EATING FOR OSTEOARTHRITIS
Inflammation is the way in which the body attempts to protect itself through heat, swelling, and often pain. This healing response by the body brings more immune activity to a site of injury, such as damaged cells, or infection. But when inflammation persists for no reason, it can damage the body and cause illness. Many factors contribute to chronic inflammation, such as inactivity, stress, and exposure to toxins. Food choices can assist in reducing or increasing the inflammatory response in the body.
Some myths about eating for arthritis continue to persist. It was previously thought that certain foods such as nightshade vegetables (eggplant, potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes) were linked to more inflammation and pain in osteoarthritis sufferers; however, there is no scientific evidence to give merit to this idea. Many alternative medical practitioners still cling to this outdated idea, and you may have been advised at one time to eliminate these foods. There is no need, however, to eliminate these healthy plants from your diet.
Prominent medical researcher and natural health physician Dr. Andrew Weil says that incorporating anti-inflammation foods into your diet may or may not help osteoarthritis in particular, but it will improve your overall health and slow cellular aging.
- Here are some of the main foods to consume in order to reduce your overall levels of inflammation:
Omega-3 fats: Make sure your diet includes plenty of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids such as those found in salmon and other cold-water fish such as sardines, mackerel, and trout. Omega-3 fortified eggs, flaxseeds, and walnuts should all be eaten several times a week for optimal health. Olive oil contains oleic acid, polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids, which are all antioxidants. Try incorporating more olive oil in your diet, and make homemade salad dressings rather than consuming store-bought ones.
Red and purple fruits and vegetables: Anthocyanidins are powerful antioxidants found in the reddish pigment of foods like cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, and eggplant. A Harvard School of Public Health study that examined C-reactive protein (CRP) levels as a marker of inflammation in cardiovascular health found that higher strawberry intake was associated with lower CRP levels.
Less meat, more plant protein: Rather than getting most of your protein from meat and dairy, get the bulk of your protein sources from nut butters, tofu, beans, lentils, and quinoa. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables from all parts of the color spectrum. Overall, you should aim for a diet that’s high in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, legumes, and olive oil.
- Some foods which may contribute to inflammation, and thus are probably best to avoid:
Processed foods: Many commercially produced baked goods and snacks contain corn or other oils high in omega-6 fatty acids and may trigger inflammation. Fats that promote inflammation include polyunsaturated vegetable oils (such as safflower and corn oils) and partially hydrogenated oils such as margarines, and vegetable shortenings. Avoid refined and processed foods in general.
Fried foods: Advanced glycation end product (AGE), is a toxin that appears when foods are heated, grilled, fried, or pasteurized. AGEs cause damage to the body, and the release of cytokines, which are inflammatory messengers. Depending on where the AGEs occur, they may result in arthritis or other forms of inflammation. Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that reducing the consumption of fried and processed foods can reduce inflammation and help restore the body’s natural defenses.
Sugars: High amounts of sugar in the diet result in an increase in AGEs and result in inflammation. Limit the amount of sugar-containing foods you consume.
Dairy: Dairy protein may irritate the tissue around the joints and therefore it may be prudent to experiment with reducing the amount of dairy you consume in your diet.
Salt: Many processed foods contain high amounts salt and preservatives; these additives may result in inflammation of the joints and should thus be consumed in moderation.