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Study says eating right can fight arthritis

Changing diet can help stiffness: expert

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The chronic pain of arthritis goes on and on, year after year. It can be a living hell.

It's estimated more than 50 million North Americans are afflicted with this condition. Now, a report from Tufts University claims eating right can help the aching joints of both osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear type, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Miriam Nelson, an expert on nutrition, says, "You might be surprised how modifying the diet can decrease stiffness and inflammation." Her first suggestion is to start with water. This liquid provides moisture and structural support to joints. It also carries nutrients to where they are needed and removes the metabolic waste of metabolism.

Obviously, thirst tells us when we need liquids. And we know that we get water from fruits and other foods. But Nelson says as we age, our ability to feel thirst becomes blunted. Moreover, some of the medicines used to treat arthritis can affect thirst.

Nelson stresses it is also crucial to lose weight as it adds extra stress to joints. Losing just 11 pounds can decrease symptoms by as much as 50 per cent. For example, a single step triggers a force on the knees and hips two to three times your body weight. Rising from a chair or walking downstairs increases the pressure six times.

But what about nutrients? The Framingham Osteoarthritis study found the progression of osteoarthritis was decreased by 50 per cent in people who consumed the most vitamin C, at least 150 milligrams a day -- the amount in two oranges. This vitamin is vital in the formation of collagen and cartilage and rids the joint of damaging free radicals that cause inflammation. Go to www.docgiff.com to see how much higher doses of vitamin C can prevent and reverse hardening of coronary arteries.

This study also showed the benefit of vitamin D -- Nelson recommends 400 IU or more daily. Vitamin D is important in building bone strength and aids in the absorption of calcium. But during the winter months, it's hard to get this amount of vitamin D in the diet without taking a supplement.

The oils we consume also oil our joints. But not all oils are equal. Rather, the oils in our blood contain different types of fatty acids. The good omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation. Omega-6 acids trigger it.

Nelson recommends that it's prudent to cut back on omega-6 fatty acids. This means decreasing the amount of packaged processed foods found in supermarkets, frozen foods, crackers, cookies and many dessert items, along with fried foods. A University of Washington study found people who ate two or more weekly servings of baked or broiled fish were 40 per cent less likely to develop arthritis due to the omega-3 content.

So what causes joint pain? Fatty acids are the forerunners of compounds called prostaglandins. Some suppress inflammation and others promote it, and inflammation causes the suffering of arthritis.

The best sources of omega-3 are salmon, halibut and sardines. It's also present in walnuts, beans, tofu, flaxseed oil, pecans and leafy vegetables.

One message derived from recent studies is our food habits have changed over the years, but not in a way that cuts down on the chronic problems of aging. In the past, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 was nearly even. Now, people consume 11 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3.

This negative shift in eating habits has major implications for the future. Our aging population will demand more arthritis therapy and more hip and knee replacements, adding further strain to our health-care costs.

Remember the worst treatment for arthritis is to stop moving. Ships tied up too long develop barnacles. We too develop rust in our joints from inactivity. Moderate and continued movement of joints pushes nutrient into cartilage.

Abraham Lincoln once remarked that "I have the best two doctors, my left and right legs."

You need only to look around you to see human obesity and immobility. No wonder the joints seize up.

See the website www.docgiff.com.

For comments info@docgiff.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2013 A19

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