To treat arthritis, doctors often prescribe a combination of treatments that include physical therapy, certain types of exercise, alternating hot and cold compresses, and almost always, painkilling anti-inflammatory drugs.
While these treatments have a time and place, it turns out the best way to relieve the pain of osteoarthritis doesn’t require a doctor’s order, or a drug of any kind.
The latest research shows the single most important strategy for relieving the pain of arthritis starts in your kitchen, with the way you eat. The healthier your diet the greater chance you have of maintaining a healthy weight, or losing weight if you’re carrying extra pounds. This is great news for your joints…
Losing Weight Cut Joint Pain in Half!
Research shows overweight people are at higher risk of arthritis, especially in their hips and knees. That’s because joints in the lower half of the body bear most of your body’s weight.
So if you’re carrying extra weight around and you’ve got achy, swollen, and stiff hips and knees, losing some weight can make a big difference.
In one study, folks with knee arthritis lost ten percent of body weight over 18 months by following a low calorie nutritious diet. The result? They cut pain in half and significantly improved joint function and mobility.
Doubling this weight loss to 20 percent resulted in even greater improvements in pain relief, inflammation reduction, as well as joint function and quality of life.1
Now here’s where the research gets really interesting: Let’s say your joint pain is mostly in your shoulders, wrists or hands. Can losing weight help you reduce your pain, too? The surprising answer is yes…
Researchers point to the link between excess body fat and immune response. The more body fat you have, the higher your body’s immune response, and this immune response fuels inflammation and swelling of joint tissue.2
This would explain why, as UK dietitian Catherine Collins explains, “I’ve had patients with bad joint pain in their hands who have lost weight and noticed their pain diminish. This clearly shows the benefit isn’t just about reducing the load on joints.”
But there’s more…
Body Fat Triggers a Bad “Gut Reaction” that Leads to Joint Pain
New research from the University of Rochester Medical Center provides the first evidence that bacteria in the gut – which are deeply influenced by diet – could be another leading cause of osteoarthritis in people who are overweight.
When they fattened mice up over 12 weeks, the researchers discovered the fat mice had more harmful gut bacteria than did a control group of lean mice. As a direct result of this bad bacteria, the fat mice experienced total body inflammation which in turn led to rapid joint deterioration.
But instead of putting the mice “on a diet” the scientists started them on a supplement of a common prebiotic called oligofructose.3 Prebiotics, as you may recall, are dietary fiber that feed the friendly bacteria, sometimes called probiotics, living in the gut. Remarkably, the prebiotic supplement prevented inflammation and rapid joint deterioration in overweight mice.
Now, it’s too early to say if these animal study results are translatable to humans, but if they are, we can slow down or even prevent osteoarthritis in overweight individuals simply by boosting their intake of prebiotics.
This is huge news. Given all of the positive research already conducted on the safety and overall health benefits of prebiotics, I believe it makes sense to take a prebiotic supplement everyday. In fact, a growing body of research suggests prebiotics are more important and effective than probiotics at supporting a healthy gut microbiome.
Whether you choose to supplement or not, you can still enjoy top prebiotic foods which include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes.
The Best Anti-Inflammatory Diet to Follow
You’re probably starting to see that the underlying problem in osteoarthritis is inflammation. Even if you have a healthy weight, if you suffer from joint pain then researchers recommend following an anti-inflammatory diet. According to one doctor at Harvard, the best diet to follow is the Mediterranean diet.
In an interview, Gökhan Hotamisligil, professor of genetics and metabolism at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, responded to the idea of eating a Mediterranean diet to lower inflammation by saying, “Yes, without a doubt. That’s the diet I follow.”
It includes a high consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and cereals; greater intakes of fish and seafood; moderate consumption of dairy products, poultry and eggs; as well as frequent, but moderate, intake of red wine and olive oil.
Philip Calder, Professor of Nutritional Immunology at the University of Southampton, England, and an expert in dietary approaches to arthritis, agrees with Prof. Hotamisligil.
“Essentially, the diet is full of anti-inflammatory compounds and limits the foods that promote inflammation in the body. It has been shown to offer overall health benefits and can help relieve the pain of joint disease.”
Janice Used the Mediterranean Diet to Heal her Joint Pain
A case study helps show the benefits you might reap. Janice Bryant, a retired business analyst from England, was in her fifties when she started having a problem with one knee.
Before long, the pain spread to the other knee and then into both hands. Her joint pain progressed to the point where getting out of bed in the morning and climbing stairs became virtually impossible. Like many pain sufferers, Janice relied on painkillers to get her through the day.
However, one day she’d had enough of the pills and the pain. Janice made the decision to ditch sugary snacks and eat Mediterranean-style by loading up on fruits, vegetables and healthy fats from oily fish, avocados and unsalted nuts. Within a few months, she noticed an improvement in her pain relief and mobility.
Less than two years later, she’d lost 28 pounds, threw away the painkillers and now functions normally. Note that the results were not instant. Dietary changes don’t fix a lifetime of bad habits overnight.
Also worth noting is that the Mediterranean diet does not leave you feeling deprived. Janice assures others that even though she was taking in fewer calories with her new diet, “I never actually felt that hungry. And I genuinely enjoy my food more now, so it’s a win-win.”
This new reseach into joint pain relief is the latest nail in the coffin for the traditional Western way of eating inflammation-causing processed foods and following a sedentary lifestyle. We can now add crippling joint pain to the long list of conditions ranging from diabetes and heart disease, to dementia and cancer, all caused by following a less than healthy diet and lifestyle.
If that’s not more motivation to drop any excess weight and keep it off using an anti-inflammatory diet, I don’t know what is.