Did you know that one in five Canadians is affected by arthritis? Arthritis is a term that refers to more than 100 conditions including osteoarthritis, gout, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other disorders [1].

Everyone experiences arthritis differently, however joint stiffness, pain, and swelling are common symptoms [1]. If you believe you have an arthritic condition, the first step you can take is speaking to your doctor about getting a definitive diagnosis.

Here are three tips to help you live healthy with arthritis:

1. Increase Your Intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There is good evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can improve symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. In a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, 12 weeks of treatment with omega-3 fatty acids in combination with standard drugs resulted in a reduction in pain, morning stiffness, the number of tender and swollen joints, and the need for analgesics [2]. Increased dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids plays a role in reducing inflammation by altering the production of pro-inflammatory markers such as prostaglandins, eicosanoids, and leukotrienes. Clinical trials have shown that increased omega-3 intake results in beneficial outcomes for most inflammatory conditions, including rheumatic diseases like arthritis [3].

You can increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake by eating more cold-water fish (preferably from wild sources) such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines. Also, try including certain nuts and seeds in your diet, such as ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Adding a pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement is an easy way to get your daily dose of this essential fatty acid.

2. Incorporate more Turmeric Into Your Diet

Turmeric contains phytochemical compounds, most notably curcumin, that may relieve inflammation and pain. Research has shown supplementation with curcumin in patients with osteoarthritis may improve pain, stiffness, and well-being, and reduce inflammatory markers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use [4].

Moreover, in two randomized, controlled studies, patients with knee osteoarthritis pain had significant improvements in function and pain when taking turmeric extract (1500 mg or 2000 mg daily) for four or six weeks. Improvements were similar to those seen in patients taking ibuprofen [5,6], however one study found taking ibuprofen was associated with a much higher incidence of abdominal pain or discomfort [6].

Including turmeric as part of your daily diet or using curcumin in supplemental form can be a great way to manage inflammation and give yourself an added boost of antioxidants.

3. Exercise

Incorporating exercise can be challenging, especially for those experiencing stiffness and pain. But exercise can provide numerous benefits, such as reduced pain, improved energy, and a better mood.

Start small, such as taking a short walk, doing simple stretches, and/or using light weights. Low-impact activities such as yoga or swimming are also great options. Recent studies on the effect of yoga on arthritis have shown beneficial results in both psychological and physiological symptoms. One such study indicated that participants in an eight-week Hatha Yoga program had greater improvements in pain and self-reported function, lower extremity strength, and fear of falling compared with those participating in aerobic and strength exercise alone [7]. In addition, one review showed participating in yoga resulted in reductions in pain, stiffness, and swelling [8].

If you are unsure where to begin, work with a personal trainer or certified instructor to develop a personal program, if only for a few sessions.

There are many other approaches to help maintain joint health and manage arthritis. Weight management, support with therapies such as acupuncture and massage, and the use of natural health products such as glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and natural eggshell membrane (NEM) may also provide benefit. Always speak to a healthcare provider to determine your best approach.

References

[1] The Arthritis Society. About arthritis. Available from: http://www.arthritis.ca/aboutarthritis. [Accessed 19th October 2018].

[2] Rajaei E, Mowla K, Ghorbani A, et al. The effect of omega-3 fatty acids in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis receiving DMARDs therapy: double-blind randomized controlled trial. Glob J Health Sci. 2016July;8(7):18-25.

[3] Akbar U, Yang M, Kurian D, Mohan C. Omega-3 fatty acids in rheumatic diseases: a critical review. J Clin Rheum. 2017 September;23(6):330-339.

[4] Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Dugall M, et al. Efficacy and safety of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, during extended administration in osteoarthritis patients. Altern Med Rev. 2010;15(4):337-344.

[5] Kuptniratsaikul V, Dajpratham P, Taechaarpornkul W, et al. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study. Clin Interv Aging. 2014;9:451-458.

[6] Kuptniratsaikul V, Thanakhumtorn S, Chinswangwatanakul P, et al. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in patients with knee osteoarthritis. J Altern Complement Med. 2009;15:891-897.

[7] Cheung C, Wyman JF, Bronas U, et al. Managing knee osteoarthritis with yoga or aerobic/strengthening exercise programs in older adults: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Rheumatol Int. 2017 March;37(3):389-398.

[8] Cheung C, Park J, Wyman JF. Effects of yoga on symptoms, physical function, and psychosocial outcomes in adults with osteoarthritis: A focused review. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2016 February;95(2):139-151.