The term arthritis can refer to a variety of conditions where the body’s joints are inflamed. There are over 100 types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and affects one in 10 Canadians. OA is equally common among women and men, and symptoms usually begin to show between ages 40 and 50.
Signs and symptoms of OA include:
• Joint pain
• Joint stiffness
• Joint tenderness
• Limited range-of-motion
• Crepitus (crackling, grinding noise with movement)
• Joint effusion (swelling)
• Local inflammation
• Bony enlargements and osteophyte formation
Joints commonly affected by OA include:
- End and middle joints of fingers
- Joint at base of thumb
- Joints at base of big toe
- Neck (cervical spine)
- Low back (lumbar spine)
What can you do to help reduce the symptoms?
There are several lifestyle changes that can be made to keep arthritis-related inflammation to a minimum.
1. Eat well
The OA diet should consist of anti-inflammatory foods like colourful fruits and vegetables, cold-water fish, nuts and seeds. Fresh herbs and spices such as cilantro, parsley, basil and ginger can also help reduce inflammation. Drinking plenty of fresh, clean water is also essential to help keep inflammation down.
It is important that those who suffer from OA avoid pro-inflammatory foods that have been known to increase pain. These foods include:
• White sugar
• Fried foods
• Red meat
• Foods that contain trans fatty acids
Some people with arthritis report a relief from pain when eliminating nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplants. It is believed that solanine, a substance found in nightshade plants, can cause inflammation.
2. Take supplements
Along with a healthy diet, certain supplements can offer enormous relief to arthritis sufferers. The top supplements for those with OA include:
• Glucosamine and Chondroitin – 1500 mg a day of glucosamine sulfate, 800 to 1,200 mg a day of chondroitin sulfate, or a combination of both supplements for pain and to protect joints.
• Fish oils – A daily dose of distilled fish oil has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Opt for fish oils in capsules that have been enteric coated to ensure optimal absorption of the oil. Keep your fish oil in the fridge and supplement with one to three grams per day.
• Vitamin C – Vitamin C helps to produce collagen (a protein that connects and supports tendons, muscles and cartilage), and also helps to reduce free radicals from the body, which can be destructive to the joint line. In fact, the Framingham Osteoarthritis Study showed that people whose diets were routinely high in vitamin C had significantly less of a chance of their arthritis progressing.
• Vitamin D – Studies show that people with osteoarthritis may be deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D can help to protect against joint damage and is a vital nutrient for bone health and collagen production. While a minimum of 1000 IU per day is essential, the latest research is showing that higher doses may be more beneficial.
• Vitamin E – Similar to vitamin C, vitamin E protects the body – including the joints – against free radical damage.
Remember to talk to your doctor before taking vitamins and supplements.
3. Move it
Your joints need to stay moving so they’re properly lubricated. Start by trying a gentle program of walking and strength training to improve joint function and reduce pain. A gentle hatha yoga class two or three times a week can also provide pain relief.
Of course, it is always best to talk to you doctor prior to beginning an exercise program.
In a nutshell
A whole-food based diet filled with fruits, vegetables, essential fats and lean proteins, along with the right supplements and exercise, can dramatically reduce the pain of OA and help improve an arthritis-sufferer’s quality of life.
Dr. Joey Shulman is the author of The Last 15 – A Weight Loss Breakthrough and the founder of The Shulman Weight Loss Clinic. For more information, please visit drjoey.com.