Most of us overindulge at Christmas and many of us end up wishing we hadn’t. But if you have arthritis, you may have more reasons than most to lay off the rich food this Festive season. Arthritis causes inflammation and pain in the joints. Alongside anti-inflammatories and painkillers, research suggests that avoiding certain foods can help to ease joint pain.
Here are the foods to cross of your Christmas menu if you are hoping to keep a rein on arthritic pain:
1. Fried and processed foods
According to a 2009 study by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, cutting down on fried and processed foods reduces inflammation in the body and can help to restore its natural defences. Try eating more fresh fruit and vegetables instead.
2. Sugar and refined carbs
We appreciate that this may be a tall order at Christmas but if you can’t cut them out altogether, at least try to cut back. Sugar and refined carbs also produce AGEs in your body, which can trigger pain and stiffness. Avoiding sweets, sugary drinks, biscuits and cakes can help to reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
AGEs are advanced glycation end products. These are toxins that occur when foods are cooked at high temperatures, either by grilling, frying or pasteurising. Your body tries to break down AGEs using cytokines. These create inflammation so it is advisable to reduce the amount of AGE in your blood. One way is to eat more raw and lightly cooked foods such as salads and steamed vegetables.
4. Corn oil
Corn oil is found in lots of baked goods and snacks. It is high in omega-6 and has been linked with an increased risk of inflammation. By contrast, fish oil, containing omega-3, can help to relieve joint pain in some people. Omega-3 occurs naturally in olive oil, pumpkin seeds, nuts and flax seeds.
5. Alcohol and tobacco
This is another tricky one, particularly at Christmas. If you can’t cut it out altogether, try cutting back or maybe have alcohol-free and tobacco-free days each week. Smoking increases your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and alcohol is high in sugar which can cause inflammation
6. Dairy products
Dairy products contain a protein that can irritate the lining around the joints. For this reason, experts advise avoiding dairy products wherever possible. Some people worry that they won’t get enough protein and calcium if they cut out dairy products, however leafy green vegetables, nuts, tofu, beans, lentils and quinoa are rich in both.
7. Salt and preservatives
Eating too much salt increases inflammation in your joints and so, too, does exposure to too many additives and preservatives in food. It is better to cook meals yourself from scratch, if you can, rather than buying ready-prepared meals or takeaways which can contain high levels of salt and preservatives.
To avoid putting your joints under additional pressure, it is advisable to maintain a healthy body weight.
Not only does avoiding these trigger foods help to prevent inflammation but it can also help you in achieving a more healthy balanced diet that is important for preventing weight gain.
And, of course, it is not only at Christmas time that you need to pay attention to what you are eating and drinking.
Why not make a New Year’s Resolution to eat more healthily, both to manage your arthritis symptoms more effectively and, more generally, to feel better in your body and mind?