Nutrition

Anti-Inflammatory Superfoods For Arthritis

When it comes to arthritis, there are two major kinds. The more common arthritis, known as osteoarthritis, arises when the cartilage that caps the ends of bones at the joints begins to wear away, which causes pain and inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis, in comparison, doesn’t affect the cartilage directly but instead makes the protective lubricating synovial tissue around the joint inflamed, which causes an entirely different kind of swelling and pain.RA is much less common than osteoarthritis. In fact, only around one percent of arthritis sufferers have rheumatoid arthritis. The majority of RA sufferers are women as they’re three times as likely to develop the disorder as men, but the condition can be managed through the use of medications. Unlike osteoarthritis, which often arises from the natural wear and tear on your joints as you age, rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease; in essence, your own body is attacking itself and causing the problems. Untreated rheumatoid arthritis can eventually destroy synovial tissue and even begin degrading bone and cartilage as well. Osteoarthritis causes a similar host of issues, which can lead to having joint replacement surgery to have a fabricated joint grafted to replace a joint that has been worn away over time.

painful-knee-close-up

There are prescription medications that help to slow the progress of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. These treatments can even halt it in its tracks, obviating the need for painful and invasive surgeries in the case of osteoarthritis. However, there are other ways to treat the symptoms of arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis, than through the use of prescription medications. This can be helpful in the case of drug resistance or allergy, or simply if an RA sufferer wants to seek more natural ways to help manage their condition. Since the condition causes deep, debilitating and painful inflammation, many people with rheumatoid arthritis will supplement their medication by adopting a diet rich in anti-inflammatory super foods that have a proven track record of helping manage their pain. Here are some excellent examples of the kinds of food that are best for treating rheumatoid arthritis – and the kinds you need to avoid.

High Fiber, Low Inflammation

spinal-cord-problemsThe benefits of a high fiber diet are manifold, and people have known this for a very long time. The healthy nutrients from high-fiber fruits, vegetables and grains can help to build better overall health, but there’s more to it than that; high-fiber diets have been linked to reduced inflammation as well.

The trick is in something called C-reactive protein, a specific type of protein produced by the human body that has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Patients with these conditions tend to have high levels of CRP in their bloodstream and the compound is linked to illnesses and conditions that either exhibit inflammatory symptoms or cause inflammation directly. Meanwhile, people who keep to a high fiber diet have lowered CRP levels – and suffer from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis much less often.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can just take fiber supplements to counteract any deficiencies in your diet. While fiber supplements do help in lowering the level of CRP in the human body, they’re generally less effective than more naturally occurring sources of fiber. This is especially true in RA sufferers that have higher levels of body fat. However, the good thing about eating high-fiber foods is that they often help you lose weight. Complex, resistant carbohydrates take longer to break down in your body, which means your blood stream doesn’t get flooded with glucose in the same way that it does if you eat simple sugars and refined foods. These highly processed foods can promote weight gain, whereas high fiber and whole-grain foods do not.

Fishing For An Answer

raw salmon with vegetablesAnother food source that has proven to be an effective inflammation fighter is seafood. However, it has to be a specific kind. While it might be nice to have a medical reason to feast on lobster tails, the types of seafood that have anti-inflammatory qualities are fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are sometimes called fish oil. You can of course get fish oil supplements, but many doctors warn that taking fish oil in doses high enough to have a positive effect on a person’s rheumatoid arthritis could cause negative interactions with other prescription medications used for treating high blood pressure. As a result, many doctors recommend increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids that osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis sufferers need by changing their diet instead of taking supplements.

This makes getting your fish oil directly from the source, which is a much healthier option, more or less a requirement for anyone with RA. Fish like tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, and herring are all excellent sources, as they all provide around one gram of omega-3 fatty acids for every 3.5 ounces of fish consumed. There are a myriad of ways to prepare fish, from tuna salad to salmon steaks, so even if you’re not a fan of seafood in general you can almost certainly find a way to prepare a fish meal that will both taste good and be good for you.

However, take note that many medical professionals do not recommend diets high in protein when it comes to treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. This can be frustrating to fans of seafood, especially since fish naturally high in omega-3s are also excellent sources of protein. This does result in many relying on fish oil supplements instead of prepared fish meals. If you want to increase the amount of fish in your diet but you have concerns about the effects of heightened levels of protein on your own RA symptoms, you should speak to your rheumatologist.

Not Just Virgin But Extra Virgin

cooking oilsSometimes reducing the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis isn’t so much about what goes on your plate but what goes in your frying pan. In fact, the way you prepare your food can influence its effect on your body nearly as much as the food itself, especially when you choose to cook with certain oils.

One of the best cooking oils for managing inflammation happens to be extra virgin olive oil, that staple of Italian cooking everywhere. There’s a specific substance within extra virgin olive oil known as oleocanthal that can reduce inflammation by blocking the production of certain enzymes within the body that cause it. Specifically, oleocanthal affects the body in an identical way as ibuprofen, the over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that many rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis sufferers rely on to help manage their everyday pain.

You shouldn’t be tossing out your ibuprofen any time soon – especially since a 400-calorie slug of olive oil is the rough equivalent to one dose of ibuprofen for an average adult. However, using extra virgin olive oil in your cooking in place of other types of cooking oils can provide an added boost to whatever meal you’re preparing. Even when used in only trace amounts, prolonged and consistent use of olive oil can reinforce its anti-inflammatory effects both for chronic and acute pain.

The best type of extra virgin olive oil for its anti-inflammatory properties – the ones highest in oleocanthal – comes from the types of olives that grow naturally in the Tuscany region of Italy. Keeping your olive oil in a cool, dark place like a kitchen cabinet or even in the refrigerator is an excellent way to preserve its anti-inflammatory properties. Make sure when you buy your next bottle that it comes in brown glass and it’s from the back end of the shelf, far from the kind of harsh ultraviolet light that can break down the helpful compounds in the oil.

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Shaw Academy

Updated: Jul 20, 2015

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