In keeping with the flavour of last week’s blog on inflammation, let’s look at some specifics of a well known inflammatory challenge - arthritis. Maybe you have a diagnosis, or maybe you just have recurring pain and are not sure if it is arthritis. Regardless, let’s try and get rid of that pain using just our plates.
Arthritis is not a single disease as there are a few different types and origins. Arthritis is more a general way of referring to joint pain or joint disease and can include other tissues. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, as well as many related conditions. Having that broad range of conditions helps explain why it is the leading cause of disability in North America.
The symptoms in arthritis are the hallmarks of inflammation explained in last week’s blog: pain, swelling, heat, redness, and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go but severe arthritis results in chronic pain that causes many to stop doing normal daily activities. You likely know someone with arthritic pain that affects their life.
Being a nutritionist, I have learned and I have personally seen the improvements in the symptoms of my clients, and my own family, who all have different types of arthritis. Those who made changes to their diets can confirm that food is a big part of the solution.
In general, I recommend that everyone wanting to figure out a health issue do a food/mood/sleep and bowel movement journal to determine if there are any red flags for when symptoms or issues are worse and what the root cause may be. Every single client I have seen has been able to see how food at some point made a difference in how they felt. Why not spend the time to see what works best and worst for you so you can make important decisions for less problematic symptoms?
I wonder how many people with joint pain know that night shades could be a general trigger for arthritis pain. Use a food journal to watch for when you do eat nightshade foods like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, egg plant, goji berries, or use tobacco or spices such as paprika, cayenne, etc. What if the night shades were something that made a difference to your pain? It could be other foods as well (or instead), but you don’t know unless you remove it and add it back in. It can be a bit of work, but imagine having less pain in your body. A nutritionist can help explain how to use a food journal and elimination diet to find foods not working well for you specifically.
In the case of degenerative arthritis, like osteoarthritis, you want to slow the loss of joint materials and keep the joints lubricated. Some helpful food ideas are fish and fish oils, as well as eating foods that soothe inflammation like leafy greens, healthy fats, omega 3 rich eggs, turmeric and such are all supportive.
With autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, and really most autoimmune diseases in general, it may be reasonable to see if there is a leaky gut and digestive factor to it. The idea is that undigested proteins (which should have ended up as amino acids once in the intestinal area, if digested properly) can get into the blood stream if there are “holes” in the intestinal walls causing a leaky gut. The immune system sees those undigested proteins, and sees them as foreign invaders and attacks. However, this attack can also cause an attack against their own body tissues and autoimmune diseases can result. This is an area gaining more and more attention and may be worth reading about if this is of interest. If you have an autoimmune disease, looking at ways to change to a whole foods diet could be a way to test out if foods are impacting your pain.
We are all so very different, as I have clients who stopped eating lettuce and the pain stopped. Another stopped gluten and her knee pain was fully resolved. In my own family, osteoarthritis pain greatly reduced with addition of more healthy fats and less processed foods. It could be any food that triggers an issue.
With infectious, arthritis which is caused by invaders such as bacteria, virus or fungus, you can eat foods that support the immune system and lessen inflammation for relief. I know many who feel using pain medication is the answer, but that just covers up the pain. What if there was a way to use foods to improve the way you feel, it could be a wise investment of time to figure out. Everyone is different so foods you react to will be specific to you. Change your plate and see what changes in your pain and health levels.
For the metabolic challenges where the body doesn’t remove uric acid very well or the body has more than it should, the resulting pain from needle-like crystals in the joints is called gout. By the nature of gout, it could be helpful to reduce sugars, red meat, starches, sugary drinks and alcohol to improve the PH level of the body as well as support kidney filtering by drinking at least 2 litres of water per day.
If you have pain like gout but your uric acid levels are not high, looking at oxalates could be of interest. Since both uric acid and oxalates both create joint pain and can also contribute to kidney stones, it is wise to see if oxalates, which are a regular component of many of our healthy foods, could be a source of your pain by talking with your doctor, naturopath, or nutritionist.
Until then, have a fun week!