Last week, when my wee toe decided to throb mercilessly for a couple of days, I had myself a little pity party. For me, pity parties often involve chocolate. Or ice cream. Or cookies. Or all of the above. While I do watch my weight very carefully, I don't think it's wrong to indulge on occasion. However, when "on occasion" turns into 2 or 3 times a day, several days in a row—then we have a problem.
After few days of reckless eating—and really only feeling worse about myself—I decided enough was enough. I recommitted to a more balanced diet this week, and whether it's coincidence or quick effect, I am actually starting to feel better. My toe has quieted down and I'm able to exercise for about 20 minutes at a time without getting too achy.
Curious about this, I did a little poking around and found several sources that indicate refined sugar can be an inflammatory food. Likewise, certain oils and fats found in a lot of packaged cookies and other goodies, as well as animal fats and dairy, can all cause inflammation in the body. And a lot of the foods I decided to replace my poor choices with, like more lean protein, nuts, beans, berries, etc., are considered anti-inflammatory.
There is some evidence out there that certain antioxidants act on some of the same enzymes as popular arthritis pain medications. Ever heard of a COX-inhibitor (say, Celebrex)? COX is a type of enzyme that plays a role in inflammation, which is what causes arthritis pain for a lot of us. It turns out that certain foods and drinks can have the same COX-inhibiting actions as well-known medications.
Take red wine or tea, as an example. Both contain polyphenols, such as catechins, which are antioxidants that specifically target COX-2 activity and help reduce inflammation. Of course, not everyone can drink red wine (esp. if you're on methotrexate or trying to get pregnant!), but tea is tolerated by most.
Another natural anti-inflammatory is omega-3 fatty acid. Numerous scientific studies have shown omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation associated with heart disease, arthritis and other illnesses. I mentioned previously that I take fish oil capsules, as recommended by my rheumatologist. But there are a lot of natural sources of omega-3 fats, too, like fatty fish (such as salmon, halibut and sardines), walnuts, flax seeds, broccoli and kale.
Soy, berries and spices like turmeric, cinnamon, garlic and hot chilies are all high in antioxidants and can have anti-inflammatory effects, too. I always knew healthy eating didn't have to be boring! I'm going to keep trying to eat more of these anti-inflammatory foods and see how things go. I have a birthday party tomorrow that I'm making a delicious (albeit sugary) dessert for, so I'll also be interested to see how that affects me.
Anyone else have certain foods that bother your arthritis? Or ones that make it better?