Understanding arthritis: The benefits of a healthy diet

Learn how a diet high in fiber can help reduce inflammation, a symptom commonly associated with arthritis.

If you or someone you know has arthritis, it’s easy to understand how the symptoms associated with this chronic condition (pain, aching, swelling and stiffness) can negatively affect a person’s life. Nearly 23 percent of all adults in the United States have arthritis and it is the leading cause of disability in this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Fact Sheet: At A Glance 2016 – Arthritis, the term arthritis refers to more than 100 diseases and conditions affecting the joints. The CDC also reports that arthritis often occurs with other chronic diseases, like heart disease or diabetes, which makes diagnosis, treatment and pain management even more challenging.

Research has shown that there are a number of ways people can reduce their symptoms associated with arthritis, and the first step may be to eat healthy. According to the Arthritis Foundation, following a diet that is low in processed foods and saturated fat, while increasing the intake of fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and beans can have the following positive effects on a person’s body:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Protects against chronic conditions such as cancer and stroke
  • Helps curb inflammation, a common condition associated with arthritis
  • Benefits both the joints and heart
  • Leads to weight loss which can greatly help in decreasing joint pain

Eating a diet high in fiber may also help reduce inflammation. The Arthritis Foundation says that our bodies need two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, which can be found in foods such as nuts seeds, beans, lentils, oat bran and barley, helps the body absorb nutrients more efficiently and may lower total cholesterol, as well as LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Insoluble fiber, which comes from vegetables, whole grains, legumes and wheat bran helps the digestive track and prevents constipation.

In addition, the Arthritis Foundation recommends that people with arthritis may want to consider reducing their intake of nightshade vegetables, which include eggplant, tomatoes, red bell peppers and potatoes. While these vegetables are considered “disease-fighting powerhouses,” they also contain a chemical called “solanine,” which may induce arthritis pain. There is no scientific evidence to back this theory, however, if you notice arthritic flare-ups after eating these foods, you might want to try reducing and/or eliminating them from your diet to see if there are changes with your symptoms.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that you always talk with a healthcare provide before making any significant changes to your diet. 

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