General Health

Arthritis: Nutritional Remedies to Reduce Arthritic Pain

What is Arthritis?

Sometimes due to tiredness and laziness, we choose not to move. But for a few, limited movement is not their choice but it is due to severe health complications. Whenever they try to use their joints like the knee, wrists, fingers, toes and hips, they feel unbearable pain. This is not normal and needs immediate medical attention. Medically this condition is called Arthritis, a range of musculoskeletal problems where joints become inflamed resulting in pain, stiffness, disability, and deformity.

These symptoms often have a significant impact on everyday life functioning. There are more than 100 types of arthritis. They especially affect joints, tendons, ligaments and bones. Arthritis is the main feature of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, spondylitis and idiopathic arthritis.

Prevalence 

In India, arthritis affects more than 180 million people. The number is higher than other chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, AIDS and cancer. Around 14% of the Indian population seeks a doctor’s help every year for this joint disease. As per an SRL Diagnostics study, arthritis prevalence in India is likely to cross 60 million patients by 2025.

In India, the most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, affecting 15 million adults every year. Other common joint conditions are gout and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is more commonly observed in women and progresses more with ageing. Studies show that nearly 45% of women over the age of 65 years have symptoms of arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, mainly affects tissues around the joints. Most frequent in adults, RA affects 0.5%–1% of the population in India. Women are 3 to 4 times more frequently affected than men. Onset occurs between the age of 35–55 years. Gout is one of the most common causes of inflammatory arthritis, Gout is 3 to 4 times more common in 50 + obese men.

Dietary pattern and arthritis

Research has shown a crucial link between food intake and arthritis. 

Bodyweight is the most important link between diet and arthritis. Obesity or overweight loads extra strain on weight-bearing joints. A small weight loss can offer a big difference in arthritis complications. Also, excess body fat increases the risk of inflammation in the body and losing weight can reduce inflammation in any kind of arthritis. Losing weight and maintaining the same is not difficult if a balanced diet is eaten and regular low-intensity physical exercise is being done.

Food to avoid in arthritis

During arthritis, foods which increase inflammation and pain should be avoided consciously.

  • High-calorie foods like fatty food and empty calories foods (soft drinks) trigger overeating, hence should be restricted strictly
  • Foods cooked at high temperatures produce Advanced glycation end products or AGEs. These are mostly found in high-fat food, processed food and fried food. Avoiding these foods may reduce inflammation. Foods should be cooked at lower temperatures or by moist-heat methods like boiling, steaming, blanching etc.
  • Food sensitivity towards certain foods like dairy foods, citrus fruits or nightshade family foods such as potatoes and chilli peppers should be identified in advance and should be avoided if in case they cause joint pain or inflammation.
  • High-Purine Foods like asparagus, organ meats, herrings, mackerel and dried beans, peas and Alcohol sometimes increase the uric acid level, which further deteriorates the pain. Hence these should be avoided.
  • Butter contains high saturated fat, which can increase swelling and pain in the body. So, it is always better than butter and should be avoided by people with arthritis.
  • Sugary foods such as candy and chocolate should be eaten intelligently by arthritis patients. Because candy contains calories but no fibre or nutrients, it can lead to weight gain. After checking the food label, foods with “invisible fat” like biscuits, cakes, pastries, chocolates, and savoury snacks should be avoided.

Food ingredients that cause inflammation in arthritis

  • Saturated fat-containing foods like processed foods, high-fat dairy products and deep-fried foods
  • Transfats containing foods like fried products, processed snack foods, frozen breakfast products, cookies, doughnuts, crackers, and most stick margarine
  • Excess intake of omega 6 fatty acid foods like corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut, and vegetable as well as mayonnaise and many salad dressings
  • Refined carbohydrate foods like white flour products, white rice, and potato as french fries
  • Monosodium glutamate or Ajinomoto
  • An artificial sweetener like aspartame

Best foods for arthritis

  • Fruits such as mango, tart cherries, strawberries, red raspberries, avocado, watermelon, grapes, pomegranate
  • Vegetables such as dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, red pepper, onion, garlic, olives
  • Low-fat fishes
  • Grains such as barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, quinoa, whole oats, whole wheat, amaranth and barley
  • Nuts and seeds like walnut, peanut, almond, chia seeds and flaxseeds
  • Spices like turmeric, garlic, ginger and cinnamon
  • Oils such as grapeseed oil, walnut oil, avocado oil, canola oil and soybean oil
  • Beverages like water, sugarless tea and coffee and fresh juices

Conclusion

A balanced healthy diet can help manage arthritis, reduce the risk of other chronic diseases and protect against the side effects of arthritis medicines. A small weight loss and ideal weight maintenance can improve the overall quality of life in arthritis.

Arthritis patients and their caregivers should learn what to add and skip in their diet and daily routine. They should be aware and accordingly select foods which are nutrient-rich, low in fat and sugar and help reduce joint inflammation and pain. A food diary should be maintained to see if there is a correlation between diet and symptoms. There is no single super diet which can cure arthritis but a healthy lifestyle can definitely help reduce the pain and discomfort.

References
  1. Bioactive Food as Dietary Interventions for Arthritis and Related Inflammatory Diseases https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-813820-5.00001-5
  2. https://arthritis-india.com/
  3. https://www.asianage.com/life/health/121017/arthritis-prevalence-rising-among-indians-analysis.html
  4. www.arthritisresearchuk.org

Author

Aparna Das Parmar

Aparna Parmar has over 8.5 years of rich experience in the field of nutrition and healthcare and is currently a corporate nutritionist.

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