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Help for Arthritis Pain

gty_arthritis_old_tk_120210_mnMaybe you’ve suffered from stiff joints in the morning or wished you didn’t have knee pain when walking up and down stairs.  Well, it probably won’t surprise you that there are some foods that could be contributing to your aches, but can you name some that will actually reduce pain?  Below, I’ve listed several beneficial foods that have been shown to reduce arthritis pain.  But let’s not think of this as a diet.  If you know me, you know that I dislike the term; “diet” because I think it places an importance on temporary guidelines to achieving a short-term goal.  I also think diets tend to be in opposition of our typical lifestyles; as if we are punishing ourselves for the poor foods we have come to love.  Instead, I recommend you begin to learn as much about health and healthy food choices as you can, then start to add one or two vegetables/fruits/herbs to your typical routine (continue adding more healthy foods instead of focusing on cutting out unhealthy).  Introducing more whole foods will provide your body with many complex nutritional benefits that will be more easily absorbed and utilized by the body then would a supplement.  Vitamin and mineral supplements can help in the short term but ultimately a lifestyle change focused on the quality of our food will be the resounding answer to our nutritional mysteries.  Also by educating yourself, you will begin to find these healthy “choices” to become healthy habits.

What Foods Help Ease Arthritis Pain?

You may hear me say this a lot, but it all starts in the gut.  And frankly, it’s so true!  Inflammation is the primary culprit of most pain syndromes but it is also a very necessary process our body relies on.  The key is in moderation, as with most things.  In order to moderate the level of inflammation in our bodies, we must first look at what we are fueling our cells with.  Granted, modern industrialization has lead us down the wrong path as far as we view food, but the answer is really quite simple.  Eat the foods that existed before humans began to toy with them; fruits, vegetables, and wild lean meats.  Most other foods can react with our digestion and create antibodies that travel to joints and degrade our cartilaginous tissues.  Here are some particularly helpful foods that can reduce arthritis pain.

1) Cherries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Strawberries.

These berries are all rich in antioxidants, which have been shown to provide natural pain relief and even stimulate healing within the joint.  Their deep colors are the source of anthocyanins, which are exceptional at providing anti-inflammatory properties.  Research is now focused on the benefits of bing cherries and has found how powerful their anti-oxidative properties are.  Not only can eating more bing cherries (or other dark colored fruit) help reduce the inflammation in our joints, but also the inflammation in our blood vessel walls including a reduction in cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Brazil-Nuts2) Brazil Nuts.

Snack on a couple Brazil nuts throughout your day and full your daily requirement of Selenium.  Brazil nuts have been found to contain some of the highest levels of Selenium, which is an essential antioxidant in preventing free radical damage.  Studies have shown that low-levels of Selenium are observed in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and low dietary intake of Selenium is also noted.

3) Omega-3 Fatty Acids: coldwater fish and flaxseeds.

If you were to add anything to your lifestyle, this would be my recommendation.  Omega-3s have been shown to have limitless positive affects on our bodies.  Not only are omega-3s awesome at reducing inflammation all over the body but also are vital in maintaining healthy brain and nerve activity.  Much of our dietary foods are unbalanced in the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio.  Omega-6s can be very pro-inflammatory when they are more abundant in foods than omega-3s.  Which accordingly in a typical American diet, omega-6 to omega-3 ratios are often 20:1!  Our ancestors consumed a ratio of 1:1, which would help to explain why they never suffered from inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

4) Carotenoids: sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, kale, spinach, cantaloupe, red peppers, squash, oranges, papaya, and apricots.

These antioxidants are particularly powerful in reducing inflammation involved in arthritis.  There is growing research that has found people who consume these fruits and vegetables have a reduced risk in developing arthritis in the first place.  Try to get at least one of these a day.

ginger-root5) Spices: ginger, turmeric, cinnamon.

These spices are a great way to flavor your food while reaping the healthy anti-inflammatory benefits.  Ginger even contains chemicals that are similar to pain medications and can help with nausea.  Try grating some into your stir-fry, over your salad, into your smoothie, or even steep with your tea.

What Foods Aggravate Arthritis Pain?

There are many packaged foods that can cause arthritis pain to perpetuate and flare-up, but what about within the healthy realm?  Have you ever thought that some fruits and vegetables could be irritating the very conditions that you thought they would relieve?  Well, eating to control inflammation doesn’t have to be a mysterious subject, but there are some fruits and vegetables you should steer away from if you are trying to relieve arthritis.  Nightshades are a large group of plants that have been found to contain high levels of alkaloids, which can disturb digestion and nerve-muscle function.  Some people can be very sensitive to alkaloids and even cooking them does not significantly reduce the alkaloid content.  There is much debate on whether or not eliminating these foods from one’s diet will even impact arthritis pain, but studies show 1 in 3 people experienced worsened symptoms after consuming nightshades.  Examples of nightshade plants to avoid are green peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and even tobacco.

Additional Note:

Once we begin to view foods as fuel that either propel us forward or land us right on the couch we can take control of our lifestyles and overcome pain.  For those seeking more relief from arthritis, try going to a Chiropractor or Acupuncturist to target stubborn aches and pains.  There have been many studies showing the effectiveness of manual therapy for arthritis pain.

About Janeen Hulbert, DC

I recently moved to Asheville after graduating with my Doctorate in Chiropractic. I have a passionate interest in learning as much as I can about how the body works and improving quality of life. My practice, Balance Back Chiropractic, has just opened and incorporates gentle chiropractic adjustments (extremities too), myofascial technique (trigger point therapy), exercise rehabilitation, nutritional recommendations, and kinesiotaping (seen in Olympics). In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and exploring Asheville's many local businesses. Check out my website for additional blogs and articles or for upcoming events at the office (wellness classes). Cheers!

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