Thursday 17 August 2017

Dear Dr Nina: Is there anything I can change in my diet to improve my arthritis?

Dr Nina Byrnes answers your medical queries

It has been estimated that one-in-six Irish people suffers from arthritis.
It has been estimated that one-in-six Irish people suffers from arthritis.

Nina Byrnes

Dr Nina Byrnes answers your medical queries

Q. I have been recently diagnosed with arthritis. Are there changes to my diet or lifestyle that can help alleviate symptoms?

A. It has been estimated that one-in-six Irish people suffers from arthritis. Women are more likely to be affected than men and it is a factor in up to 30pc of GP consults. There are more than 100 different types. The majority of cases of arthritis present in people over the age of 55. The most common form of arthritis in this age group is osteoarthritis. This develops when cartilage (a tissue that covers the ends of bone in a joint) becomes worn down.  Osteoarthritis is most common in the hips, knees, and spine although it can occur elsewhere.

Obesity makes arthritis worse. The skeleton is put under serious strain by excess body weight. Maintaining activity is vital as exercise helps preserve the movement and function of the joint. Water-based exercise can be especially helpful.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis so the goals of treatment are to reduce pain, improve mobility and improve muscle strength. Be as active as possible as inactivity leads to deterioration of the condition. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen are usually very helpful but long-term use should be under medical supervision. Other analgesia is usually prescribed in a stepwise manner.  Following a recommended exercise plan can provide huge benefits.

Those affected often seek alternative remedies. Glucosamine and chondroitin, minerals derived from shellfish, are often tried. Most benefits were shown for glucosamine sulphate at doses 1,500mg a day but it has had mixed results in studies. I often recommend trying this but if there are no benefits after three months it’s probably not worth continuing, as it doesn’t help everyone.  Fish oils can help and are often recommended. Eating well and leading a healthy active life is paramount in maintaining good joint health.

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