Arthritis: What You Need To Know

As we get older, one of the things that can start to happen is that we experience aches and pains. If your aches and pains are a regular feature of your life, it’s definitely worth asking your doctor or physio for advice. Sometimes that regular twinge you are getting is something more serious, but don’t let the possibility of ‘something more serious’ prevent you from getting it checked out. If it’s nothing but creaking joints, that’s great. If it’s something else, well we can work on that too.

You may have guessed that the ‘something else’ I am thinking about is arthritis. I want to share some of my top tips for using food to help alleviate some of the symptoms of arthritis.

Types of Arthritis

There are 2 types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage between bones and joints wears down, allowing bones to rub together rather than giving them the protection and cushion they need. Cartilage is made up of collagen and other substances that make connective tissue both flexible and strong. Cartilage covers the ends of bones where they meet the joints — and deterioration over time can affect the shape and functionality of the joints, making it painful and difficult to carry out everyday tasks.

Under the age of 45, it’s more common in men, and over the age of 45, it’s more common in women. By the time they get to 50, 80% of people will have symptoms associated with this type of arthritis, which starts as a stiffness in the hips, back, knees or other joints. The joints then become increasingly swollen and inflexible.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects someone’s joints and causes ongoing pain, swelling, stiffness and limitations in terms of movements. For most people, their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms tend to flare up at times and become worse when inflammation levels rise, but then become better for a while, only to return once again. It can be triggered by genetics, or a bacterial or viral component, and also environmental or lifestyle factors. About 80% of sufferers are women. The body – for whatever the reason – develops antibodies against its own tissue, and it attacks the cartilage and connective tissue. Over time, joints become inflamed and enlarged.

There are a number of factors that are important in managing arthritis:

  • How good your digestion and detoxification are
  • Blood sugar balance
  • Inflammation
  • Levels of essential fats
  • Allergies

Underlying Causes

The key to improving the symptoms of arthritis is to work on the underlying causes rather than just treating the symptoms.

Digestion

The scene for inflammation – even if that inflammation is elsewhere in the body, e.g. the joints – is often set in the digestive tract. If the gut environment is disturbed (a disruption in the normal balance of bacteria), this can lead to bacterial infection, parasites, intestinal permeability (aka ‘leaky gut’), allergies and intolerances.

What then happens partially digested food proteins get into the bloodstream, along with other toxins and microbes, putting greater pressure on the body’s detoxification processes. Once the liver starts to become over-taxed, any dietary or environmental toxins may cause further inflammation.

A programme that works on creating a good gut environment is ideal. Probiotics and prebiotics can be very helpful.

Blood Sugar Balance

There is a big link between inflammation and how well your body responds to insulin, the hormone produced in the pancreas to help control blood sugar levels. If your body has a reduced sensitivity to insulin, for example due to long-term poor dietary/lifestyle habits or you are diabetic, this can lead to high levels of sugar and/or insulin in the blood. Too much of either is toxic and can trigger inflammatory reactions.

Learning to balance your blood sugar levels plays a key role in managing the symptoms of arthritis. This is achieved through eating adequate amounts of protein at every meal and snack, increasing the amount of non-starchy vegetables, and considering the quality and the quantity of the starchy carbohydrates you eat.

All of my work with clients looks at balancing blood sugar, which focusses on eating real foods (not weird things you can only buy at health food shops), keeps you feeling full, and helps you manage your cravings.

Inflammation

In pretty much every circumstance, joint problems are linked to inflammation and sometimes also to problems with the immune system (autoimmunity).

The body produces chemical agents in the body to either switch on or reduce inflammation.

Prostaglandins are one of the main chemicals in this process, and these are the easiest to manipulate with diet. There are 3 different types. Types 1 and 3 are anti-inflammatory and type 2 is pro-inflammatory (causes inflammation and promotes pain).

Omega-6 fats can convert into either type 1 or type 2 prostaglandins. Eating a diet high in omega-6 polyunsaturated animal fats (found in processed food, ready-made meals, meat and dairy produce – particularly non-organic) has the body producing more of these less desirable type 2 prostaglandins. Reducing animal proteins and dairy products can bring symptomatic relief.

Omega-3 fats on the other hand, can only go down the route towards the anti-inflammatory type 3 prostaglandin. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats are found in foods like walnuts, flaxseeds, hemp, chia seeds, and oily fish. Monounsaturated fats, e.g. avocados and olive oil, are also anti-inflammatory but work differently and are not involved in these specific pathways.

High levels of sugar and insulin can also direct the conversion of omega-6 fats down the type 2 pro-inflammatory pathway.

There’s another group of chemicals called ‘free radicals’. These are highly reactive oxygen molecules that “steal” electrons (a negatively charged particle that orbits the nucleus in an atom of matter) from neighbouring molecules to stabilise themselves.  You might have heard of free radicals in skincare commercials. They are linked to accelerated ageing, cancer and other diseases. What helps keep these unstable molecules in check are antioxidants (again, something often talked about in skincare).

Antioxidants are found in large amounts in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables. The different colours tend to indicate the type of antioxidants produced – all are good. What we know about antioxidants is that they have a synergistic effect – eating a variety of different ones (by eating a large range of different coloured fruit and veg) has a greater effect that eating the same volume of the same type of fruit or veg.

Bottom line? Eat a LOT of vegetables and a moderate portion of low sugar fruits like berries (which have some of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruit).

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, talk to me about whether a more restrictive diet would work for you. This further cuts out all grains, nightshade foods (like potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and aubergines) and other foods thought to play a role in causing an inflammatory environment.

Levels of Essential Fats

Omega 3 fatty acids (found in oily fish, seeds like flax, pumpkin and chia, and walnuts) are important to include daily because of their anti-inflammatory properties, which are well-documented.

Allergies

Many people with inflammatory conditions have allergies or intolerances, some of which may be due to leaky gut, where food proteins are able to get through the gut lining, triggering an inflammatory immune response. Common offenders are dairy products, yeast, wheat and gluten, other grains, eggs, beef, chilli, coffee and peanuts. If you experience arthritis – or in fact any other inflammatory condition, there may be mileage in having a food intolerance test. Ask me for details.

Food Action Plan

Remove Gluten and Dairy products

Reduce Animal protein

Increase non-starchy vegetables of all kinds (eat a rainbow of colours),vegetable protein such as pulses, oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil

Increase specific foods: celery, chilli, garlic, ginger, pineapple, red peppers, shiitake mushrooms, sweet potato, turmeric

Supplements– there are also numerous supplements which have been researched and can help reduce inflammation, including fish oil, curcumin, proteolytic enzymes, Boswellia. Ask me for details as it’s best to take them under supervision.

Stay Active

Low-impact exercise which doesn’t overly stress sensitive joints, including cycling, walking, water aerobics and yoga is beneficial for strengthening the muscles around the affected joint. this provides added support and reduces strain. Exercise has been shown to help lower inflammation and can even help prevent unnecessary replacement surgeries.

Juicing and Smoothies- How Healthy Are They?

Smoothie vs juicing Fruit and veg is good for you. No one would argue with that.

There has been a great deal of research in recent years to support the claim that eating more fruit and veg may be able to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer, while also helping to manage your weight. It can be a challenge to eat five portions of fruit and veg each day, even when you like vegetables. And now a new report suggests that eating 10 portions is what we need to stay healthy for longer. Most people don’t come nearly close to having enough, and I bet you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to manage that!

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of juicing and smoothies. Both are trending right now and there’s a huge debate. But what is better for your health – and losing weight- and are there any downsides? I’m going to give you the lowdown on both so you can get the hard facts from a nutrition professional and make an informed choice.

SMOOTHIES

The Benefits of Smoothies

When you make a smoothie, the whole lot is whizzed up in a blender. The juice and the pulp go in. This means that smoothies contain fibre. Fibre is good for you for so many reasons. It’s great for the digestive tract, helping to bulk out stools which helps you ‘go’ more regularly. Fibre supports weight loss because it helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the body, meaning that fruit and sugar-rich vegetables like beetroot and carrots are less likely to give you a blood sugar spike – ­ albeit a natural one. Fibre absorbs cholesterol in your digestive tract and flushes it out of your body, which is helpful for reducing risk factors for heart disease.

Dietary fibre also activates a few hormones really helpful in weight loss (called PYY and CKK and GLP-1, since you ask). These are appetite suppressors, meaning you’ll want to naturally eat less the more veg you consume. Fibre also decreases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, and increases another hormone called leptin, which tells your body you’re full. So, all in all fruit and veg are the good guys.

Fibre isn’t the only good thing in a smoothie. In a 2012 study in which scientists blended and juiced grapefruit, researchers found that the blended fruit had a higher concentration of the beneficial phytochemicals than juices because that compound is primarily found in the fibrous membranes of the fruit.

Given a smoothie can be packed with fibre, it can even serve as a meal replacement if you’re smart about what you add in it- more on this next (breakfast would be the perfect example).

The Downsides to Smoothies

When you eat fruit and veg you have to chew them which helps breaks down the fibre This in turn slows down the release of the sugars, helping to prevent a blood sugar spike which can lead to fatigue, low mood, increased hunger, weight problems, sleep problems etc.

On the other hand, when you blend fruits and vegetables in a machine, although the smoothie still contains fibre, it’s been broken down (literally pulverized) super-fast during the blending process- basically, the blender is doing the work your digestive system should be doing, which takes both energy and time to digest.

Even if you’re making your smoothie at home, using only fruits and vegetables with no other added ingredients, you can drink it in just a few minutes, compared with the time it would take to eat the same fruits or vegetables whole. It’s very likely that you are also getting more calories and sugar when you drink a smoothie than when eating whole fruits or vegetables. Research shows that we don’t register liquid calories as accurately as food we’ve chewed. So, smoothies enjoy a “health halo” that can be misleading.

The Best Way to Have Smoothies

If your idea of the perfect smoothie is only fruit and some liquid … Well, that’s a sugar bomb waiting to happen and is likely to upset your blood sugar balance. Plus, if consumed too frequently, this will have you start piling on the pounds.

But, if you combine a little bit of fruit and mostly veg, with a healthy source of protein such as yoghurt, a handful of nuts and seeds, nut butter  or a protein powder that would be best. Why? Firstly, with the addition of protein you’ll have a healthy, nutritious and filling meal to take with you on-the-go. And secondly, you’ll help avoid the blood sugar spike.

Also, quantity is important. To give you an idea, according to the national Eatwell Guide, we should only be having one serving of smoothie or juice, which is 150ml. That’s the same as a “mini” can of cola and less than half the size of a standard can of soft drink. If you’re using mostly veg in your juices and smoothies, and adding protein to your smoothies then the amount can be increased.

JUICING

The Benefits of Juicing

When you juice, your juicers extract the water and nutrients from what you feed it, leaving behind the pulp. Many juicers will also have a filter attachment, so you can remove even more ‘bits’ from your juice.

Given the lack of fibre, juices provide an almost immediate energy boost. The bulk of the vitamins and minerals found within a fruit are typically in the juice rather than the fibrous pulp. And without the fibre, the nutrients are absorbed into the body more efficiently. Additionally, the digestive system doesn’t have to work hard at all to process what you’re consuming. The cherry on top is that juicing allows you to eat a far higher range of nutrients from leafy greens and vegetables you wouldn’t normally eat in such quantity or blend – like cabbage and wheatgrass! Typically, juices (rather than smoothies) are a great way to detox.

 Downsides to Juicing

When you juice, the fibre is usually removed. And without the fibre slowing digestion of the sugar in fruit, the juice drives up your blood sugar rapidly which can lead to symptoms discussed above. This can also contribute to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

If you juice mostly vegetables, you’ll get a potent dose of phytochemicals and disease-fighting compounds without all the sugar. But do it incorrectly, and you can get more sugar than a soda. Thing is, many “green juices” actually do have more sugar than a can of soda. Why? Because people don’t like bitter green juices and so most contain lots of fruit juice, carrots, and beets. A study in 2014 found that, on average, fruit juices contain 45.5 grams of fructose per litre, not far off from the average of 50 grams per litre in fizzy drinks.  If it has more than 5 grams of sugar, stay away.

Verdict

Which is better depends very much on what your health goal is. Juicing offers the possibility of getting in a greater concentration of nutrients, increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption, and possibly making it easier on your tummy if have a hard time digesting the fibre in vegetables.

On the other hand, fibre IS super important in your diet, and in juices you are missing out – plus you could also be losing other important elements like antioxidants.

For weight loss, energy, mood, PCOS, high cholesterol the added fibre is a huge bonus for balancing your blood sugar levels. Smoothies provide this. They also bring the possibility of adding other beneficial ingredients, like collagen (for arthritis suffers), protein powders, prebiotics, nuts or seeds.

Ultimately, you need to consume more fruit and veg than you are currently eating. Both smoothies and juices give you options to consider.

 HEALTHY JUICES

Green juice

2 apples

4 stalks celery

1 orange

½ lemon

5 handfuls spinach

½ thumb ginger root

Start with the spinach. A good tip is to try to roll it into a ball in your hands before feeding through the juicer. Peel the orange and lemon, then juice. Cut the apples into halves, then juice the rest.

Green goddess

3 cups spinach

6 stalks celery

2 pears

½ cup parsley

½ lemon

Start with the spinach and parsley, rolling them into a ball in your hands before feeding through the juicer. Follow with the lemon (peeled), then juice the remaining ingredients.

Liver cleanse

1 apple

1 beetroot

3 beet leaves (or a small handful of spinach)

4 carrots

1 stalk celery

½ thumb ginger root

Cut the beetroot and apples in half to juice. Add the ginger and celery. Roll the leaves into a ball (makes it easier to juice). Cut the skin from the pineapple (but leave in the core – it has extra enzymes), peel the orange and then juice.

HEALTHY SMOOTHIES

Put all the ingredients in the blender with a cup of liquid (water or almond milk, etc.) to start with and increase liquid to desired consistency.

Berry nice

½ avocado

75g fresh or frozen blueberries

1 tbsp chia seeds

½ tbsp coconut oil

¼ tsp cinnamon

½ banana (ideally frozen)

Small handful of ice

Water, as desired

Hidden greens

25g vanilla protein powder

1 kiwi, peeled

Handful of strawberries

Handful of kale

Handful of watercress

1 tbsp cashew butter/cashews

2tbsp broccoli sprouts

Small handful of ice

Water as desired

Blueberry + kale

Handful blueberries

Handful kale

1 small banana

1 tsp cashew or almond nut butter

1 tbsp sunflower seeds

Small handful of ice

250ml coconut or almond milk

Antioxidants and Safe Suntanning

by London Nutritionist Sylvia Hensher

How Antioxidants and Vitamins Can Help Prevent Sunburn

The amount of antioxidants that you have in your skin plays a major role in your development of sunburn. The more antioxidants you consume, the lower your risk of sunburn. Studies on UVA and UVB sunlight have taught us that our cells essentially “shut down” when the damage caused by sunlight becomes too great. When certain kinds of skin cells (called keratinocytes) are overexposed to UVA and/or UVB sunlight, they experience one particular type of stress called oxidative stress which can overload our antioxidant levels. Damage to our DNA is also part of what happens in sunburn cell formation. Foods containing effective antioxidants to boost your “internal sunscreen” include:

  • Goji berries (not the juice)
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Green tea
  • foods rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin ,including dark green leafy vegetables, kale, spinach, broccoli, corn, peas, Brussels sprouts, and romaine lettuce
  • vitamin C rich foods such as bell peppers, broccoli, papaya, Brussels sprouts, and strawberries
  • selenium rich foods such as mushrooms and different types of fish, including cod, pawns, tuna, snapper, halibut, and salmon
  • vitamin E rich foods such as sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, and dark green leafy vegetables

Safe Tanning Guidelines

If your skin is unused to the sun, it is important to build up your tolerance regularly and gradually. To start with, limit your exposure to 10 minutes a day, then progressively increase your time in the sun so that you can have normal sun exposure with little risk of skin cancer.

Time of Day – Early morning is the best time to sunbathe if you have not already built up a base tan, because you’re less likely to burn in the mild morning sun than later in the day.

Regular Intervals – Regular sunbathing is extremely important; you can’t cram all of your sun exposure into a two or three week vacation period and expect to experience the benefits. Intermittent overexposure can increase the danger of skin cancer. Thus, frequent, short periods of exposure are best.

Skin Exposure– For optimal benefit, strive to have at least 40 percent of your skin uncovered.

Optimal Exposure Time – A light-skinned person fairly far from the equator (such as in the UK or the northern U.S.) needs at least three 20 minute sessions per week, in bright midday sunlight and with few clothes. Longer will be needed if sunbathing occurs at off-peak times for ultraviolet light (before 12 PM or after 3 PM) or at the beginning or end of the summer (April or September).  A dark-skinned person, of course, should be outside significantly longer.

Call us now on 0207 724 4445 /07812 163 324 or email us at info@yournutritionalhealth.co.uk to find out more about you can use antioxidants to optimise your long-term health!

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