There are so many diets circulating around society and media that keeping tabs on them all can feel fairly overwhelming. Should we be eating meat? Intermittent fasting? Should I be adding butter to my coffee? Are whole-grains and legumes bad for my health? What about the mediterranean diet? And the list of diet related questions can go on and on.
Let’s explore the most popular and trendy diets that have and are currently circulating lately and whether there is merit to any of them in relation to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
This approach to eating focuses on animal meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. It eliminates whole-grains, legumes and dairy products. The paleo diet is essentially a wholefoods based diet but unfortunately, due to it’s lack of whole-grains and legumes, it can be severely deficient in fibre - particularly soluble fibre found within legumes. Our microbiome is dependant upon fibre to maintain balance and homeostasis. As arthritis has been linked to poor gut health, now referred to as the ‘joint-gut axis’. maintaining digestive wellbeing through a fibre rich diet is crucial.
The ketogenic diet significantly increases the intake of high fat foods and substantially reduces the intake of carbohydrates and protein. This approach has been adopted for increased mental clarity and fat loss, and has also interestingly been used therapeutically for the management of epilepsy and some cancers. Although great for weight loss (helpful in the case of arthritis), the high intake of fat is problematic for those with inflammatory driven conditions. Additionally, as per the paleo diet, this diet is even more so void of fibre, creating havoc on the long term health of the gut microbiome - again, not ideal for the management of arthritis!
Vegan diets refer to those that eliminate the consumption of animals and animal by-products. This diet can be incredibly health promoting, supporting gut health and weight management. However, if this diet is adopted without being adequately planned, nutritional deficiencies (iron, vitamin b12, vitamin D, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids) may result. As the management of arthritis is dependent upon adequate levels of vitamin D, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids to counter inflammation, when following this diet, it is crucial that blood levels of these nutrients are tested frequently and supplementation is considered.
Unfortunately, most diets fail in the long run. If you want to implement sustainable change that is flexible and beneficial to the management of your arthritis, your best approach is to reduce your intake of processed foods and increase your intake of unprocessed, anti-inflammatory plant based wholefoods. Focus on an eating regime that is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole-grains, high grade olive oils, nuts, seeds, avocado and if desired, small amounts of ethically sourced meats such as oily fish.
The quote by author Michael Pollen is quite fitting here.
‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants’