Arthritis and anti-inflammatory diet

Arthritis and anti-inflammatory diet


May is Awareness Month for Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), a form of arthritis characterized by inflammation of the spine, large joints, fingers and toes. The pain and stiffness associated with AS dramatically affects the quality of life of those who suffer from it! What if food could make a difference?

The Treatment

There is no cure for AS. Treatment is aimed at relieving pain and maintaining mobility by taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The adoption of healthy lifestyle habits, including regular physical activity and smoking cessation, is encouraged. Research is also looking at diet in the context of this disease.

An anti-inflammatory diet

A recently published meta-analysis of several studies evaluated the effect of the Mediterranean diet (with anti-inflammatory properties) compared to other dietary approaches. This approach has been associated with greater weight loss and a significant decrease in inflammatory biomarkers, when compared to other diets.

The anti-inflammatory approach is the subject of several recent studies. If the results are still not the subject of a scientific consensus, it is better to integrate this dietary model which has proven itself in terms of reducing the risk of chronic diseases. 

Science also looks at the benefits of vitamin D, marine omega-3s, antioxidant-rich berries, turmeric and probiotics on activity score and symptom relief for several forms of arthritis . Some clinical trials have generated promising results with the integration of these components into the menu.  

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is the most studied anti-inflammatory diet. It refers to the dietary pattern traditionally observed by people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco. 

Although there is no single definition of the Mediterranean diet, it is generally characterized by a high consumption of foods of plant origin including olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. At the same time, this diet is limited in animal products, including meat and dairy products. The Mediterranean diet also promotes the consumption of minimally processed, local and seasonal foods.

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its overall health benefits. Several studies observe that populations that adhere to the Mediterranean diet have a low incidence of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and a greater life expectancy. Research also shows that the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of depression. Its relevance for all inflammatory diseases, including several forms of arthritis, also arouses the interest of several researchers.  

How to adopt the Mediterranean diet?

1. Use olive oil as the main source of fat

Olive oil is rich in unsaturated fats, which are beneficial for cardiovascular health.

2. Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables 

Fruits and vegetables are an important source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Their high fiber and antioxidant content can help prevent various chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

3. Eat whole grains

Whole grains provide more nutrients, including more fiber, vitamins and minerals than refined grains. Their fiber content contributes in particular to the balance of the microbiota. 

4. Consume minimally processed, local and seasonal foods

Considering seasonality is good for the environment, but also good for health and taste, because foods are at their best in terms of nutrients, aromas and flavors when they are in season.

5. Consume red meat in moderation

Red meat is rich in protein, iron and B vitamins, but it also contains saturated fat. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified red meat as a possible carcinogen and processed meat as a carcinogen.

In the Mediterranean diet, red meat and processed meat are used as a side dish or garnish on a vegetable and whole grain dish rather than as the main part of the meal. In addition, it is advisable to limit their consumption to a few times a month. 

6. Eat fish  

Fatty fish, such as mackerel, sardines and salmon, contain polyunsaturated fats, omega-3s, which are beneficial for cardiovascular health and have a anti-inflammatory action.

7. Consuming fruit as a dessert

In the Mediterranean diet, fresh fruits rather than sweets and pastries are eaten as a daily dessert. Fruit is also a good option for snacks. Berries (pomegranates, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, elderberries) are said to be particularly beneficial for inflammatory conditions.  

8. Drink water

Water is the drink of choice in the Mediterranean diet. Red wine is also one of the drinks consumed. Its consumption is done in moderation and usually during meals.

In addition to the adoption of the Mediterranean diet, the use of spices (including turmeric), the taking of vitamin D supplements and the consumption of probiotics (which strains remain to be determined) could also improve symptoms. 

A healthy and balanced diet 

The 2021 recommendations of EULAR (European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology formerly European League Against Rheumatism) to prevent the progression of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and axial spondyloarthritis, which includes AS, emphasize the importance a healthy and balanced diet. 

Discover my Mediterranean trout recipe: