Tips for Reducing Pain & Inflammation in the Joints.
Diet and lifestyle has a major impact on chronic illness particularly regarding arthritis and osteoporosis. Even if you are dependent on anti-inflammatory drugs and/or immune-suppressant drugs these dietary and lifestyle strategies can still be applied to your life today to have a positive effect on your health.
All forms of arthritis are worse in overweight people if you are overweight consider starting a program to lose weight, as the extra strain placed on joints particularly the spine hips and knees can exacerbate signs and symptoms.
Reducing Refined Carbohydrates
Reducing your intake of refined carbohydrates grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats & rice) with legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas can help burn fat and reduce body weight. However, if you have high levels of uric acid be careful not to have excessive amounts of legumes as these can exacerbate blood concentration of uric acid due to purines found in legumes.
If you crave sugary food try to eat regular protein with each meal, for example, organic free-range eggs, fish, unprocessed cheese and whey protein to reduce unhealthy snacking between meals.
Combining beans or lentils with raw nuts and seeds in one meal is also good if you are vegan or vegetarian.
Reduce your intake of foods and beverages that increase the production of acid in the body, such as
sugar, coffee, red meat, pork and processed meats such as delicatessen meats (small goods) and
alcohol. You can ask your doctor to check your level of uric acid with a simple blood test. Uric acid
can deposit in the joints and cause joint inflammation.
Avoid foods made from white flour such as white bread, cakes, biscuits and cookies. Processed wheat
and its products can promote inflammation in the body. Some arthritis sufferers do well on a wheat-free diet. Avoid all deep-fried foods, as these contribute to fatty liver and excessive weight. Avoid
foods containing hydrogenated oils and trans-fatty acids, as these types of processed fat, can slow
down the process of fat burning and may increase inflammation. Check food labels to see if the list of
ingredients contains hydrogenated oils.
Reduce your intake of full cream products such as butter, cream and ice cream. In some people, the
protein in dairy products can irritate the immune system and make inflammation worse. Natural
yoghurt (sugar-free) or unprocessed cheeses made from sheep or goat milk are better. Coconut, soy,
rice or almond milk are better alternatives to cow’s milk.
Some people with arthritis find the nightshade family of vegetables aggravates their condition. The
nightshade group of vegetables includes tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant and potatoes. Try avoiding
these vegetables from the nightshade family for two months to see if your symptoms of arthritis
improve (see information on the anti-inflammatory diet).
Those with elevated levels of uric acid in the blood should minimise their intake of foods high in uric
acid. These foods include alcohol, anchovies, asparagus, herring, meat gravies, bouillon, mushrooms,
mussels, sardines, organ meats, processed meats (hot dogs, ham, bacon, etc.), caffeine, legumes and
yeast products. A high intake of sugar or alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to excrete uric
Beneficial foods for Arthritis
Large amounts of fresh salad vegetables should be consumed. These are high in vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory and alkaline effects in the body. Eating
fresh vegetables and fruits provides the liver with nutrients it needs for detoxification of the bloodstream. This way there will be fewer toxins and acidic waste products lodging in the joints.
Eat foods high in organic sulphur compounds. Sulphur is needed by the liver to aid in detoxification
and bile production. These foods include vegetables in the cruciferous family (broccoli, cabbage,
brussel sprouts, cauliflower), onion, garlic, leek and eggs.
Drink approximately 2 litres of pure water each day. This is vital to flush uric acid out through the
kidneys and improve circulation of blood to the joints. Purified water is preferable to tap water due to
the chemical and heavy metal residues it may contain.
Include Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) in your diet. Eat deep-sea cold-water fish, 3 to 5 times per week,
or take fish oil capsules. This may include tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and cod. Canned
fish is excellent and inexpensive. The Omega 3 EFAs in these fish have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Flaxseed oil is also high in Omega 3 fats; use it as a salad dressing or add it to smoothies. Other foods
high in beneficial fats include avocados, raw unsalted nuts and seeds, and olive oil.
Exercise is vital to improve joint mobility. Weight-bearing exercise can aggravate the pain during
acute episodes; hence more suitable forms of exercise include swimming, yoga, tai chi and pilates.
Hydrotherapy is the technique of graduated exercises in a swimming pool and enables muscle
strength to be increased without placing weight-bearing strain on the joints.
Massage of the muscles, ligaments and joints can be very effective if it is done regularly by a
therapeutic massage therapist or physiotherapist. Many private health funds will cover the cost of
therapeutic massage treatments.
Do you still have questions?
1. Hart DS, Spector TD. The relationship of obesity, fat distribution and osteoarthritis in women in the
general population: the Chingford study. J Rheumatol 1993;20:331-335.
2. Sarris J and Wardle J. 2010. Clinical Naturopathy: An evidence-based guide to practice. Elsevier,
3. Mills S, Bone K. Principles and practice of phytotherapy. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2000.
4. Pinals RS. Arthritis associated with gluten-sensitive enteropathy. J Rheumatol 1986;13(1):201-4.
5. Childers NF, Margoles MS. An Apparent Relation of Nightshades (Solanaceae) to Arthritis. Journal
of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery (1993) 12:227-231.
6. Calder P. Dietary modification of inflammation with lipids. Proc Nutr Soc 2002;61:345-358.
7. Fransen MM, et al. Exercise for osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. Cochrane Database Syst Rev
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advice from your registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Australian audiences,
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