HOW TO MANAGE ARTHRITIS
WHAT IS ARTHRITIS?
Arthritis refers to more than 100 different conditions that cause pain, swelling, and limited movement in joints and connective tissue throughout the body. It is usually chronic-once you contrast arthritis, it last a lifetime. Fortunately, you can control your symptons.
It is often considered a disease of the elderly, but there are many types of arthritis that actually strike all age groups: In fact, two-thirds of people with arthritis are under age 65. For nearly 3 million Americans, including children, the pain, stiffness, and swelling of arthritis limits daily activities such as walking, dressing, and bathing. No other health problem limits movement among people in the United States more than arthritis.
HELP FOR ACHING JOINTS
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to make living with artritis much more bearable. The typical three-stage therapy consists of medication (to relieve inflammation and pain), rest (to heal injured tissue), and exercise (to build up strength). A proper diet as part of your treatment can also help you get through your day more comfortably.
EAT TO EASE INFLAMMATION
Doctors find that losing weight lessens pain and improves mobility-for a number of reasons. Shedding pounds by eating a diet low in saturated fat takes stress off of joints and reduces the body's production of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that contribute to inflammation. In one study, people who stopped eating problem foods such as full-fat dairy products and high-fat meats saw dramatic improvement in arthritis symptoms within one month. In fact, some nutrition experts advocate battling arthritis with a vegetarian diet, which is naturally low in saturated fat. If you don't want to give up meat, at least try to eat cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna two or three times a week; these fish provide omega-3 fatty acids, which also reduce production of inflammation-causing prostaglandins in the body. For herbal relief, consider taking evening primrose oil; it contains another type of fatty acid, gamma linolenic acid, which helps fight inflammation.
- Citrus fruits
- Fatty fish: halibut, salmon, and tuna
- Low-and nonfat dairy products
- Whole grains
A DIET TO FIGHT ARTHRITIS
The pain and stiffness of arthritis come on gradually and are often at their worst in the morning or after activity, but don't ignore persistent symptoms. It's important to see a doctor who can recommend the best treatment for your particular type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout are among the most common arthritic afflictions, and each may respond to certain nutritional measures.
Osteoartritis This most common form of arthritis is caused by wear and tear on cartilage, the shock-absorbing material between the joints. Vitamin C appears to protect joints from damage cused by free radicals-unstable molecules in the body that can cause inflammation-and may help generate collagen, which enhances the body's ability to repair cartilage damage. To get enough vitamin C, eat citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, and brocoli. Other nutrients that produce collagen include vitamins A (found in liver and Cheddar cheese), B6 (wheat germ and white-meat turkey and chicken), and E (sunflower seeds and almonds), along with copper (whole grains and seafood) and zinc (red meat, oysters, and pumpkin seeds). Though some researchers question their safety and effectiveness, supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin, two cartilage-building compounds, have been shown in certain studies to relieve pain with few side effects.
Rheumatoid Arthritis This more serious form of the disease occurs when the immune system attacks the body, causing swelling of the membrane that lines the joints and eventually eating away the joints' cartilage. Omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut, and sardines may prove particularly helpful in reducing stiffness and tenderness and improving overall joint function. Gamma linolenic acid, an oil derived from evening primrose and horage seeds, also helps fight painful inflamation.
Gout One of the best remedies for this form of arthritis is to drink lots of water. Gout is characterized by excess amounts of uric acid, a by-product of the kidneys. When the kidneys are unable to properly excrete uric acid, it builds up in the body and may crystallize around joints, causing pain and swelling. Water dilutes uric acid bloodstream and helps flush it out of the body. Cherries contain compounds called flavonoids that may also lower levels of uric acid.
FOODS TO AVOID
For some arthritis sufferers, wheat, corn, and nuts cause flare-ups of symptoms. The same goes for the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant. All contain tiny amounts of solanine, a chemical that is poisonous in large that even such a small amount of it may cause inflamamation.