Diet is an important factor in the prevention and management of any disease. Two main types of diet are vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
They are further divided into different types depending on the intake of certain food products. A vegetarian diet includes different types of diet like vegans, lacto, ovo, lacto-ovo and partial vegetarians.
Vegetarian or Lacto-ovo diet is a type of diet that is devoid of meat, poultry, and fish but includes animal products like eggs and dairy.
A vegetarian diet can have some help in reducing the development of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Similarly, it can have some implication in the management and development of bone-related diseases.
Arthritis is a painful disease affecting the bone joints that can cause distress in patients. It manifests by causing joint pain, inflammation, swelling, and joint stiffness.
Arthritis is usually managed by pain-relieving medication, exercise, and physical therapy.
However, a growing amount of research suggests that diet modification can be very helpful in arthritis management.
Research data suggests that vegetarians experience lesser symptoms of arthritis. Let us proceed with this article by shedding light on how and the mechanism through which a vegetarian diet helps arthritis.
Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet in Arthritis
Benefits of a vegetarian diet in arthritis are due to the low-fat content in them. Research supports the fact that vegetarian diet helps in reducing joint pain in arthritis patients which can lead to improved movements. Inflammation in arthritis can also be reduced by a lacto-ovo diet. It is also scientifically proven in reducing weight and providing antioxidant benefits that are much needed by arthritis patients.
1. Vegetarian Diet Can Alleviate Joint Pain
A vegetarian diet can improve the joint condition by reducing pain and improving joint movements in arthritis patients.
A clinical trial involving 40 participants suffering from arthritis revealed that a diet that is rich in vegetables reduced joint pain.
The mechanism for this effect was due to the reduced fat content which suppresses the biochemicals in the body that ultimately lead to pain.
The benefit of a vegetarian diet in arthritis patient was shown to be present up to one year after the use of this diet.
This data supports the fact that a vegetarian diet is not only simple and inexpensive alternative therapy to reduce pain, but its effects are sustainable too.
What does this mean? A vegetarian diet can reduce joint pain by reducing the fat content in the body. Strong research evidence supports this data.
2. Vegetarian Diet Suppresses Inflammation in Arthritis
Inflammation is a main and common problem in arthritis. All types of arthritis patients experience it. It leads to swelling, redness, and pain in the joints.
A meta-analysis (review and analysis of numerous research trials to arrive at a pooled conclusion) including 18 trials proved that vegetarian diet reduced ‘C-reactive protein’ and ‘interleukins’ which are crucial in the development of inflammation.
In another study published in The American Journal of Nutrition, it was found that a vegetarian diet improved the patients' blood parameters by reducing the concentration of inflammation-causing chemicals.
A vegetarian diet reduces the amount of arachidonic acid, which otherwise is responsible for promoting inflammatory reactions.
Legumes, soy, and vegetables are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help in reducing inflammation by cutting down the production of the chemicals leading to inflammation ( prostaglandins).
What does this mean? Inflammation in arthritis can be reduced by taking a vegetarian diet. This diet helps in decreasing the body chemicals that cause inflammation.
3. Vegetarian Diet Improves Detoxification in Arthritis Patients
Arthritis patients are known to have reduced antioxidant reserve in the body. Lesser levels of antioxidants can lead to a state called as ‘oxidative stress’. Antioxidant supplementation is required to address this issue.
A vegetarian diet includes a high content of vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene which are a potent antioxidant that removes toxins from the body.
Research shows the benefit of a long-term vegetarian diet has a better antioxidant capacity when compared to non-vegetarians.
Therefore, a vegetarian diet can provide a better antioxidant store in the body that can help in reducing oxidative stress in arthritis patients.
What does this mean? Vegetarians have a good amount of antioxidant that can benefit arthritis patients in replenishing their antioxidant stores and promote detoxification.
4. Vegetarian Diet Can Help Arthritis Patient in Weight Reduction
Obesity is a common problem among arthritis patients. Reducing excessive body fat is a necessary therapeutic management of arthritis.
A meta-analysis of twelve clinical trials found that vegetarian diet significantly reduced weight in patients when compared with non-vegetarian patients.
The effect of weight reduction is due to high intake of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These foods have a lesser glycaemic index (glucose increase is lesser in the body) and are rich in fiber that promotes weight loss.
What does this mean? Weight control is one of the management of arthritis and it can be attained by consuming a vegetarian diet.
5. Vegetarian Diet Can Reduce the Risk of Heart Diseases in Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis patients are at a higher risk of developing heart diseases in the long run. This can be caused by the same type of chemicals that cause inflammation in arthritis.
A vegetarian diet is well-known to be beneficial in reducing the chances of heart diseases. It works by reducing the amount of fat in the body which leads to less cholesterol.
A clinical trial including 6500 patients proved that a vegetarian has much lesser risks of developing a heart disease when compared with non-vegetarians.
High intake of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants via vegetarian diet can influence the body in producing less inflammation-causing chemicals that are responsible for heart diseases.
What does this mean? A vegetarian diet also lowers the chances of heart diseases. This is beneficial in rheumatoid arthritis patients that are at a higher risk of developing them.
What to Eat and What to Avoid
It is important to take a good amount of proteins when on a vegetarian diet. Consuming nuts, eggs, soy products, beans, tofu, and dairy products can keep protein intake at normal.
Whole grains are better than refined ones. Quinoa, millet, whole grain rice, whole grain pasta, and whole grain bread are good options.
Eating different types of fruits and vegetables is essential to get the minerals and vitamins required by the body. Colorful fruits and vegetables such as must be included as they are excellent sources of nutrients.
Dairy products are also a must to fulfill the vitamin D requirement by the body. Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese can be consumed.
Food to be avoided in a vegetarian ( lacto-ovo) diet are meat, fish (seafood), and poultry. However, in this type of diet, one can consume dairy products, eggs, and cheese which are animal products.
A vegetarian diet is a generally safe and healthy choice of diet that can be adopted by anyone. However, certain precaution is necessary to avoid deficiency of certain minerals and vitamins.
Zinc and selenium content is lower in plant foods. Nut, legumes and fortified breakfast cereals are good choices to obtain these elements.
Vitamin B12 is mainly found in meats and there can be a deficiency in vegetarians. This can be overcome by taking fortified cereals and soy products. Vitamin B12 tablets can also be taken.
Iron deficiency can occur in vegetarians, this can be avoided by increasing the intake of beans, spinach, and dry fruits.
Numerous diet modification methods have been employed to prevent diseases as well as to manage them. Arthritis is one such condition that can benefit through diet modification.
A vegetarian diet has gained a great popularity in research areas in alleviating arthritis symptoms. It also plays a key role in reducing inflammation.
Obesity and weight control effects of a vegetarian diet can hugely benefit arthritis patients in their disease management. Due to its low-fat content fat tissue accumulation can be reduced.
Antioxidants are in abundance in vegetarian food which provides improved detoxification within the body.
Oxidative stress in a common problem in arthritis that is overcome by this diet.
A vegetarian diet is an effective, safe and simple complementary approach in the treatment of arthritis. However, certain precautions must be taken to include all types of veggies to avoid any vitamin and mineral deficiencies.