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Anyone who suffers from arthritis knows it is painful and unpredictable. You may expect a flare-up after a hard workout or when the weather changes. But some days, your arthritis may seem worse with no apparent reason.
A careful diet has helped patients with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that mostly affects women 40-60 years old. The body's immune system, designed to attack infection and illness, misfires with rheumatoid arthritis. Certain foods may mistakenly trigger the immune system, causing it to attack the body's own tissues and result in painful, swollen areas such as the membranes around the finger and toe joints.
Arthritis experts don't have a definitive answer, but some studies show that what you eat may impact inflammation in your joints. The jury may be out but why not experiment? A shift in your menu could lead to a pain-free life.
In general, an arthritis diet is a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables loaded with anti-oxidants will help protect joint tissue and decrease enzymes that cause inflammation. Load your plate with dark leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers and other colorful choices. Try to buy organic produce and eat less processed food since certain pesticides or chemicals in food may cause the immune system to react. Avoid preservatives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) because there is some evidence that food additives can increase sensitivity in your body's pain receptors.
Catch the Culprit
Determining which foods cause inflammation may take a little detective work. Foods commonly suspected of causing inflammation are: red meat, shrimp, dairy products, wheat, yeast, gluten and corn. There are two camps regarding the nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant. Some arthritis sufferers say these foods make symptoms worse, while others believe symptoms improved after eating them.
Try to systematically eliminate foods one at a time. Begin by taking wheat or corn off the menu. If you don't notice a difference, try eliminating dairy or the nightshade vegetables. With luck and persistence, you may zero in on the offending food and be able to reduce your pain level.
Foods to Add
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna are often recommended for arthritis sufferers but there are other ways to get those omega-3s. Try walnut oil on your next salad. Walnut oil contains omega-3 fatty acids similar to those found in fish and fish oil supplements. Avocado oil is another alternative that lowers C-reactive proteins, inflammation markers in the blood.
Add onions to that salad. The onion is said to inhibit inflammation and is rich in antioxidants. The stronger the smell and flavor, the more potent and helpful the onion is to your system.
For dessert, try strawberries, which have been shown to lower C-reactive proteins. Citrus fruits are known to fight free radicals that can cause inflammation and pain. Vitamin C also helps build cartilage.
Healthy Weight, Healthy Joints
It should come as no surprise that being overweight puts tremendous pressure on the body's joints, particularly the hips, knees and back. This pressure causes additional inflammation and exacerbates arthritis symptoms. Losing excess weight is an important start toward keeping your joints healthy and your arthritis in check. As always, consult your doctor before making drastic shifts in diet or lifestyle.
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