For those people who suffer with arthritis, the arrival of autumn and the approaching winter months can be a difficult time, with the change in weather often leading to misery for the millions of people suffering with this condition. The colder, wetter climate, which is inevitable during this time of year, can often increase the joint pain suffered by people with arthritis. In fact, research has shown that drops in temperature as well as reduced barometric / atmospheric pressure both have a negative impact on the joints, with the latter shown to actually affect the pressure within the joints, which increases the pain suffered by arthritic patients.
Although we unfortunately can’t change the weather, we can change and modify what we eat and there are many foods that have been specifically shown to help fight inflammation, reduce pain, strengthen bone and boost immunity, which are all important factors when tackling arthritis. Both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are classed as inflammatory conditions, meaning that inflammatory levels in the body will be high in people suffering with this ailment. Inflammation in the body is often measured by testing for a substance called C-reactive protein (CRP), which is produced by the liver in response to inflammation and is usually high in people suffering with arthritis, especially at times of flare ups.It is therefore specifically helpful for people suffering with arthritis, to regularly consume foods that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
So what should you be adding to your autumn and winter menu to help reduce arthritis symptoms?
For those of you who don’t mind a bit of heat and may need something to keep you a little warm in the colder months, these brightly coloured spicy peppers have potent anti-inflammatory powers. This benefit is down to a compound called capsaicin found in chilli peppers which can be helpful for any condition where inflammation is problematic.
If you are brave enough to add some to your menu, then make sure you have a glass of Delamere Dairy goats’ milk to hand to quell the burn after consumption! Milk contains casein, which is a fat-loving compound that binds with the capsaicin oil found in the chilli (and responsible for the burning sensation) and then washes it away. Try adding finely chopped, raw chilli peppers to dips such as guacamole and salsa, grilled fish dishes and soups to give an extra kick.
Some topical creams are also available that contain capsaicin and these topical applications, when applied directly to the joints, have been shown to reduce the intensity of pain associated with osteoarthritis. Just remember to wash your hands after applying it and before rubbing your eyes, or touching any other sensitive body parts, or the joint pain you were using it for could become the least of your worries!
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
One of the most potent, anti-inflammatory foods available, which has a huge body of evidence to support its effectiveness, is foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, in particular oily fish. Oily fish includes
salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, trout, fresh tuna (not canned) and herring. Guidelines recommend we should eat at least one portion of oily fish a week and no more than four portions, however most people do not meet this recommendation. The reason why Omega-3 fatty acids are so fantastic at reducing inflammation is because they help inhibit the inflammatory response on a cellular level, and thus can help stop inflammation developing. Research has shown those people with arthritis that consume oily fish, have reduced joint swelling and less pain and there is even some evidence to suggest that eating oily fish reduces the chances of getting rheumatoid arthritis in the first place.
Not all fish is created equally though and wild oily fish, as opposed to farmed fish, contains much higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, so opt for wild if possible.
Pomegranates are really becoming a bit of a wonder fruit, with research showing this fruit has a variety of positive influences on health. These health benefits mainly stem from the polyphenolic compounds that are found in abundance in pomegranates and its juice and which possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities that have been shown to be specifically helpful in reducing the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. There is also some good evidence to suggest that consuming pomegranates helps prevent the onset of osteoarthritis too, so these are certainly two very good reasons why we should be adding them to our shopping list.
Fruit & Vegetables
Plant compounds called anthocyanins, which are a type of flavonoid as well as being a coloured pigment responsible for the colours of some fruit and vegetables, have shown to offer anti-inflammatory
effects. Higher intake of anthocyanins is associated with a decrease in inflammation and it is therefore advised that people suffering from arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, consume these regularly. The highest sources of anthocyanins are found in aubergines, blackcurrants, cherries (tart cherries are better than sweet cherries, as they have higher anthocyanin content), red cabbage, red grapes, asparagus and cranberries. It is therefore so important to eat a varied range of fruit and vegetables of all different colours, as the different coloured produce contain different anthocyanins, which are all beneficial to health.
Olives and Olive oil
Olives are actually a type of fruit and although it seems they can be a little like marmite, with people either loving them or hating them, they certainly pack a punch when it comes to their anti-inflammatory ability. Both olives and olive oil contain oleocanthal, a powerful antioxidant, which prevents the production of pro-inflammatory enzymes in the body and therefore reduces inflammation. In fact, Oleocanthal has a very similar action to the prescribed drugs called NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which are used widely in the treatment of arthritis. Research has shown that just three and half teaspoons of olive oil is roughly the equivalent to a 200mg Ibuprofen tablet, but with this amount of olive oil equating to 400 calories, it’s not advisable to be consuming large amounts. Taste buds will also not take kindly to consuming it by the spoonful.
Although many people believe that dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt should not be consumed regularly if you suffer with arthritis, this is not actually correct. For those suffering with osteoarthritis, dairy products, including all goats’ dairy products, are a very good source of calcium and vitamin D, which are two nutrients essential for bone strength and very important to help support bone health in both the prevention and management of osteoarthritis. Goats’ milk and other goat derived dairy products can be specifically helpful for arthritis sufferers as it has shown in research to offer anti-inflammatory properties, with one study recommending its use for individuals, including the elderly, suffering with any inflammatory condition.
Walnuts & Almonds
Both walnuts and almonds have been shown to lower inflammation levels in the body with both causing a reduction in CRP levels in the blood. Both these nuts are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids too, which as mentioned above also offer anti-inflammatory properties. Nuts are easy to incorporate into the diet as either a snack, sprinkled onto cereal or as an addition to salads or cakes. You should try and aim to eat a small handful of these each day to get maximum health benefits from them.
Rosehip has been used for centuries as a herbal medicine and in recent years, more interest has been placed on its effectiveness in helping the pain and inflammation associated with both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
Rosehips have a high content of polyphenols and anthocyanins, both of which have been shown to prevent joint damage and relieve joint inflammation. Other research has shown that consuming rosehip could be potentially helpful in preventing the breakdown of cartilage in joints by reducing the production of certain enzymes that destroy the cartilage. It can be taken as a supplement or consumed as a tea and is available from most health food shops.
It’s not just food that can help alleviate arthritis symptoms, exercise of varying forms is very helpful too. During arthritic flare ups, when joints are most painful and swollen, exercise may be the last thing
from your mind, however very gentle exercise can still be beneficial at this time. Yoga has found to be particularly useful for those suffering both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis by not only helping with pain relief, but also improving sleep quality too!
Making small changes to your diet and lifestyle can help improve arthritis symptoms, but it won’t happen overnight, so try to be patient. When you next visit the supermarket, have fun packing your trolley full of foods from those listed above and which won’t just taste delicious, but will also give your joints a real boost in preparation for the months ahead.