By Dr Carolyn Hall
Why do some of us struggle so much with joint pain, fatigue and loss of well being? Certainly we are all prone to stressful situations in our lives and some of these aren’t always immediately apparent. Our interest in food diminishes and we are drawn to foods that can give us a quick hit of energy. We feel tired so we look for the boost caffeine gives us. We don’t always drink enough water and we certainly are prone to poor bowel function due to a lack of sufficient fiber in our diets. We find we don’t sleep as well and sometimes start to have the additional wine to help us get off to sleep, and next thing you know, you are experiencing joint pain, back, hips, hands and headaches. We begin to feel chronically tired and can’t motivate ourselves to exercise and the cycle gets worse.
We know a lot about food these days and the effect that certain foods have on our physiology (body’s function). Changing your diet can be very hard, as we have formed habits since childhood that relate to food. It is possible to change and there are several ways to go about this. I am a fan of the cold turkey approach. As sometimes we just simply need to break the habits of a lifetime. We then have to stick to it for a bit, for it to become our new habit. Don’t get me wrong, you will fall off the wagon, but by then you will most likely have developed some new strategies and when you climb back on, each time you learn the skills required to keep your diet in the anti-inflammatory bracket.
Some foods when they are digested react in your body to create inflammation. Inflammation causes the breakdown of tissue, and affects our joints in a negative way. Chemicals are released in the joints that cause pain and destruction of the joint tissues. They also affect the health of our gut and bowel, and kidneys. Remember your gut is where you absorb nutrients and your bowel and kidneys are where you eliminate toxins. If you can’t eliminate toxins, these toxins build up and result in systemic inflammation (that affects your whole body).
Eating small amounts of these from time to time is okay, as your body can manage that. Eating large amounts or too regularly, triggers systemic inflammation. Some people due to their genetics are much more prone to this than others.
AVOID: Saturated fats. These are found in dairy products and red meats predominantly.
CHOOSE: Fish, fatty fish and white fish. Fatty fish are packed with anti-inflammatory chemicals.
CHOOSE: Chicken. Pork. Lean cuts.
AVOID: Wheat based products, flour, pasta, cakes, biscuits, and breakfast cereal. Etc. etc. Particularly refined wheat.
CHOOSE: Rice. Start with brown rice if you can. (See note on whole wheat products later).
NUTS and SEEDS
AVOID: Peanuts. These often carry a fungus that is highly inflammatory to joints; you can’t see it and it is not picked up when they are packaged.
CHOOSE Nuts: Almonds, cashews, brazil nuts. Etc. etc. Nuts on the whole are an anti-inflammatory and great for keeping your bowel healthy and functional. A great main snack as they also contain vegetable oils that are also an anti-inflammatory.
CHOOSE Seeds: Chia and linseed are full of good anti-inflammatory oils. A good mix of seeds is a great option and sprinkled on salads are really yummy but great for bowel health and helping eliminate toxins.
PACKAGE FOODS – These contain chemicals to preserve the foods and sugar, which are pro inflammatory.
Canned/jar or packet sauces
Packaged garlic and spices – they are usually packed with sugar to preserve the product.
Also known as glucose syrup, corn syrup, honey, fructose, maple syrup, agave, cane sugar, maltose, dextrose. The list goes on.
It’s in everything you pick up from the store that is premade. Cereals, bread, sauce, sushi, cakes, sandwiches, deli foods. Fruit juice, fruit syrup and powders. Dried fruits. Bottled flavoured water.
Sugars are all pro-inflammatory and should be kept to an absolute minimum.
Honey and maple syrup and agave have a lower glycaemic index but in the body they are broken down in much the same way.
DEADLY NIGHT SHADE FAMILY (look these up on the internet).
This family of vegetables has been shown to create an inflammatory affect in joints. Some people are prone while others may tolerate these.
Tomatoes – particularly uncooked ones
CHOOSE: Green leafy vegetables that have anti-inflammatory properties.
CHOOSE: Opt for using lemon juice where you can as vinegars are in the pro-inflammatory category. Lemon juice and olive oil whisked make a great salad/fish dressing.
Saying that, apple cider vinegar in very small amounts has been shown to be a good digestion aide.
CHOOSE: Oats. Oats have many good properties but due to the covering on them, they can be hard to digest. It is recommended that they are soaked over night with some lemon juice or cooked to break down the outer layer.
Note: some people still find them hard to digest so they may need to be left until your gut health has improved.
AVOID: SOY. SOY products were once thought to be a healthier option but much has been found out about SOY since it was mass-produced and sold to the public. In Japanese culture, they handle soy with great care and ferment it before using. Where SOY is being used as a substitute it is not fermented and in variably large quantities of sugar are used to make it palatable.
AVOID: MILK. This is a tough one; some people can tolerate a small amount while others don’t. Start by removing it, then after 3 months introduce a small amount and see how your body reacts. Look carefully for signs of bloating or aching in your tummy or joints.
NUT & RICE MILKS
Be wary, read the labels, they are usually full of added ingredients that make it palatable but really are not good for you – sugar being the main one.
CHOOSE: Goat Milk – These products are a better option but again look out for the added ingredients and sugar.
AVOID: Coffee, black tea, green tea and white tea (all contain tannins which are pro-inflammatory). Alcohol.
CHOOSE: Water, teas which are fruit or herb based. Fresh ginger tea. Water down fruit juice 1:4 ratios at most. Lemon squeezed into hot water is also a good replacement for tea.
Use cucumbers and carrots for dips instead of crackers and bread.
Hummus: easy to make at home, very nutritious, is great over veggies too.
Paleo foods are a good bet. Some foods are now labelled like this in the supermarket but be aware they still may have more sugar in them that they want to tell you about.