Diet and Osteoarthritis

My knees sound like the snap, crackle & pop of Rice Krispie’s when I bend them.  It’s been going on for so long I barely notice it anymore.  My right knee is the worst.  Years of skiing and running are the cause.  Sometimes they ache after I exercise and they can swell up if I strain them.  The cause is Osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis, or joint inflammation, is the most common type of arthritis.  It is more likely to occur with age but it is really caused by broken bones, general wear and tear on joints and excess weight.  When cartilage breaks down in the joint, the bones rub together, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

We Are What We Eat!

According to Webster;  ” Food acts as medicine, to maintain, prevent, and treat disease.”  If we eat too much food, or food that is not nutritious, we can become overweight, undernourished, and at risk for the development of diseases like arthritis.  Some foods can trigger reactions in certain individuals and food allergies can also be a factor.   A healthy diet for osteoarthritis can be framed by looking at the foods that should be avoided or eliminated from the diet and by identifying food that can help to reduce inflammation and assist in the restoration of healthy joints.

Bad Food Choices for Osteoarthritis

Diets that are high in refined foods like white rice, white bread, sweets, white pasta, and laden with saturated and trans fats have been shown to contribute to the development or progression of osteoarthritis, according to (World’s Healthiest Foods), a website dedicated to nutrition education.  Foods that should be avoided include:

  • Fried foods
  • Partially hydrogenated trans fats – margarine, chips, baked goods
  • Saturated fats – such as animal fats (butter)
  • Sugar – white and raw sugar
  • White flour, rice and pasta
  • Corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soy-based oils
  • Dairy Products
  • Salt
  • Nuts
  • Cranberries

Alcohol can definitely contribute to joint inflammation.  As with most things in life, moderate consumption is fine but the definition of moderation is a bit subjective these days.  The good thing about Craft Beer (In the World According to TheArtofBeer) is that the ingredients do tend to be natural and of high quality.  If you suffer from Osteoarthritis it is wise to look at the impact of alcohol on your symptoms however.  An elimination diet is the best way to test this.  You can Google the subject to find out how that works.  If you find your symptoms lesson during a period without alcohol,  you can definitely bet that laying off the beer could make sense.

Fast food and prepackaged food found in the aisles of the grocery store should be avoided.  When shopping at traditional grocery chains, the perimeter of the store is the best place to find healthy food.  Avoid foods containing ingredients that you cannot pronounce or that you have never heard of.  Look at the list of ingredients.  If the list is longer than 10 items, step away from the package!  Chemicals and preservatives used to enhance flavor and prolong shelf life are not good.  Eliminate artificial sweeteners like Aspartame and Sucralose.   Remember that natural is better.

Good Food Choices for Osteoarthritis

The antioxidant Vitamin C is important to developing normal cartilage.  It is possible that it can even reverse some cartilage damage.  Osteoarthritis patients who consume more vitamin c in their diet have a slower progression of the disease than patients who eat low levels of Vitamin C.

Foods that contain significant amounts of Vitamin C:

  • Papaya
  • Bell peppers (yellow, red and green)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Cantaloupe
  • Kiwifruit
  • Cauliflower (boiled)
  • Kale (boiled)
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomatoes
  • Raspberries

Osteoarthritis also progresses more slowly in patients who have plenty of Vitamin D in their diet.  Vitamin D has been linked to rebuilding cartilage and preventing the breakdown of cartilage.   Foods high in Vitamin D include wild-caught salmon, sardines, shrimp, cod, and eggs.  Vitamin D can be difficult to get through diet alone so supplements should be included in addition to a healthy diet are essential.

Beta-Carotene is a compound is an antioxidant that’s been shown to help protect joints and slow down osteoarthritis. Foods that contain high levels of beta-carotene are:

  • Carrots
  • Boiled spinach
  • Sweet potatoes with skin
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Winter squash
  • Cantaloupe
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli

Additionally, Vitamin B3 can assist with joint mobility and range of motion while Vitamin E helps to reduce joint destruction.

There are certain foods that can help reduce inflammation that causes the joint pain.  Foods with Omega 3 Fatty Acid like Wild-caught salmon, Walnuts and Flax seeds are inflammation fighters.  Inflammation fighting flavanoid, and quercetin are found in Apples, Asparagus, Cherries, Green Tea, Onions, Raspberries and Spinach.   Molecularly Distilled Omega 3 Fish Oil supports strong immune function and bone health.

Anti-inflammatory spices include Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Turmeric.  In addition to providing relief from nausea, ginger extract has been used in traditional medical practices to reduce inflammation. This herbal treatment for arthritis is recommended by many health care professionals arthritis and other health problems associated with inflammation. Ginger is available in extracts, tinctures, capsules, and oils. Fresh ginger root can also be purchased and prepared as a tea.

Periodic supervised fasting can be effective for osteoarthritis. Fasting clinics in Europe have successfully employed periodic juice fasting for managing arthritis. Fasting enhances the eliminative and cleansing capacity of the lungs, skin, liver, and kidneys. It also rests and restores the digestive system and helps to relax the nervous system and mind.

Reduce Stress and Lose Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight has a huge impact on osteoarthritis.  Eating a healthy diet and avoiding foods that aggravate the condition will contribute to weight loss.   A regular exercise program under the guidance of a fitness professional is recommended.   It is important to gradually increase the intensity of the exercise to avoid injury.  The right program can help to maintain flexibility, strengthen muscles (and thus lessen stress on joints), and improve overall fitness.  Reducing weight will relieve stress on the joints and improve quality of life.  A healthier diet will improve sleep and reduce stress, both factors in maintaining a healthy body weight and in promoting healthy joints.

This little homework assignment was a good exercise for me.  I am a very healthy eater but now I know the benefit that certain foods may have on my condition.  I’ll certainly be making an effort to eat more foods that help with joint inflammation.

To Good Health!

3 responses to “Diet and Osteoarthritis

  1. I’ve read that alcohol exacerbates OA…but this is a blog about beer…how does that work?

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