Sixty-eight-year-old Molly Mann began suffering from joint inflammation just after her fiftieth birthday. Once able to knit intricate baby blankets and play piano sonatas, Molly noticed that these pastimes were becoming increasingly painful. She consulted her doctor, who diagnosed osteoarthritis. He prescribed rest, ice, and medication. Molly’s hands continued to hurt.
Molly’s hands hurt less after she began making modifications to her diet. Instead of bacon for breakfast, she ate oatmeal topped with walnuts and ground flaxseed. A simple green salad with olive oil vinaigrette took the place of Molly’s typical midday ham sandwich. At dinner, she feasted on curry-spiced salmon with a side of broccoli, in lieu of steak and potatoes.
Molly Mann had discovered a food-based solution to a problem that plagues millions of Americans: inflammation of the joints, also called arthritis.
Arthritis is crippling and all too common. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov), “The term arthritis is used to describe more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, the tissues which surround the joint and other connective tissue.” These diseases carry labels such as osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. While each disease has a slightly different cause, the end result is the same–pain and disability. More than 19 million U.S. adults limit their activities because of arthritis.
American adults also limit their activities because of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. These, and many other inflammatory ailments, are known to be related to diet. Meat, dairy products, processed foods, and some additives tend to cause more inflammation, while certain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes (beans), and “good fats” can actually have the opposite effect.
Good fats include those rich in omega-3 fatty acids (O3FAs). Omega-3 fatty acids contain the anti-inflammatory compound alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Fatty cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna, are high in O3FAs. Wild fish ingest more algae and thus tend to have more O3FAs than farm-raised fish. Unfortunately, wild fish are being overharvested in most parts of the oceans. Wild and farm-raised fish may also be exposed to unacceptable levels of mercury, a substance that causes nerve damage. Individuals who eat fish should be aware of overharvesting and pay attention to mercury advisories in their area. (For more information, visit www.epa.gov).
Omega-3 fatty acids and other good fats are available from other sources. Those who dislike whole fish may wish to try fish oil capsules, 1000 mg daily. Flaxseed, nuts, leafy greens, and algae are acceptable nonfish sources of O3FAs. Some references also suggest supplementing with borage, evening primrose or black currant oil, which contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
Saturated fats, trans fats, and partially hydrogenated oils are less desirable fats that may worsen arthritis. Meat, dairy, and other animal products contain saturated fats. Margarine and some vegetable oils, and fried or baked or processed foods such as crackers and chips, are likely to contain trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils. This information is available on food labels. People with inflammation should minimize processed foods and meat in their diets.
For more information on amazing healing foods, read the rest of this article in the 2011 Farmers’ Almanac.