I am excited to introduce the first in what may be a series on Arthritis, and how the following various Ancestral Health eating proscriptions may be able to benefit people who suffer from Arthritis. This article is more of an introductory to the topic, and if there is enough of a response, we’ll invite the author back for some more!
Be sure to let me know what your thoughts are in the comments section!
Paleo Diet for Arthritis
Can the Paleo diet be good for arthritis? The answer may be influenced by what kind of arthritis you have and what causes it.
Although there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, they all have a couple of things in common. One is their name. “Arthritis” is a combination of two Greek words: arthro, which means “joint,” and itis, which means “inflammation.” The other thing they share is what arthritis does: it causes inflammation, pain, and sometimes, disability.
Osteoarthritis (OA), for example, is the stereotype arthritis: an oldster with sore, creaky joints. Older people can get rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but it can also occur at any age, even during childhood. Both cause the joints to become stiff, painful and even disabled, but RA isn’t the result of years of stress and strain on the joints like OA.
RA is one of a large group of autoimmune diseases. They cause the body’s defensive immune system to attack itself. In the case of RA, the immune system mainly attacks the joints, although it can attack soft tissues and organs as well.
In both types of arthritis, the pain is caused by inflammation of the tissues surrounding the joints, along with gradual damage to the bones.
So. Can the Paleo diet help arthritis symptoms? Keeping in mind the underlying cause of the arthritis, it just might.
The Paleo diet has been shown in studies to lower inflammation levels in the body. The diet eliminates a number of foods that Americans normally eat every day. They include dairy products; foods made from grain; beans and legumes; any processed foods or foods containing sugar; starchy foods; and all alcohol.
Why are these foods connected to higher levels of inflammation in the body? According to the American Nutrition Association, “Common dietary staples, such as cereal grains, beans, and legumes, contain lectins. Lectins have anti-nutritional properties that influence enterocytes (cells that line the intestinal wall) and lymphocytes (cells in the blood, lymph, and lymphoid tissues).”
Lectins can quickly cross the gastrointestinal barrier. They enter the bloodstream intact, spreading easily throughout the body. In rheumatoid arthritis, they directly interact with the synovial tissue (the lining between the joints), causing inflammation and, in due course, stiffness, swelling and pain.
So, while the autoimmune aspect is the main cause of inflammation in RA, lectins in the foods we eat only add to it. Wear and tear in the joints causes the inflammation in OA, but lectins make it worse.
The Paleo diet focuses on lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit (sparingly), nuts and seeds, and healthy fats. The lean proteins help to build strong muscles and bones. Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxydants and phytonutriants. And healthy fats provide beneficial omega-3s.
Another way the Paleo diet may be good for arthritis is through gradual weight loss and maintenance. When our bodies carry too much weight, it puts a great deal of extra stress on our weight-bearing joints, which can make any type of arthritis worse. And the more overweight we become, the harder it becomes to move, get adequate exercise, and burn off extra calories.
About the Author:
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer. She also writes a blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis called RheumaBlog, where she writes under the pen-name “Wren.” In her spare time, Vandever enjoys cooking, reading, writing for Healthline.com and working on the Great American Novel.
Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis. (1999, Aug. 30) Cordain, L. Toohey, L., Smith, M.J., and Hickey, M.S. British Journal of Nutrition. The Nutrition Society. Retrieved on January 4, 2014 from http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=6&fid=880104&jid=BJN&volumeId=83&issueId=03&aid=880100&bodyId=&membershipNumber=&societyETOCSession=&fulltextType=RV&fileId=S0007114500000271
Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Frassetto, L.A., Schloetter, M., Mietus-Synder, M., Morris, R.C., and Sebastian, A. (2009, Feb. 11) European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Retrieved on January 7, 2014 from http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v63/n8/full/ejcn20094a.html
Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis. (n.d.) Nutrition Digest. American Nutrition Association. Retrieved on January 7, 2014 from http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/diet-rheumatoid-arthritis-0