Happy New Year! After the excesses of the Holidays, I'm sure many of us are embarking on a New Year's healthy eating plan, whether to help manage our arthritis or to lose weight. I know I've hidden my chocolate stash and promised myself that 2015 will be the year I learn to love oily fish. A healthy diet may not be able to cure arthritis but it can certainly help you manage the symptoms. Moreveover, if you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce the pressure on your joints and the amount of inflammatory processes occurring in your body. But, what's the best type diet for arthritis? Here's my assessment of some of the popular diets for weight loss and arthritis
Juice fasts - I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead the other day and got a bit annoyed with them banging on about how juicing could cure arthritis. Juice is fine - as an occassional snack or drink but blitzing up fruit and vegetables destroys alot of the fibre they contain, means you miss out on essential macronutrients like protein and fat and can lead to you consuming way too much sugar (you'd never eat three apples and a banana in a sitting but you might drink them in a juice). Also from a practical persepctive, not that many people with arthritis frankly find operating a blender 5 times a day that easy! Yes, you'll lose weight on a juice diet but only because you aren't eating.
Atkins/Dukan - supposedly the Duchess of Cambridge's diet of choice, these high protein, low carbohydrate diet can help you lose weight by encouraging your body to enter ketosis (where instead of burning carbohydrates, your body switches to burning fat stores). These kind of diets can be quite useful for people with epilepsy or type 2 diabetes but aren't necessarily the healthiest diet for someone with arthritis as they cut out a wide range of fruit and vegetables and all their powerful antioxidants and generally mean that you end up consuming more pro-inflammatory fats.
Vegan diets - apparently going vegan is the big health trend this year and there have been several studies which have shown it can help people with rheumatoid arthritis manage their symptoms. However a large scale review found no consistent evidence of the benefits of a vegan diet for arthritis and warned that people with arthritis were likely to miss out on nutrients on a vegan diet partly because of some of the difficulties they have with shopping and preparing a wide range of foods. Personally, I think that if you plan your vegan diet well then you should be able to get all the protein, calcium and B vitamins you need and it's a good way to increase your intake of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats.
Mediterranean diet - if I had to pick one diet to recommend to people with arthritis, this would probably be it. The Mediterranean diet involves eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, fish, lean meat, wholegrains and olive oil. It's not necessarily the most exciting or on-trend diet out there but it's one of the most healthy, sustainable and enjoyable - plus it's really the only diet that has been shown to reduce people's risk of heart disease and stroke and even increase life expectancy. There haven't been any specific studies on it's benefits for people with arthritis but the charity Arthritis Action has lots of information on how to follow it if you have arthritis.
Gluten free or dairy free diets - unless you have a specific problem with either gluten or dairy, such as coeliac disease or some cases of enteroparthic arthritis. Anecdotally some people do feel that cutting out gluten and dairy can help their arthritis but there isn't alot of evidence for it unless these wont' help you arthritis sypmptoms . If you do decide to give gluten or dairy the heave-ho, make sure you are replacing them with healthy options, for instance a lot of gluten-free bread is much higher in fat, salt and sugar than ordinary bread. You can read more about gluten free or dairy-free diets for arthritis with these links.