Book on Nutrition and Exercise

Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis

By Miriam E. Nelson, PH.D., Kristin R. Backer, PH.D., Ronenn Roubenoff, M.D., M. H.S., with Lawrence Linder, M.A.

Excerpt from chapter on diet for arthritis

Chapter 4: Strong Nutrition for Strong Joints (pages 53-54)

“The thing I remember most,” says Deborah, “is that it would be very painful to drive a lot of the time—to hold my knee in a bent position. I would wake up in the middle of the night with it. I had to sleep with my legs straight. I would wake up stiff, too.”

That was several years ago, around the time Deborah was first diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee. Today, the 62-year-old textbook editor doesn’t just get out of bed without pain. She also drives without effort. She takes the stairs rather than the elevator to her son’s fifth-floor apartment. She completes an annual 20-mile “Walk for Hunger”—all without having to take the ibuprofen that used to make her feel nauseated.

What’s different? Her diet, largely. Yet what’s ironic is that for all her knee pain has improved, her eating habits haven’t changed that dramatically. Yes, there are very definite differences. But Deborah is not fasting or eliminating whole food groups or making other Herculean efforts that for decades have been bandied about—both in books and now on the Internet—as the answer to the pain of arthritis. With our help, she has taken simple dietary steps that clinical research suggests may do a lot to quell arthritis pain.

Scientifically sound dietary changes are useful not only for those with osteoarthritis. People suffering the stiffness and joint pain of rheumatoid arthritis can mitigate their symptoms, too, by taking the right dietary steps.

The dietary steps for controlling arthritis pain (and perhaps preventing it in the first place) are outlined here, in our Arthritis Diet, complete with a pyramid that you can use as an easy guide for putting together a food plan.

All of our recommendations are based on research findings about the connection between diet and arthritis that we explained in Chapter 3. As you will recall, the underlying keys are eating a healthful diet with the right combination of essential nutrients (vitamins C, D, E, and beta-carotene), consuming the right kinds of unsaturated oils, such as the omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish, vegetables, and vegetable oils, and losing excess weight (if necessary).

The Arthritis Diet

The Arthritis Food Guide Pyramid is, in many ways, similar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid. But there are also several significant differences. As the illustration [in the pyramid] shows, grains no longer make up the dietary “base” on which everything else rests. Water does. You could say, in fact, that water keeps the rest of the diet afloat. Fruits and vegetables figure more prominently than grains, too. And among protein-rich foods, fish, beans, and soy foods become more important than beef and poultry.


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