So far we have covered the signs and symptoms of arthritis (part 1), the Eastern or Chinese medicine view of arthritis (part 2), and how treating the body as a whole is better than just treating symptoms (part 3). Today we are going to look at how to nourish the body with real food so that it has all the nutrients it needs to make strong healthy tissue.
In my clinical experience, I have found that most people are surprised when I ask them about their dietary habits when coming in for musculoskeletal complaints. I believe that we truly are what we eat and that symptoms are the body’s way of asking for nutrients it is not getting. With arthritis symptoms the tissues crying for help are the bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. It is the musculoskeletal system that is out of balance and in need of nourishment. By feeding the body the right kinds of food and eliminating the wrong foods we can begin to heal the body.
In order for the body to work efficiently it needs the right building blocks and right nutrients. This includes the body's ability to repair. So the first step in healing any health condition is to clean up the diet. We do this by eating real food. This may seem like a silly statement, but most people who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) are overfed but extremely malnourished. This is because they eat a lot of calories but they don’t get a lot of nutrients. It is possible to be overweight and still starving due to lack of nutrients. In the United States we have an obesity epidemic, many people today don’t even know what healthy food is.
So what is real food?
It is natural, unprocessed and preferably organic food, free from chemicals and synthetic adulterations. Michael Pollan said it in his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, “shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle”. Avoid the middle aisles of the grocery store because all that you will find there is processed “food like substances”, not real food. Avoid boxed food, or food with a long shelf life. Our food should rot, if not it's not really food. For example, you can take a McDonald's burger and leave it on a shelf for years and it will not rot, mold or change much at all. Ingredient lists should be short and you should be able to read all the words, if you can’t read it don’t eat it.
The old food pyramid with the bulk of the diet coming from Grains (6-11 servings) is wrong and leading to the inflammation epidemic of today. When we give our body food devoid of nutrients, it doesn’t know what to do with it, so it just stores it until it can figure out what to do with it. Our bodies are starving for nutrients and by giving it empty calories we are depriving it of the building blocks of good health.
The real food pyramid should have Greens and Colorful vegetables as the bulk of the diet, followed by proteins, water, fruit, Omega 3 fats, Herbs and spices, and the top being reserved for herbal teas, coffee and maybe some dark chocolate. Grains are not an essential part of a healthy diet. (1)
We need to eliminate the fake foods, the addictive processed foods that is void of real nutrients, but full of chemicals. We must replaced them with real nutrient dense foods if we want our health to improve.
Sugar including: refined sugar, sugar substitutes (splenda, aspartame, nutrasweet, etc), store bought juices, candy and other white sugar containing food, soda pop, cookies, snack bars, cereal bars, protein bars, etc.
Foods made with white flour including crackers, pretzels, bagels, bread.
Fast food and processed food.
Vegetable oils such as cotton seed, corn, soy, and canola. This includes fake butters and margarine.
Dairy and soy products.
Alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, and spirits)
Home Cooked Food.
Unprocessed natural organic produce (preferably in season)
Pseudo grains (amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa)
Grass fed / pastured organic meats and poultry including organ meats,
Eggs from free range chickens eating an omega 3 rich diet.
Wild caught fish and seafood
Healthy fats: coconut oil, olive oil, avocados
By making this shift you will see huge improvements in your health beyond the improvements of your arthritic pain. My patients also report improvements in energy levels, weight loss to a healthy weight, skin conditions improve, fewer headaches, indigestion resolves, and less insomnia.
You may be asking why would changing my diet affect my arthritis? Like I said before, we are what we eat and if we keep eating the standard american diet all we are really feeding is our inflammation. With arthritis, there is an underlying level of chronic inflammation which can be greatly improved with a healthy diet. The top 5 inflammatory foods are: sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy, and processed vegetable oil. So by shifting to a real food diet we are reducing the inflammatory foods while increasing the anti-inflammatory foods that will actually heal the body.
To learn more about how to eat your way healthy stay tuned to the next in this series, or check out my ebook The Arthritis Answer: Your Step by Step Guide to Living Pain Free. If you would like one on one help reach out to yenwellness.com and set up and appointment with me where we can make an individual plan for all your health needs.