Pain, swelling, tenderness and warmth in the joints, as well as morning stiffness are all tell-tale signs of inflammatory arthritis. Is it possible to reduce flare-ups intentionally? The charity Arthritis Action said: “The relationship between arthritis severity and dietary manipulation has gained considerable interest with people living with the condition.” Emerging data has suggested that a Mediterranean diet may play a role in helping people with arthritis.
Research has been so promising that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines encourage people with a form of inflammatory (rheumatoid) arthritis to follow this diet plan.
What is a Mediterranean diet?
A Mediterranean diet consists of plenty of fruit and vegetables, pulses and beans, olive oil, nuts and fish.
Furthermore, this type of diet doesn’t contain much sugar, red meat, or saturated fat.
There are many health benefits associated with a Mediterranean diet, such as:
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
- Long-term weight control
- Supporting healthy gut bacteria
“The Mediterranean diet also contains plenty of vitamins and minerals, and is high in anti-oxidants,” said Arthritis Action.
Another charity, Arthritis Foundation, agreed that the Mediterranean diet can help fight inflammation caused by arthritis.
“Studies confirm that eating foods commonly part of the Mediterranean diet can help arthritis by curbing inflammation,” the charity said.
Fish, especially those rich in omega-3, are also part of the Mediterranean diet.
Arthritis Foundation cited research that revealed that participants who consumed the highest quantity of omega-3 fatty acids (in fish) had the lowest levels of inflammatory markers:
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
“More recently, researchers have shown that taking fish oil supplements helps reduce joint swelling and pain, duration of morning stiffness and disease activity among people who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA),” it said.
The charity continued to say that people who benefited from fish oil supplements took between 600mg to 1,000mg daily.
The best sources of dietary omega-3:
Nutritional impact of nuts
The director of nutrition and genomics at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Centre on Ageing at Tufts University in Boston summed it up in one sentence.
“Multiple studies confirm the role of nuts in an anti-inflammatory diet,” he said.
One research paper highlighted how participants with low levels of vitamin B6 – found in most nuts – had higher inflammatory markers in the body.
The more inflammatory markers there are in the body, the more easily affected the body is affected by inflammation.
Fruits and vegetables
Forget your five-a-day target, Arthritis Foundation recommend “nine or more servings daily”.
This is because they’re high in antioxidants, which act as the body’s natural defence system.
Antioxidants help neutralise unstable molecules, known as free radicals, that would otherwise damage cells.
Fruits and vegetables can also decrease inflammatory markers in the body and can help prevent painful joints.