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Why People with Arthritis Should Try the Paleo Diet

For a while now, many health care providers and nutrition experts were aware that certain diets could either help or worsen the symptoms associated with various medical conditions (anything from gout, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and even asthma). More recently, people have been discovering that a paleo style of eating could also hold some potential benefits for their arthritis related pain.

If you remember from some of our earlier posts, the paleo diet (also known as the Paleolithic diet or caveman diet) is based on the dietary principles of our early hunter-gatherer ancestors who fed on mostly wild plants and animals. This was the diet that all human beings lived by up till around 10,000 years ago with the introduction of agriculture.

Now many people who have adopted the paleo lifestyle also believe that many of the food groups introduced after the agricultural revolution are to blame for these widespread conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. So, how can forgoing dairy and grains while eating mostly vegetables and meat help to reduce the symptoms of something like arthritis? Let’s find out!

Inflammation of the Gut and Joints

In the March 2000 edition of the British Journal of Nutrition, Dr. Loren Cordain published a paper which stated that the paleo diet could be capable of prohibiting the development of arthritis. In it, the doctor noted how there is a high correlation between the inflammation of the joints and inflammation of the gut. Dr. Cordain believed that lectins (this is a protein often found in grains which can cause auto-immune problems when eaten in large doses) were to blame.

Avoiding Wheat and Other Grains

Since then a number of paleo diet experts have been telling arthritic patients to ditch the grains, especially wheat. Wheat happens to be quite abundant in both lectins and gluten, and research has shown that there is a connection between arthritis and an intolerance to both of these substances. On pure principle alone, the paleo diet eschews all wheat and other forms of bread. Actually many advocates for this diet believe that these grains and breads should be avoided by all people since they are still relatively new additions to the human diet. They believe that human beings have not evolved to the point where we could digest them properly.

Limiting Your Omega-6 Intake

Some other experts also recommend that arthritic patients should avoid consuming copious amounts of Omega-6 fat in their diet. Studies have shown that overconsumption of Omega-6 can lead to elevated levels of interleukin-6, this is a pro inflammatory cytokine which has been associated with arthritis. In general, arthritis patients should be wary of various processed oils such as soybean, corn, and vegetable oils, because these have a lot of Omega-6 fats. According to the paleo diet, you can try replacing these with olive oil, coconut oil, and even just plain butter. Omega-6 fats can also be found in some whole grain breads and cereals which of course are all avoided on the paleo diet.

Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Overall, this Paleolithic diet has plenty of food items which have been known to decrease inflammation. Freshly caught wild fish such as mackerel and salmon tend to be chock full of Omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike Omega-6’s, these Omega-3’s are known to reduce inflammation for arthritis, and they are quite beneficial for other medical conditions as well. Now, there has been some evidence that potatoes can increase arthritic joint pain, so many who follow the paleo diet will also stop eating them too.

Antioxidants

One last benefit that arthritis patients can get from the paleo diet is more antioxidants in their meals. Arthritis clinical trials have shown how effective these antioxidants can be as anti-inflammatories, and the paleo lifestyle greatly encourages them. You can get plenty more antioxidants by eating more fruits and non-starchy vegetables.

If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease which causes chronic pain, it is important that you consult your primary pain specialist before making any serious changes to your diet. There are many people who claim that the paleo diet really helped them control some of their worst arthritis pain, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for your specific case. Discuss your options with your health care provider, and they can help you plan your next steps.

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