Arthritis is the term used for nearly 200 painful conditions of the joints and bones. It affects about 7million people in the UK and all types have similar symptoms of swelling, inflammation of joints, stiffness and restriction of movement.
Many of us take our joints for granted until they start playing up, by which time significant damage may already have occurred. But the sooner you start looking after your joints, the better. The good news is that many cases of arthritis can be relieved, postponed or even prevented by good joint care.
Research shows a definite link between the food you eat and the severity of your symptoms. Like your heart, your joints thrive best on plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Try to eat at least five (and preferably eight or more) servings a day. Fruit and vegetables provide an array of antioxidants that reduce the rate at which cartilage breaks down, helping to slow the process of osteoarthritis. Antioxidants can also reduce inflammation and help combat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and gout.
Apples and avocados are anti-inflammatory superfoods. Don't peel your apples - the skin contains five times more antioxidants than the flesh. Oily fish are a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acids that oil the joints and damp down inflammation. Research shows that omega-3 can reduce the long-term need for painkillers in those with joint problems. You should aim to eat oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herrings and mackerel two to four times a week. You can also take an omega-3 fish oil supplement.
Drink plenty of fluids - approximately three to five pints (two to three litres) - a day to maintain good hydration and a steady flow of nutrients to your joints. Choose from water, soups, tea and juices.
You may find your symptoms are triggered by particular foods. Culprit foods vary, so it's important to keep a food-and-symptom diary to help pinpoint the foods that irritate. This is not always easy, as symptoms can worsen up to 36 hours after eating a trigger food.