I’m sure you’ll agree when I say rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can REALLY damage your quality of life. On a daily basis, you’ve got to deal with pains and swollen joints. Often you have to abandon some of your favourite activities, like dancing, cycling and piano playing. What’s more, anti-inflammatory medications have a host of side effects you could do without: fatigue, digestive issues, depression…
The good news is there are effective ways you can take control of your health and well-being. You are not a victim; you can play a part in your healing process.
In this article we will review everything you can do to improve your diet and therefore reduce inflammation and pain. After reading, you’ll know all there is to know on the Mediterranean diet, vegetarianism, omega-3’s and the microbiome to make healthy changes to your diet and live well with arthritis*.
One thing’s for sure: a good number of north American dietary habits (now also found in Europe!) encourage inflammation. A few examples are the increased consumption of red meat, refined sugars, saturated fats and a low intake of fibers.
There aren’t yet any conclusive studies showing a direct link between the modern diet (north American-type diet) and arthritis. However, we do know that these dietary habits have a role in the process of inflammation, which has an impact on arthritis. It’s therefore likely future studies will demonstrate that poor dietary habits promote arthritis.
On the flip side, a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole and unprocessed products, fish and olive oil (a Mediterranean diet) can help reduce inflammation markers.
Let’s take a closer look…
*to improve the flow of the article, we use the term “arthritis” to encapsulate all forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, etc. When one form of arthritis is mentioned precisely, the recommendations apply to that one particularly.
A Mediterranean diet can reduce some of the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. This diet can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Why is this relevant for people with arthritis?
Those with arthritis are particularly at risk of cardiovascular illnesses. The Mediterranean diet is therefore strongly advised.
That’s not all…
We also know that extra weight can cause additional symptoms and make managing arthritis and osteoarthritis even more challenging. If you are overweight, a calorie controlled Mediterranean diet is highly recommended. It will help you lose weight gradually and in a health fashion, as well as maintain your new healthy weight long term. For maximum results, the ideal is to do some physical activity alongside this diet.
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Several studies have linked a vegetarian or vegan diet to a reduction in the pain and stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis. This type of diet could also have a positive effect on energy levels and increase the ease of accomplishing everyday activities. The studies so far have been short and included only small groups. Randomized controlled studies are needed to confirm whether these diets, vegetarian or vegan, really improve the quality of life of people with arthritis. In the meantime, there are no detrimental effects to following a (balanced) vegetarian diet. Why not give it a go?
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