lifestyle changes for arthritis

Lifestyle Changes to Make with Arthritis

Embracing Change

Arthritis is a chronic condition characterized by joint pain, stiffness and inflammation. While medical treatments are essential for managing the symptoms, lifestyle changes, particularly diet and exercise, can have a significant impact on the severity of symptoms and overall quality of life with arthritis. In this article, we will look at foods that can exacerbate arthritis symptoms and which may provide relief, as well as how different treatments and exercises can be incorporated into daily routines.

Sugary Drinks to Avoid With Arthritis

Below are sugary drinks you should try and avoid:

  • Soda.
  • Fruit juice cocktails with added sugar.
  • Sweetened iced tea.
  • Energy drinks.
  • Sports drinks with added sugars.
  • Flavored water with added sugars.
  • Sweetened coffee beverages.
  • Sugary alcoholic beverages like cocktails and mixed drinks.
  • Milkshakes and smoothies with added sugars.
  • Sweetened coconut water.

Foods to Avoid with Arthritis

Individuals with arthritis should consider reducing or eliminating certain foods from their diet due to their potential to increase inflammation and exacerbate joint pain. Here are some common food triggers.

1. High-Fat Dairy

Full-fat dairy products may contribute to inflammation due to their saturated fat content. People with arthritis may find relief by switching to low-fat or non-dairy alternatives.

2. Refined Carbohydrates

White bread, pastries and other refined carbohydrates have a high glycemic index and can trigger the production of advanced glycation end (AGE) products which may contribute to inflammation.

3. Fried Foods

The process of frying foods increases levels of AGEs and trans fats, both of which can worsen arthritis symptoms.

4. Red Meat

Consuming large quantities of red meat, which is rich in saturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids, can promote inflammatory processes in the body.

5. Sugar

Sugary sweets and beverages can cause a spike in blood sugar levels and may lead to increased inflammation and joint pain.

6. Omega-6 Fatty Acids

While essential in moderate amounts, an excess intake of omega-6s, often found in certain vegetable oils, can contribute to inflammatory responses when not balanced with omega-3s.

7. Alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to increased inflammation and negatively affect arthritis symptoms.

8. Processed Foods

Many processed foods contain trans fats, sugars and salts which are known to promote inflammation and exacerbate arthritis symptoms.

Foods to Eat for Arthritis

In contrast, some foods have anti-inflammatory properties or are beneficial for joint health and can be included in a diet to help manage arthritis symptoms. Here are some foods to eat that can help with arthritis symptoms.

1. Fatty Fish

Salmon, mackerel, sardines and other fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation.

2. Flaxseed Oil

As a plant-based source of omega-3s, flaxseed oil can also help combat inflammation in the body.

3. Nuts

Almonds, walnuts and other nuts are rich in protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin E and immune-boosting alpha linolenic acid (ALA), all contributing to reduced inflammation and joint health.

4. Dark Green Vegetables

Spinach, kale and broccoli are high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.

5. Ginger and Turmeric

Both of these spices are known for their anti-inflammatory effects and can be included in a diet to help soothe arthritis pain.

6. Green Tea

The polyphenols in green tea may help reduce inflammation and slow the degradation of cartilage.

7. Water

Staying hydrated is crucial for joint lubrication and keeping the tissues healthy.

8. Whole Grains

Whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread may help lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood, a marker of inflammation.

Treatment Options for Arthritis

In addition to dietary changes, various medical treatments are available to help manage arthritis symptoms.

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): These medications, including ibuprofen and naproxen, help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Corticosteroids: These are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can be taken orally or injected directly into affected joints.
  • Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs): These drugs can slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and improve quality of life by modifying the disease process.
  • Stem cell therapy: Although still an area of active research, stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for regenerating damaged tissues in the joints.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can design an exercise program to maintain joint flexibility and muscle strength without exacerbating symptoms.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, joint repair or joint replacement surgery may be recommended to improve function and pain levels.

Exercises to Do with Arthritis

Exercise is crucial for individuals with arthritis to maintain range of motion and flexibility, strengthen muscles and improve endurance. However, it's important to choose low-impact options that do not strain the joints. Here are some forms of exercise suggested for people with arthritis.

  • Range of motion exercises: These involve gentle stretching and movements that take joints through their full span of motion.
  • Strength training: Light to moderate weight lifting can help build muscle, which supports and stabilizes weakened joints. Strength training exercises should be done every other day to allow joints and muscles to recover properly between sessions.
  • Walking: A simple and effective low-impact exercise that can help maintain joint function and mobility.
  • Cycling: Stationary or traditional cycling provides a good cardio workout without putting excessive pressure on the joints.
  • Swimming and water aerobics: The water’s buoyancy significantly reduces impact on the joints, making these excellent activities for people with arthritis.
  • Gentle yoga: Yoga can enhance flexibility and strength while also reducing stress, which may help diminish pain sensations.
  • Tai Chi: This gentle martial art promotes balance, flexibility and mind-body awareness, helping reduce arthritis symptoms.

Thriving with Arthritis

Managing arthritis involves making holistic lifestyle changes that encompass diet, exercise and medical treatments. By making careful food choices, engaging in appropriate physical activities and utilizing available medical interventions, individuals with arthritis can lead more comfortable and fulfilling lives. Always consult with a healthcare provider before making major lifestyle adjustments or starting new treatments to ensure they are suitable for your specific health condition.

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