Lifestyle and Nutritional Recommendations for Arthritis


Arthritis is a general name for over 100 different diseases that affect the joints of the body. The most common examples include gout, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis affects people of any age but is most common between the ages of 15 to 65 years. Research is being carried out on arthritis but at present there is no magical cure. Being physically active and maintaining an ideal weight is important.

Arthritis does not respond to diet except through weight loss. Recent studies confirm that excess weight contributes to osteoarthritis of weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips and lower spine. It is important for people with arthritis to avoid this extra burden. Loss of weight will help to reduce pain, improve mobility and improve quality of life.

Inactivity can mean that energy requirement is low. There is very little room for empty kilojoules or poor nutrient foods such as pastries, cream, alcohol and soft drinks. Eat foods that give good nutritional value for money. Because physical activity may be difficult and painful for the person who has arthritis, he or she may exercise less. Unless energy intake (measured in kilojoules) is also controlled, the unused energy will turn into body fat.

How to control Weight

The best diet is a healthy well balanced diet that controls weight. 
* Eat a healthy varied diet according to the dietary guidelines and the healthy diet pyramid.
* Eat more fruit and vegetables breads, cereals and grains.
* Do not avoid lean red meat but do not eat too much protein rich foods if you have gout. 
* Include low fat dairy products to help prevent osteoporosis.
* Reduce the intake of fat, particularly added fat and take-away food.
* Drink plenty of water if you consume alcohol. Limit yourself to two standard drinks a day.
* Vitamin and mineral supplements should only be taken under the advice of your doctor or dietitian.
* See an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) for more help and support.

Additional Dietary Help

Continuing research has failed to find any convincing evidence that eating or avoiding certain foods will cure or relieve arthritis. Gout is the only form of arthritis where some alterations to the diet may be recommended.

Increasing the use of omega 3 fatty acids from fish oils and maybe oily fish seem to have a mild anti-inflammatory effect upon rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. The large quantities of capsules required may cause a fishy odour and are expensive. Cod liver oil is not high in omega 3 fatty acids. Try to eat more oily fish.

Fad Diets

One in three people will try fad diets that they feel work but more often than not they just feel better because they are trying something new. Arthritis will come and go in severity. Arthritis, particularly inflammatory arthritis, is subject to remissions, which means that symptoms disappear by themselves. If you remember this you are less likely to believe that eating or avoiding a particular food caused the improvement. Eliminating important foods can lead to deficiencies of certain nutrients. Vitamin and mineral supplements cannot compensate for a poor diet.

Well-meaning friends may advise various dietary cures. Some suggest eliminating 'acid' foods or certain vegetables such as the nightshade family (eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, capsicums). Arthritis is not caused by acid build-up and no studies have proven that eliminating the nightshade family is beneficial.

Exercise and physical fitness is important.

If you have arthritis, there is nothing better you can do for yourself than exercise regularly. Plan exercise for when you have the least amount of stiffness and pain. Aim for about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Exercise helps lessen the pain, increases movement in joints, reduces fatigue and helps you look and feel better while assisting with weight loss. Exercises may be carried out on land or in water. Hydrotherapy classes have the added benefit of bringing pain relief and improving mobility.

There are three main types of exercise:
* Range-of-motion exercises move a joint as far as it will comfortably go- then stretch it a little farther.
* Strength training increases or maintains muscle strength without moving joints.
* Endurance activities build overall fitness, keep your heart healthy and control your weight.