Once thought to be a disease that affects only elderly people, arthritis is becoming an issue for those of all ages. According to the Canadian Community Health Survey conducted by Stats Canada, 16% of Canadians struggle with arthritis and 3 out of 5 are under the age of 65.
So, what exactly is arthritis?
There are two main types of arthritis; osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is considered to be a degenerative joint disease, caused by wear and tear, and usually affects larger weight baring joints like the hips and knees. Osteoarthritis normally does affect elderly people and the type of pain experienced resembles an achy burn that hurts during movement but doesn’t really go away when inactive.
Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is actually an inflammatory disease that typically attacks more than three synovial joints (most often in the hands and feet). People with rheumatoid arthritis can, and often do experience swelling, fatigue, rashes, and weight loss.
Luckily, there are dietary and lifestyle modifications that can support and reverse the progress of both types of arthritis.
Weight Loss. The link between the development of osteoarthritis and obesity is inarguable. Since the joints in both types of arthritis have compromised capabilities, the best thing you can do is give them a break by reducing their load. The lower our weight, the easier it is for joints to perform.
Avoid Inflammatory Foods. The name of the game with rheumatoid arthritis is to eliminate or reduce foods that cause an inflammatory response. Some common offenders include wheat, dairy, and animal sources of protein. Try eliminating wheat, dairy, and red meat for at least two weeks and then introduce them back into your diet one at a time to see how your body responds.
Eat Antioxidant Rich Foods. Antioxidants (think vitamins A, C, E, and selenium), and omega-3 fish oil can work wonders at reducing inflammation. Try to include citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, walnuts, brazil nuts, berries, and whole grains into your diet.
Remove Nightshade Vegetables. These are foods that contain a compound called alkaloids which are thought to prevent collagen from repairing joints. Aside from inhibiting the repair of joints via collagen, alkaloids may actually cause inflammation so it’s best to avoid eating these in excess for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Nightshades include; potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers (habaneros, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, jalapenos, serranos, etc).
Exercise. In order to maintain range of motion, strength, endurance, and mobility it’s best to keep moving. A good way of incorporating exercise is to simply stretch and tense up your joints. Once you’re comfortable with that, try very easy exercises like walking and then building up to dancing or swimming which has been particularly popular with arthritics because the water absorbs your body weight and can be quite soothing when the temperature is warm. Exercises to avoid include jogging, running, skiing, jumping, and heavy weight lifting as they can strain your joints.
Check out the following Toronto based masters swim clubs that will help you lose weight and soothe those inflamed joints – just remember to start slowly and build up!
THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)
“Irony of the day: arthritis medication with a cap that old people can’t get off, because of their arthritis.”
– Kelli Jae Baeli
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