Arthritis & Nutrition: Role of Diet in Managing Symptoms

Proper nutrition

Arthritis is a painful medical condition, characterized by inflammation in the joints, pain, stiffness and reduced mobility, that affects millions of people worldwide. According to Arthritis Society Canada, roughly 6 million Canadians are currently suffering from some form of arthritis, and arthritis is on the rise. The article further states, by 2040, the number of affected Canadians is expected to reach 9 million. 

Living with arthritis can be a daily battle, as the aches, pains, and stiffness can significantly impact our quality of life. But did you know that what we eat plays a vital role in managing these symptoms? Yes, it's true! Proper nutrition can be a powerful ally in the fight against arthritis, helping to alleviate discomfort and enhance overall well-being. 

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at how nutrition impacts arthritis symptoms. If you suffer from knee arthritis, or any other type of arthritic pain, here’s what you need to know about how nutritional choices and an arthritis diet can help manage arthritis pain.

Understanding Arthritis: Joint Health

Arthritis comes in various forms, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA), each with its own unique characteristics. RA is an autoimmune disease where our immune system attacks our joints, while OA is a degenerative condition resulting from wear and tear over time. Both types can bring about pain, swelling, and limited mobility, making daily activities a challenge.

The Hidden Connection: Diet and Inflammation

Picture inflammation as a fire within our bodies. Certain foods act like fuel and stoke the flames, while others can help douse them. Refined sugars, processed foods, and saturated fats are like a gust of wind, fanning the flames of inflammation, intensifying arthritis symptoms.

While there is no one specific diet that works for everyone with arthritis, making healthy food choices can help manage symptoms and improve overall health.

What Is An Arthritis Diet?

There are several ways to manage the symptoms so you can carry out your daily activities. Research suggests that proper nutrition and making healthy food choices can help reduce inflammation and improve joint health, making it an essential part of arthritis management. 

An arthritis diet is a way of eating that emphasizes consuming foods that are anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense and low in sugar, trans fats and saturated fats. It involves eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats, while limiting processed foods, red meat, sugary drinks and refined carbohydrates.

The Mediterranean Diet

Envision a plate abundant with vibrant, colorful vegetables, accompanied by a generous drizzle of heart-healthy olive oil. Visualize yourself savoring succulent fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids renowned for their anti-inflammatory properties. Enhance the flavors and therapeutic value of your meals with the addition of aromatic herbs and spices. This embodies the essence of the Mediterranean diet.

Scientific studies have consistently demonstrated that adopting the Mediterranean diet can effectively reduce inflammation, alleviate joint pain, and improve overall joint health. The diet's health benefits lie in consuming ample amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and olive oil. These provide a plentiful supply of antioxidants, essential vitamins, and minerals crucial for promoting joint well-being.

Embracing the Power of Anti-Inflammatory Foods

By following a healthy diet, you may be able to reduce inflammation and improve joint health, leading to better overall health and wellbeing. There are several dietary strategies that can help manage symptoms, including:

Eating An Anti-Inflammatory Diet: 

This involves consuming foods that are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Some of the best sources of anti-inflammatory foods include oily fish, fruits, and vegetables. Other anti-inflammatory foods include whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats like those found in nuts and seeds. It's best to avoid or limit fast food, processed and fried foods, red meat, sugary drinks, and refined carbohydrates.

Increasing Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake: 

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can help lower inflammation and reduce joint pain and stiffness. Found abundantly in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, these superheroes possess the power to quell inflammation and provide relief for arthritis sufferers. Extra virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil also help with reducing inflammation and improve joint health.

Eating Plenty Of Fruits And Vegetables: 

Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that can help fight inflammation and improve joint health. Aim to consume a nutritious diet of at least 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, including leafy greens, berries, citrus fruits, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.

Avoiding Trigger Foods: 

Some people with arthritis may find that certain foods exacerbate joint inflammation. Common trigger foods include fried food, processed foods, sugar, gluten, dairy, and nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. If you suspect a specific food is causing your inflammatory arthritis to flare, try eliminating it from your diet and see if your symptoms improve.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight: 

Excess body weight can put added stress on joints and exacerbate arthritis symptoms. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and weight loss can help reduce chronic inflammation and improve joint health.

Vitamins and Nutritional Supplements:

Our bodies require specific nutrients to keep our joints strong and resilient. Vitamin D, calcium, glucosamine, and chondroitin are like the building blocks of joint health. Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, helps in calcium absorption, which is essential for strong bones. Glucosamine and chondroitin act as the repair crew, aiding in the formation and maintenance of healthy cartilage. Including these nutrients in our diet is like giving our joints the necessary tools for repair and rejuvenation.‍

Arthritis and Mobility

It's important to note that while an arthritis diet can be helpful in reducing some symptoms and inflammation, it's not a substitute for medical treatment. Although many people with arthritis self-manage through the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, working with a healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses your specific needs is worth considering if the arthritis in your back, knees or hips is not improving.

Suffering From Persistent Knee, Hip or Back Pain? Contact Ortho Westmount

If you've diligently followed a healthy, inflammation-reducing diet but continue to experience persistent knee or hip arthritis symptoms, it may be time to seek the expertise of an orthopedic surgeon. At Ortho Westmount, our specialists are well-versed in diagnosing and treating joint conditions, including arthritis. 

Consulting with an orthopedic surgeon allows for a comprehensive evaluation of your condition, including a thorough examination, imaging tests, and a review of your medical history. They can provide personalized recommendations, ranging from conservative treatments to surgical options, tailored to your specific needs. 

If you or someone you love is suffering with arthritis, contact us at Ortho Westmount to learn more about your options to reduce your pain, increase mobility and improve quality of life.