Monday, 5 January 2015

Best Diets for Arthritis

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.


  1. You know, if you need to lose weight (and TBH, don't most of us with any form of arthritis?) the the Mediterranean diet in combination with Mosely's 5:2 diet is brilliant - I can recommend it. Good food - and so easy to plan the 500 calorie days without struggling. Big bowls of salad barely break into the calorie count, olive oil is so good for you and lean chicken provides the protein with mini cals.
    I'm still taking prednisolone - which usually leads to wails about weight gain. Using a low carb (makes the wheat-free I need easy) Mediterranean 5:2 I have lost a good 17kg in the last 2 years. No, not earth shattering speed-wise but no wrinkly left over bits of skin, feel great and skin and hair look good - and I have never felt hungry or deprived :-)

  2. Hi Eileen, Happy New Year! Losing 17kg is really impressive and your diet sounds great. How do you find the fast days? There's been some interesting research on how fasting can 'reset' the immune system and I keep meaning to look into it...

  3. I didn't find them a problem - I don't eat breakfast any more anyway so that is a good start! Lunch most days is a big bowl of salad, rocket, lamb's lettuce, radicchio and ordinary lettuce plus tomatoes ad lib at 1.30pm. I doubt that is much over 50 cals so plenty of space for oil and vinegar as dressing. Other days I might add sunflower seeds, cheese or a bit of cold meat. But that alone fills me up until dinner at 7.30-ish. With care you can get a LOT of food for 350 calories!
    The breakfast part has been quite strange. As a teenager I never ate breakfast but there was so much push about how you "need" breakfast that I started eating it again. Latterly it had been porridge made with water and salt on them (true Scot me) so was probably well under 200 calories - but I was still hungry by 11am. Then the most recent stuff was published about how breakfast maybe isn't so essential after all, it depends on the person. Dropping breakfast saved 200 calories just like that - and if I don't eat breakfast I DON'T get the hunger pangs at 11am. Mind you, I don't get hunger pangs either if I eat an egg and nothing else. It is obviously the carbs! The first few days I had to concentrate on not eating more than I should - but within a few weeks I didn't want to eat as much on the other days either. It does seem to retrain your appestat somehow. You also learn to know yes, you are a bit hungry in that your stomach may rumble, but I never have any craving to eat, what the Germans call "hot hunger". If we were travelling and lunch would be inconvenient I used to have to insist we stopped somewhere or make sure I had food handy in the car - David is rarely hungry! If a meal is delayed - he just doesn't bother! Now I find the same thing: if I have got to 2pm and no food, that's fine. I'll wait until dinner. It also means that when we go out for a meal I never feel guilty at having a dessert. At some local restaurants I know the portions will be about double what I need - I take a tub in my bag and get enough for another meal most times instead of stuffing myself so as not to waste money. They don't mind, they'll even pack it for me if I forget the tub!
    I drink loads of black tea with lemon during the day or water, preferably sparkling. That feels more special than plain but tap water works fine too. If I feel hungry on a fast day I get a large glass of sparkling water or tea - by the time you've finished it you have forgotten you were hungry. I think distraction is important so you don't catch yourself thinking about food! But it truly does get easier after a few weeks. And it is probably important to think about what you are going to eat on fast day the night before - not go to the frig looking for inspiration! The fact that tomorrow is NOT a fast day also makes it easier - it is a one day at a time diet, you know that icecream is allowed just 24 hours away at most. And a pleasure deferred is a pleasure gained :-)

  4. Kate - is it me? If I write a post and click publish straight away it seems to disappear. if I click preview first and then publish it's fine. Is that what you are meant to do - I only discovered it by accident. But then, I'm not very tech savvy in the blogworld...

  5. Great advice! It's easy to look past the issue of weight when dealing with arthritis, which tends to be a localized and specific source of pain. It's mostly about avoiding certain food or getting away from certain stressors, wherein you can easily miss the larger picture of joints and articulations with respect to body mass. So, I think losing weight is an ample cure, thus transcending the assumptions and the stigma that staying fit is simply being vain. Thanks for sharing that!

    Brittany Mckenzie @ One Stop Fitness Specialist



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