Category Archives: Diet in Diseases

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Can Diet Help?


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis which affects around 7 million Indians. It causes chronic (long term) inflammation of the joints. Although RA is a chronic illness patients may experience long periods without symptoms. The joint inflammation of RA causes swelling, pain, stiffness, and redness in the joints. The inflammation can also occur in tissues around the joints. In some people chronic inflammation leads to the destruction of the cartilage, bone and ligaments, causing deformity of the joints.

The disease is three times more common in women as in men. It affects people of all races equally. It can begin at any age and even affects children, but it most often starts after 40 years of age and before 60 years of age. The cause of RA is unknown. It is believed that the tendency to develop RA may be genetically inherited. It is also suspected that certain infections or factors in the environment might trigger the activation of the immune system in susceptible individuals. Environmental factors like smoking, exposure to silica mineral, and chronic gum diseases all increase the risk of developing RA. As it is more common in women so it is intuitive that hormonal factors may also play a role.

RA symptoms come and go, depending on the degree of tissue inflammation. When body tissues are inflamed, the disease is active and when tissue inflammation subsides, the disease is inactive. During active disease the person may feel fatigue, loss of energy, lack of appetite, low-grade fever, muscle and joint aches, and stiffness. Muscle and joint stiffness are usually most notable in the morning and after periods of inactivity. Joints frequently become warm, red, swollen, painful, and tender. Symptoms in children include limping, irritability, crying, and poor appetite.

There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis. To date, the goal of treatment in RA is to reduce joint inflammation and pain, maximize joint function, and prevent joint destruction and deformity. Optimal RA treatment involves a combination of medications, rest, joint-strengthening exercises, joint protection, and patient (and family) education. Although RA is an auto-immune disorder still its incidence or severity can be decreased by adhering to few dietary and lifestyle modifications.

There is no special RA diet. There are no specific foods or food groups that should be universally avoided by individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Nevertheless, there are some home remedies that may be helpful. Fish oils, such as in salmon, and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be beneficial in some short-term studies in RA. The anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric may be beneficial in reducing symptoms. Supplements such as calcium and vitamin D are used to prevent osteoporosis.

Antioxidants: A variety of health benefits have been attributed to consumption of fruits and vegetables containing vitamins C and E, lycopene, caroteinoids and flavonoids.

Red Meat: Decreased red meat consumption is positive for RA patients

How to prevent RA flare ups? Diets that are higher in fish, grains, and vegetables are shown to decrease the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and also improving the symptoms, while the diets including more processed meats increased the risk.

Proper regular exercise is important in maintaining joint mobility and in strengthening the muscles around the joints. Swimming is particularly helpful because it allows exercise with minimal stress on the joints. Heat and cold applications can also ease symptoms before and after exercise.

Though living with RA is a tough job but once you start eating right, exercising and focusing on the positive things in life, it is much easier to manage.

Bring an end to those Cravings

food cravingYou are walking down the road, watching a movie or working at your desk and suddenly the craving hits: Chocolate, Chips or something spicy. You have been trying to stick to healthy eating all week but still the craving is so strong….. A couple of chips won’t harm, will they? The craving grows strong with each passing minute and you soon start searching for it everywhere.

Many dieters believe that craving is a signal their bodies need the nutrients that food provides. But it is more a psychological thought rather than a physiologic need. A craving for chocolate, for example, would signal a physiologic need for sugar or antioxidants. But there are other foods which are better and healthier sources of sugar and antioxidants. However you do not crave for those foods.

So what could be the possible cause of these cravings?

When people follow overly restrictive diets or completely cut out groups of foods, cravings can develop out of deprivation. These can lead to a vicious cycle of indulging, overeating and guilt. A diet that allows small amounts of foods you love to have be it high-fat or high-calorie, will be easier to maintain since you are not eliminating that food completely from your diet.

Here are few tips to prevent or handle food cravings:

  • Put your craving off. Give yourself a little time before you completely give in to the temptation. Food cravings are typically short-lived, and while the desire for chips, chocolate, or cake feels overwhelming at that particular moment, it will decline, especially if you can distract yourself with a phone call or some pending job or a glass of water or some healthier substitute.
  • Choose alternatives for your cravings. If you are in love with potato chips and miss them dearly, buy a brand that is low-fat or low in sodium. If you think that you crave chips because you feel like munching something crunchy, skip the chips: try fruit or a salad packed with crisp greens and veggies. Want something sweet? How about baking an apple pudding (minus sugar) or trying out carrot kheer? If you crave chocolate, keep some dark chocolate on hand. Dark chocolates are low in sugar and high in phytochemicals that may aid in the prevention of heart disease. But remember moderation is the key here. When looking for dark chocolate, read the label to make sure that cocoa is the first ingredient on the list rather than sugar.
  • Buy single servings of foods you crave. Instead of buying a whole box of your favorite food, buy minimum possible quantity.
  • Schedule your snacks. Plan for nutritious snacks to prevent in-between meal hunger. Keep portable, healthy snacks in your desk or car.
  • Be Selective: Whenever you go out for a party and before you begin eating, check out all of the options and choose the foods that you really want to eat. If everything looks tempting and delicious, have a small sample of different foods to satisfy your craving.
  • Keep a craving journal. Note the time of day your craving appeared, how long it lasted, the food you craved, and how you handled the situation. This way you will start noticing patterns so you can be better prepared to handle cravings in the future.

Craving is more of a psychological response of a deprived empty mind and it can be efficiently counteracted by diverting the mind as well as preventing deprivation of your much-loved foods.