Joint Ouch No More! Managing Arthritis through Nutrition
Arthritis affects 1 in 7 Australians of all ages, background, and lifestyles. It is a generic term that encompasses over one hundred different types of joint diseases. It causes mild to severe joint pain, stiffness, inflammation and can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Arthritis is a chronic condition that may be difficult to manage, but with the appropriate lifestyle changes and treatment, it is possible to reduce the symptoms and still maintain a good quality of life. Let’s take a look.
Common dietary problems associated with those with Arthritis
Individuals with arthritis may find it challenging to consume a balanced diet due to pain and mobility issues which affects their ability to prepare meals. This limitation may cause an individual to skip meals or opt for energy dense and low nutrient foods. This consequently can result in a low intake of essential nutrients which increases inflammation and worsens arthritis symptoms.
Others with hand or wrist pain that affects one’s ability to hold a cup to drink water might experience a decreased sense of thirst, resulting in dehydration. Dehydration reduces the synovial fluid that is important for maintaining joint lubrication. This can lead to an increased friction within the joint cartilage, causing difficulty and pain when the joint moves.
What is the relationship to nutrition and Arthritis?
Nutrition plays a crucial part for the management of arthritis. Although there is currently no specific diet or “miracle foods” that have been proven to cure arthritis. Adopting a healthy and balanced diet enriched in anti-inflammatory properties and/or antioxidants might assist in reducing joint inflammation and help improve joint function.
Below is a list of food one should consider adopting into their diet:
Foods high in monounsaturated fats:
avocados, vegetable oils (e.g., olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil), nuts and seeds.
Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids:
fatty fish (e.g., tuna, trout, sardines, salmon, mackerel etc), flaxseeds and walnuts.
Fruits high in anthocyanins (an antioxidant):
cherries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries
Vegetables high in vitamin K:
spinach, broccoli, kale, and cabbage
Brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa etc.
Research have also recommended reducing the intake of foods high in sugar, salt, saturated and trans fats as well as processed foods as these foods can increase inflammation in the body which worsens arthritis symptoms.
Note: Some individuals with arthritis have reported improvements with their arthritic symptoms after eliminating certain foods from their diet. However, this is usually due to their intolerance to certain foods. If you feel that there are certain foods causing your symptoms to worsen, it is recommended to speak to a Dietitian or doctor before eliminating any foods from your diet. Do not attempt to self-eliminate foods as it can cause you to miss out on important nutrients needed by your body.
Nutrition Tips for someone with Arthritis
On top of a healthy balanced diet, there are other factors that can help manage the symptoms of arthritis. These are:
Maintaining a healthy weight through engaging in healthy eating and lifestyle habits. This can help to reduce the extra pressure that is subjected to the joints, particularly the weight bearing knee and hip joints.
Engaging in regular physical activities. Not only does it help you to shed excess weight, but it would also help to increase your strength and suppleness of joints. Try different activities - for example, low impact exercises or swimming.
Having adequate hydration. It is important to aim to drink a minimum of eight glasses of water per day for joint health.
Keeping a food diary. Document the types of foods that aggravates your condition and take note of the symptoms. After a month, you would be able to identify the foods triggering your symptoms and you can discuss these results with your Dietitian.
How can a Dietitian help someone with Arthritis?
If you think you may have arthritis, it is important to work with a qualified healthcare professional for specific recommendations tailored to your needs and goals. At OSCAR Care Group, we can help you to manage your condition through personalised nutrition guidance and support. So, do reach out to one of our Accrediting Practising Dietitians!
Our Dietitian can of help to individuals with arthritis if they:
Need guidance on weight management for achieving a healthy weight to alleviate arthritis symptoms. Extra body weight would put stress on many joints. Therefore, losing excess weight would help to reduce the stress on joints and help lessen pain.
Require dietary support and education on making convenient, healthy meal options.
Would like to discuss about their food intolerances that exacerbate their arthritis symptoms and require guidance on eliminating those foods from their diet and having substitutes.
·Have an existing or are at risk of having a health condition that requires specific dietary recommendations. Most people with arthritis often have one or more other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, etc.
Other health professionals who can help
Other healthcare professionals can be involved in helping you to better manage your arthritis. This section outlines how each member of the healthcare team can be of help.
General practitioner (GP or local doctor) should be the first point of contact to address any concerns about your arthritis or other health issues and provide referrals to specialists if needed.
Rheumatologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and providing medical treatment of joint, muscle and bone disorders. A referral to them may be required if the cause of the arthritis symptoms is unclear or the existing type of arthritis an individual has requires specialised care.
Physiotherapists would be able to advise on the appropriate exercises, posture, and ways to relieve pain, improve joint mobility and increase muscle strength. (Book an appointment our physios!)
Podiatrists specialize in conditions impacting the feet. They are able to provide advice on the appropriate footwear and orthoses (shoe inserts) for arthritis at the foot or ankle.
Occupational therapists (OT) can provide one with some advice on how to make daily activities of living, such as cooking and showering, much more manageable and easier through using any aids or equipment.
Psychologists can guide an individual on the ways to manage any pain and difficult emotions one might have due to arthritis.