated fats/omega-3 fatty acids. Experts believe that both of these substances provide a number of health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels in the body. They may also reduce abdominal fat, which makes safflower oil effective in weight loss and management.
Like the other healthy oils in this chapter, safflower oil is said to have anti-inflammatory qualities because of the omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E it contains.
9. Coconut oil
Coconut oil has been in the news lately for it’s seemingly endless health and wellness abilities. Long thought unhealthy because of its high fat content, coconut oil is now known to be high in antioxidants, with some studies showing them to be more effective than non-steroidal pain medication at relieving pain and inflammation in the body.
Coconut oil has a high smoke point, making it an excellent choice for cooking. Be sure to choose virgin coconut oil, as refined oils have
had most of their healing properties stripped away during the refinement process.
Turmeric is primarily used as an essential ingredient in curries. Aside from serving as a spice in many dishes, it is also used as a pigment and as medicine for various health conditions.
Turmeric is rich in manganese and iron. It can also provide you with dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6. Studies suggest that it may have anti-cancer properties. It can also protect against several skin conditions, stomach ulcers, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease. It is likewise used in alternative medicine to treat depression.
Turmeric contains polyphenolic compounds called curcuminoids, which are responsible for its yellow hue. Curcumin is the primary curcuminoid and the most active substance in turmeric. It is also the focus of many studies on the health benefits: in particular, the anti-inflammatory properties: of the said rhizome.
11. Capsicum/Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper has a long history of use both as a medicine and as a cooking ingredient. Native Americans have been using these spices for thousands of years, while Asian healers have known of its curative properties for centuries.
Cayenne pepper is high in capsaicin, and contains the following nutrients: vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, manganese, and potassium. These and other capsicums are a proven digestive aid. They are also used to address various conditions affecting the blood vessels and the heart: they lower cholesterol levels, improve blood circulation, and even prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease.
Capsicum is sometimes applied to the skin to reduce muscle spasms and nerve pain. It’s also used to lessen pain resulting from rheumatoid arthritis, shingles, and fibromyalgia.
Cayenne pepper and other capsicums contain capsaicin. A study of this compound and its effects has shown that it can provide relief from pain and inflammation in individuals suffering from arthritis and osteoarthritis. Cayenne pepper also contains the antioxidants carotenoids and flavonoids. These neutralize free radicals, which induce inflammation by damaging/destroying the cells in the body.
More and more people are switching to tea instead of coffee because it is thought to be healthier. It contains less caffeine and provides numerous health benefits. It may also address inflammation, so it should definitely be added to your arthritis diet.
Tea promotes bone and hearth health. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is no surprise, then, that it should be included in your arthritis diet. There are different kinds of tea, but all of these contain antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals. Tea is likewise calorie-free, so those suffering from inflammation brought about by diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can enjoy its benefits without gaining weight. In some cases, drinking tea, especially green tea, may also help in weight loss because it is know to boost your metabolism. These are noteworthy benefits because as mentioned earlier, being overweight or obese exacerbates inflammation and may even increase the odds of developing arthritis and other chronic conditions.
A study of various teas and their effects found that white tea is the healthiest and contains the most polyphenols - probably because it is not as processed as oolong and black tea. It provides relief from inflammation by inhibiting elastase and collagenase: enzymes that encourage inflammation by damaging connective tissues.
Green tea contains about the same amount of polyphenols as white tea. It is rich in EGCG or epigallocatechin gallate: a polyphenol that has been found to successfully halt the progression of arthritis by preventing interleukin-1 from breaking down cartilage. Interleukin-1 is a blood cell that supposedly helps the body fight infections by producing inflammation.