By Eoin Roe
Last month I wrote an article about wear and tear, which is also known as osteoarthritis. There are other forms of arthritis such as Rheumatoid, Psoriatic and Juvenile Arthritis. These form of arthritis are inflammatory and are auto-immune diseases meaning that your own bodies normal inflammatory system is attacking itself and damaging tissue in your joints.
Having something like Rheumatoid (RA) or Psoriatic arthritis (PA) can be very debilitating and there are new medications becoming available to help manage the conditions but there are things that you can do outside of medication to help manage the symptoms.
I have found the most beneficial to be altering your diet away from inflammatory foods. This may be a difficult concept to understand how eating certain foods can actually increase general systemic inflammation which, then affects other parts of your body but much of the recent research is pointing in that direction. The following study looks at various dietary interventions that have helped with RA (Shweta K et al, 2017).
Nutrition is an incredibly complex subject on an academic level and I find that this is a barrier to actually helping people to change their diets so they can help themselves. In an endeavour to make it simpler and easy to understand I look at nutrition in two parts:
Part 1: Remove the things from your diet that are harmful and inflammatory.
Part 2: Add in things that can help your body to function at its best and fight inflammation.
So how do we go about Part 1? The gold standard way to remove inflammatory foods is by the use of an elimination diet. In practice this means removing a group of foods entirely from your diet for a period of time, then reintroduce them and see what affect it has on you. I like this approach because it is not a prescriptive diet but helps you to design the diet that suits you, it is important to remember that we are all individual and react to different foods differently, so what works for one may not work for the other.
When I am helping patients with this I will always start with a carbohydrate elimination diet and the reason for this is that carbohydrates make up the bulk of our diets particularly in the western world and ultimately the body turns these into a form of sugar, which is inflammatory in excess. I use a version of carbohydrate exclusion based on the following outline from Phil Maffetone and can be found at – www.philmaffetone.com/2-week-test
There are other food groups that can also increase inflammation but to get a good picture of what is affecting you it needs to be done methodically otherwise the results become unclear. Some other groups would be nightshade family of vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum peppers and aubergine. Or those high in oxalic acid such as rhubarb and tea.
Part 2: The other side of the coin is to add in substances to your diet, which have an anti-inflammatory effect. Probably the one with most evidence and I have written about this supplement before is Omega 3. In nature this comes primarily from oily fish like mackerel and salmon, nuts and seeds, olive oil and avocados. You can get many variations of this supplement from cod liver oil to krill oil or one made from marine algae, which is suitable for vegans.
Other food substances are also of possible benefit such as ginger, turmeric and cinnamon, though the levels of evidence for use of this is not as good as omega 3 they will not do you any harm and are easy to add into you diet either as teas or directly in your cooking.
If you are suffering from RA or PAI would encourage you to take a look at you diet and make a change the results can be really quick within weeks reducing joint pain and improving function, what have you got to loose?
Eoin Roe is a chiropractor and functional movement specialist working in Skibbereen, Kinsale and Douglas.
Tel: 087 958 2362
Shweta K, Kumar SJ, Bhawna G,(2017) Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis with Dietary Interventions. Frontiers in Nutrition 2017. Free access here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5682732/