Can certain foods help with arthritis pain? I have osteoarthritis and am looking for some alternative solutions.
For years, arthritis sufferers looking for pain relief have usually turned to their medicine cabinet. But now, many doctors think the kitchen might be a better place to start. Here's what you should know.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, affects more than 21 million Americans. Rheumatoid arthritis plagues about 2 million more. Many people with these two conditions don't realize how much nutrition can improve the way they feel.
Because arthritis is a disease of inflammation, the most effective treatment is anything that fights inflammation, including an anti-inflammatory diet. While there's no single arthritis diet that works for everyone, you'll need to experiment to find the foods that make you feel better while cutting out the foods that can cause pain flare-ups. Here are some tips to help you get started.
If you're overweight, your first tip is to lose it! Excess pounds can significantly increase the wear and tear on your joints. Fat cells also produce proteins that can encourage inflammation in your body.
Certain foods can exacerbate symptoms. To find out what foods may be triggering your pain, keep a health diary to track the foods you eat, activities, stress and pain flare-ups. Look for patterns that may suggest a link between a food and a pain flare-up. Problematic foods to watch for include: dairy products (milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, etc.), fatty meats (beef, pork and poultry skin), corn, wheat, oats, rye, eggs, citrus fruits, tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, peanuts, sugar, butter, soy, corn oil, regular safflower and sunflower oil, alcohol and coffee, as well as processed foods that contain trans fats. This doesn't mean you have to give up all these foods, but tracking what you eat might flag one or two foods that cause your symptoms to flare up.
Some of the best food sources and nutritional supplements for reducing inflammation and arthritis pain include:
+ Fish and other omega-3s: Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are ideal for people with arthritis or other inflammatory disorders. You can get omega-3 fatty acids by eating salmon, tuna, and sardines as well as walnuts, flaxseed, soybeans and dark green vegetables like spinach.
+ Antioxidant foods: These protect your body from the effects of free radicals, and can help prevent arthritis, slow its progression, and relieve pain. Antioxidant-rich foods include: beans, berries, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, mangos, papaya, apples, apricots, red or purple grapes, dark green vegetables (spinach, asparagus, green peppers, brussels sprouts, broccoli, watercress, other greens), tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, walnuts, whole grains, oatmeal, soybeans, brown rice, olive oil and more.
+ Spices: Ginger and turmeric spices have anti-inflammatory effects that may also be beneficial. You can take ginger supplements or add diced or powdered ginger or ginger juice to meals. (Note: ginger has blood-thinning effects, so if you're taking a blood-thinning medication, talk with your doctor first.) Turmeric, sometimes called curcumin, is a mustard-yellow spice from Asia and is the main ingredient in yellow curry.
+ Green tea: It contains compounds called polyphenols that may help relieve inflammation and prevent osteoarthritis.
+ Vitamin D: By getting just the basic daily requirement of vitamin D, you can reduce the risk of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. If you're over 50, you should take a daily vitamin that contains at least 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D (600 IU after age 70).
+ Glucosamine and chondroitin: Studies support that these supplements may have some anti-inflammatory effects as well as spur cartilage growth, ease symptoms, even reverse osteoarthritis. (Note: If you're allergic to shellfish or are taking a blood thinner, or if you have a clotting disorder, consult your doctor first.)
Savvy Tip: The Arthritis Foundation offers great information on their Web site and various free publications including "Diet and Your Arthritis". To order a copy, visit www.arthritis.org or call 800- 207-8633.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to "The NBC Today Show" and author of The Savvy Senior books.
The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.