Arthritis means inflammation of the joints and is characterized by pain, swelling, and stiffness and for some, reduced mobility. There are approximately a hundred million sufferers and many different types of arthritis. Probably the two most common are Osteoarthritis, (general wear and tear and therefore more typically associated with older adults), and rheumatoid arthritis (with an immune system involvement and can affect any age).
Contrary to popular belief, arthritis is often preventable, many causes being eliminated merely by eating the right foods and avoiding those that may aggravate the condition.
Eating predominantly alkaline-forming foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, is essential. Dark berries like blueberries and cherries are particularly rich in joint supportive nutrients, while fresh pineapple and papaya contain natural enzymes that help tackle inflammation. Dark green leafy vegetables like cabbage, sprouts, and broccoli provide essential minerals like calcium and magnesium, while onions and garlic are rich in joint supportive sulfur.
While certain fats can undoubtedly hinder this condition (see below), essential fats with their anti-inflammatory effects, are vital. Good sources include oily fish like mackerel, salmon, and sardines, and also nuts, seeds, and cold pressed oils like Flax or Hemp. Please note however that these oils should not be used for cooking – only cook with extra virgin olive or coconut oil, or scraping of butter.
Aim for a diet as nearly natural as possible as this should naturally contain more nutrients than one that is full of refined, processed foods. Try porridge for breakfast and grate in some fresh root ginger (anti-inflammatory) and top it with berries!
Finally, don’t forget to drink plenty of water (or fruit/herb teas), as some joint aches and pains are caused merely as a result of dehydration.
While the importance of fruits and vegetables has been mentioned, some may, in fact, aggravate symptoms of arthritis. Citrus fruits (grapefruit, oranges, and lemons) and plums are examples and should be eaten with caution, and any reaction noted. Likewise, the nightshade vegetables, which includes potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and aubergine may be particularly troublesome and need excluding from the diet, although sweet potatoes are excellent and may be substituted. People living with Arthritis often have other food intolerances too, which would require identifying and removing from their diet.
Inflammatory conditions may be worsened by overeating of the wrong type of fat-saturated or hydrogenated. Rich sources of saturated fats include red meat (beef, pork, and lamb), milk, cream, cheese, and butter, while hydrogenated fats are found in some margarine and processed meals.
Alcohol, sugar, and caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate and cola drinks) all deplete essential nutrients like calcium, so be wary of overindulging!
Gentle weight-bearing exercise like walking is vital to aid the healing process and keep joints strong and healthy, although swimming provides an alternative if joints are particularly sore.