Do you have osteoarthritis? Put the Anti-Inflammatory Diet to the test.
If you live with the pain and disability of osteoarthritis, you may be desperate to improve your condition. Consider losing weight, if necessary, and applying the principles of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.
An estimated 15% of all Australians (3.1 million people) have arthritis. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, osteoarthritis accounts for about 14% (428,500) of all cases.
This painful condition is characterised by the destruction of the cartilage in the joints of the knees, hips, ankles, hands, neck, spine and other articulated weight-bearing points in the body due to over- use.
Heavier people tend to exert greater stress on these joints. Bear in mind that around 60% of Australian adults are classified as overweight or obese, with numbers still growing, and the upsurge in joint disease makes sense.
Treatment of osteoarthritis typically involves anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications, weight loss for people who are obese or overweight, surgery in severe cases, gentle, supervised exercise (all high-impact exercises should be avoided) and the correct diet.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
In contrast to people with rheumatoid arthritis or gout, those with osteoarthritis were, until relatively recently, not actively treated with a specific anti-arthritis diet.
Experts now suggest the following for people with osteoarthritis:
1. Follow a varied diet that consists mainly of fresh, unprocessed foods (no fast foods).
2. All fresh fruits and vegetables (except onions and potatoes, which contain an alkaloid called “solanine”) should be eaten abundantly.
- Berries (strawberries, gooseberries, blueberries and raspberries).
- Dark-orange and dark-green fruits and vegetables that are rich sources of beta-carotene, such as apricots, pawpaw, melon, carrots, pumpkin, butternut, spinach, dark-green lettuce leaves and broccoli.
- The cabbage family, or cruciferous vegetables, which include cabbage of all types, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
- Soy foods such as soy beans and tofu.
- Tea, including green and black tea.
- Dark, plain chocolate in moderation so as not to increase your energy intake excessively.
3. Avoid foods that are high in saturated and trans fats (in some commercially produced cakes, pies, pastries, confectionary, take-away meals and foods fried in pre-used oil).
4. Decrease your intake of foods rich in the omega-6 fatty acids, for example vegetable oils like sunflower oil, animal fats and all foods made with these fats. Keep in mind that evening primrose oil supplements are rich in omega-6.
5. Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids by using olive, grapeseed, flax and canola oils, walnuts and walnut oil, pumpkin seeds, calamari and fatty cold-water fish such as salmon, blue-eye trevalla or canned sardines. Salmon oil and krill oil capsules are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
6. Avoid highly refined carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as table sugar, fructose, pasta, white bread and white rice. Rather use unrefined or unsifted grains and flours like unsifted maize meal, brown rice and Bulgar wheat.
7. Protein foods such as low-fat or fat-free milk, cottage cheese and yoghurt, lean chicken and fish are preferred to eggs, red meat, butter and full-fat dairy products and cheeses.
8. Use spices, including ginger, curry, turmeric and rosemary, which are believed to produce an anti- inflammatory effect.
This diet should be combined with moderate, supervised exercise.
If you need to lose weight, consult a dietitian for an individually tailored slimming diet. Weight loss not only reduces the stress on damaged joints and disintegrating cartilage, but also has an anti- inflammatory effect. It’s been found that, when we reduce the quantity of fat in the body, the number of so-called “inflammatory mediators” in the fatty tissue is also reduced.
Deficiencies and supplement use
Consulting a dietician for an anti-inflammatory and/or slimming diet may also help you to avoid deficiencies linked to osteoarthritis. Common nutritional deficiencies that have been linked to this condition include:
• Calcium and vitamin D. Calcium supplements are best taken in conjunction with vitamin K, which helps the body to deposit the calcium in the bones, and not in the arteries (where it may cause damage). Vitamin D is a hormone-like nutrient that we produce if we expose the skin to sunlight for periods of about 10 minutes a day. People who spend most of their time indoors or who wear clothing that prevents the skin from being exposed to sunlight, or those who live in cooler, cloudy climates, may develop a vitamin D deficiency.
• Vitamin K. This nutrient is found in all green, leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage and lettuce (especially the dark-green leaves).
• Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). This is found in lean meat, whole-grains, vegetables and nuts.
• Magnesium. Good sources are unrefined, minimally processed cereals and grains, tofu and legumes such as dry beans, peas, lentils and soy, lean meat, low-fat milk and green vegetables.
Mahan LK et al (2012). Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13th Edition.