Ostoarthritis and Nutrition
Nutrition and osteoarthritis - can dietary changes help manage OA?
For years, we have understood that several factors contribute to osteoarthritis: past injuries, repetitive motion, obesity and genetic predisposition. Recently, however, research has shown that nutrition and lifestyle play a role in the onset of osteoarthritis, and that dietary changes can help manage the chronic pain and stiffness that are hallmark symptoms.
Much of the tissue damage of osteoarthritis is due to chemicals produced naturally in our bodies that are increased by eating too many processed foods. Tissue injury in our joints is also due to a lack of anti-inflammatory oils and micronutrients, which act naturally to manage inflammation and help to protect against degeneration of cartilage in our joints.
While we may not be able to undo past injuries or genetic tendencies, we can definitely make some important changes to our diet in order to increase intake of the nutritional weapons that defend against chronic pain. Here are some of the most powerful inflammation fighters:
Antioxidants—A major factor in joint health, antioxidants help build collagen and connective tissue. Strawberries, pineapple, broccoli, red peppers and citrus fruits are just a few foods that are rich in antioxidants. Leafy greens also offer these cartilage-developing nutrients. Antioxidants work by fighting off the free radicals that can damage cells in our joints. Eating lots of antioxidant-rich foods also helps us manage our weight, which is a major factor in osteoarthritis.
Flavonoids—One key problem causing OA is the lack of anti-inflammatory micronutrients like flavonoids in our modern diet, which help the body naturally manage inflammation. By eating large amounts of processed food, too much red meat and not enough fruits and vegetables, we don’t get enough of these nutrients to naturally manage the progression of OA. In some cases, if the disease is far enough along, we may not be able to obtain enough of these nutrients through an ordinary diet. Diets rich in flavonoids also correspond to less obesity, which also places less stress on the joints to slow the advancement of OA. Flavonoids are most commonly associated with red and blue berries, and they’re also present in kidney beans and green onions. Most intensely colored fruits and vegetables are flavonoid powerhouses.
Omega threes—A shortage of these vital nutrients is sometimes linked (among other factors) to the onset of osteoarthritis, and picking up the pace in consuming them has been proven to fight inflammation and aid in tissue rehabilitation. One easy way to add omega threes to your diet is to eat two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish each week. Some of the best sources are trout, salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and sardines. Not a seafood fan? Try adding flaxseed or walnuts to your morning oatmeal for a less pungent omega three boost.
Olive Oil—Some research has shown that a unique compound in olive oil helps prevent inflammation. It works in much the same way that anti-inflammatory drugs do. Olive oils with the strongest flavor have the highest amount of this natural compound. Replacing other fats (such as butter) in your diet can go a long way toward helping with chronic pain.
Making a few changes in your diet can help OA sufferers feel more happy, healthy and strong in the long run. Clinical studies have proven that something as simple as what we eat for breakfast can impact our quality of life for worse…or for much, much better.