The Pain-Free Arthritis Diet
Harris H. McIlwain, M.D., and Debra Fulghum Bruce, M.S.
Pain Free Arthritis
Until recently it's been unclear whether changing your diet may
influence the symptoms f a chronic illness like arthritis. Nevertheless,
new research continues to pour in touting the healing benefits of certain
foods. Perhaps these foods aren't the miracle cure many hoped for,
but through scientific studies we do know that certain nutrients can
boost immune function and decrease inflammation in those with arthritis.
Be sure to include the following suggestions in your pain-free diet
to further reduce inflammation and pain.
You can now add tea to your list of healing foods. In fact, some experts
claim that we should add tea to the list of disease-fighting fruits
and vegetables that we should eat daily. Some intriguing information
was presented at the Society of Critical Care Medicine in January 2002
on how green tea may help decrease inflammation.
Green tea contains a type of polyphenol known as epigallocatechin-3
gallate, or EGCG, that inhibits the expression of the interieukin-8
gene. This is a key gene involved in the arthritis-inflammatory response.
In these findings, researchers theorized that "more may be better"
when it comes to green tea reducing the inflammatory response as EGCG
short circuits the process that leads to inflammation. (If you like
black tea, drink up! Black tea is made from the same leaves as green
and contains theaflavins, strong phytochemicals that help to protect
the body. Though processed differently, black tea may be equally effective
and is tolerable for many people.)
Sipping tea instead of other drinks may help to ward off painful fractures.
In another revealing study published in May 2002 in the journal Archives
of Internal Medicine, scientists found that men and women who drank
tea for years had denser bones at three different skeletal sites, regardless
of the type or amount of tea they consumed each day. Researchers concluded
that drinking tea regularly for at least ten years was estimated to
boost bone mineral density by up to 5 percent. This bone-boosting benefit
may be attributed to special compounds in tea such as fluoride, phytoestrogens,
and flavonoids, a group of antioxidants all working together. (Herbal
teas are not "real" tea.) Some key prevention benefits of
tea includes the following:
Snack on Grapes
Resveratrol, a phyto-estrogen, or plant-derived, nonsteroidal compound,
is present in the skins of grapes, in mulberries, nuts, wine, and other
foods. While all wines have some resveratrol, red wine seems to be the
In the past few years, various studies have shown that resveratrol blocks
cell inflammation, which is linked to arthritis and other diseases.
A team of researchers now concludes that trans-resveratrol blocks the
activation of the gene identified as COX-2, which is important in creating
the inflammation that causes arthritis pain. This natural food substance
is the first compound identified that both blocks the COX-2 gene from
being activated and inactivates the enzyme created by that gene. Some
believe that trans-resveratrol may turn out to be an improvement on
aspirin in fighting diseases associated with COX-2, such as arthritis.
For now, snack on grapes. They are low in fat and calories, and add
some healing nutrients to your body.
There is a lot of evidence that a diet high in vegetables can help to
decrease inflammation in susceptible people. I've had many patients,
particularly those with inflammatory types of arthritis, say a modified
vegetarian diet (including fish) helps to reduce symptoms. Journal studies
over the past five years have shown that a vegetarian diet causes an
extensive change in the profile of the fatty acids of the serum phospholipids.
These changes may favor production of Prostaglandins and leukotrienes
with less inflammatory activity, which is a bonus for those with inflammatory
The vegetarian diet may also benefit those with inflammatory diseases
because animal sources such as meat, poultry, dairy, and egg yolks contain
arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that is converted to inflammatory prostaglandins
and leukotrienes. Some holistic nutritionists believe that eliminating
animal foods from the diet may significantly reduce inflammation and
Broccoli contains glutathione, a powerful antioxidant and detoxifying
agent. In fact, without glutathione, other antioxidants such as vitamins
C and E cannot do their job and protect you adequately against disease.
Some new findings indicate that people who are low in this antioxidant
are more likely to have arthritis than those who have higher amounts.
Other glutathione-rich foods include asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower,
potatoes, and tomatoes. Fruits with glutathione include avocados, grape-
fruit, oranges, peaches, and watermelon.
Feast on Fish
Studies continue to come in touting the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids,
contained in fish, as helping to decrease inflammation. In a study published
in May 1996 in the journal Epidemiology, scientists found that women
who ate two or more servings of broiled or baked fish a week had about
half the risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis as women who ate only
one serving. Researchers estimate women with the best odds against RA
were averaging a minimum 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily, or
the equivalency of 5 ounces of cooked rainbow trout.
Some research indicates that when fish oils are added to the diet, scientists
measure a very significant drop in one of the most inflammatory immune
substances - -leukotriene B4, which is an important part of the process
of inflammation in many types of arthritis. Researchers suspect that
omega-3s may block the production of inflammatory substances linked
to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In some
trials, taking fish-oil supplements for at least twelve weeks resulted
in positive improvements in symptoms with less morning stiffness and
Another study, published in the January 2000 issue of the American Journal
of Clinical Nutrition, confirmed the healing benefits of omega-3 fatty
acids. Researchers concluded that patients with rheumatoid arthritis
who took dietary supplements of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA or eicosahexacnoic
acid) had fewer tender joints and. morning stiffness. The effective
dose may be between 3 to 5 grams of the acids daily, although regulated
guidelines have not been established regarding supplements of fish oil.
Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales found that cod-liver oil
-- the fishy tonic people used to take for "what ails them"
-- is effective in treating arthritic joint pain and even slowing or
reversing the destruction of joint cartilage. Again, the omega-3 fatty
acids in the oil are credited for "switching off" the collagen-degrading
enzymes that break down joint cartilage. This leads to a slower progression
of cartilage destruction, and reduces inflammation and the subsequent
Because of the mercury content in some fish, including mackerel, swordfish,
and tuna, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that pregnant
or nursing women avoid these fish.
Eat Fish High in Omega-3
Include More Omega-3s
To add even more omega-3s to your daily diet, use canola or flaxseed
oil in cooking or salad dressings. Take borage seed oil or evening prim-
rose oil-both available at most health food stores in a variety of forms.
These oils are high in plant form of omega-3, alpha-linolenic fatty
acid. Your body converts this fat to one of the omega-3s found in fish
For years, professional coaches have recommended pineapple to athletes
to help heal sports injuries. That's because a key enzyme in pineapple
called bromelain helps reduce inflammation. This may benefit those with
knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, according to a German
study that found bromelain enzymes resulted in a statistical reduction
of pain. For those with carpal tunnel syndrome, some findings show eating
pineapple is associated with reduced tissue swelling.
Add Olive Oil
A Greek study published in 1999 in the American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition reported that eating large quantities of olive oil and cooked
vegetables over a lifetime might cut the risk of developing rheumatoid
arthritis. Researchers were unsure how olive oil reduces the risk for
this inflammatory arthritis, but theorized that it may be due to its
high concentrations of unsaturated fatty acids. One in particular, oleic
acid, forms chemicals in the body that can decrease inflammation.
Another interesting point researchers made in this study is that raw
vegetables did not appear to give as much protection as cooked vegetables.
This may be because the heat from cooking breaks down the plant cell
walls and increases absorption of healing compounds that may help those
with inflammatory arthritis.
In some new findings presented in early 2002 at the American Pain Society,
researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore concluded that
a diet rich in soy that reduced pain and swelling in rats may one day
be used by humans to manage chronic pain. In the study, scientists found
that rats fed a soy-based diet experienced "significantly less"
swelling and were able to tolerate more pain than another test group
given a milk protein. The pain tolerance was determined by assessing
how long rats could endure pressure and heat stimulus before removing
their paw from the heat supply. Of course, we have a long way to go
before proving the same result in humans, but this study is positive.
Along with the possibility of decreasing pain, soy foods have other
great benefits, including being dairy free, low in saturated fat, and
excellent meat substitutes. For years, soybeans have played an integral
part in the Asian culture with heart disease, breast cancer, prostate
cancer, and osteoporosis rates much lower for Asian men and women than
for Americans. In addition, isoflavones, phytochemicals found in soy,
are close in structure to the body's form of estrogen. While these
plant ingredients mimic the hormone estrogen, they appear to have no
harmful side effects and may give a bonus in relieving menopausal symptoms
and helping to prevent osteoporosis. In a study published in the January
2001 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers suggested that
a diet rich in soy might help women retain strong bones and reduce the
risk of painful and debilitating fractures.
Soy Food - Grams of Protein
Tofu - 10 grams per 1/2 cup
Soy Milk - 7 grams per one 1 cup
Soy Yogurt - 7 grams per one 1 cup
Miso - 2 grams per 1 tablespoon
Black soybeans - 9 grams per 1/2 cup
Green soybeans (edamame) - 11 grams per 1/2 cup
Tempeh - 16 grams per 1/2 cup serving
Textured soy protein - 11 grams per 1/4 cup
Soy nuts - 22 grams per 1/2 cup
Eat Ample Protein
Eat 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (to make up
for the protein lost in the inflammatory process).
Include Healing Foods
Tea (green or black)
Increase Flavonoid-Rich Foods
Flavonoids are a family of more than four thousand compounds that include
polyphenols and give color to fruits and vegetables. These nutrients
are powerful antioxidants and may hold the key to disease prevention.
Polyphenols act like antioxidants or rust-proofing agents, which are
thought to reduce the cellular oxidation.
Although more studies are needed to claim these nutrients prevent on
or disease, try to include flavonoid-rich foods in your in daily diet
including green tea, onions, apples, soy, and grapes, among others.
Excerpted with permission from Pain-Free Arthritis: A 7-Step Program
for Feeling Better Again by Harris H. McIlwain, M.D., and Debra Fulghum
Bruce, M.S. (Published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC; September 2003;
$15.00US/$21.95 CAN; 0-8050-7325-6). Copyright 2000 Harris H. McIlwain,
M.D., and Debra Fulghum Bruce, M.S.
Harris H. McIlwain, M.D., is board-certified in rheumatology and geriatric
medicine, specializing in pain-related diseases. He practices medicine
in Florida with the Tampa Medical Group and has written thirteen books
on health. Debra Fulghum Bruce, M.S., is a writer specializing in health
and relationships and the author or coauthor of sixty-four books. She
lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
For more information, please visit the author's website at
To listen to an audio interview with Dr. McIlwain, please visit Written
This article courtesy of Family Content Archives at: http://www.Family-content.com.