The most common concern of patients with rheumatic disease is about diet. Patients often ask do we need to follow / avoid any specific diet or food items? There are many myths revolving around diet and exercise in arthritis, this article is an attempt to clarify a few of them.
Myth 1: Sour food items like curd and buttermilk, vegetables like brinjal and citrus fruits like lemon, oranges and grapes will flare up the symptoms.
Fact 1: There is no scientific evidence that cutting down on these foods can help with arthritis. However many patients do observe slight temporary increase in joint pain and stiffness after consuming citrus fruits and curd. So our advice to patients is if you observe increase in joint pain and stiffness after eating a certain food item only then you should avoid that particular food item, otherwise you may continue to have a normal diet. Also we don’t recommend leaving these fruits and vegetables out of your diet completely, because of the important nutrients they provide. So if your symptoms aggravate after having curd, you may continue to have milk for your calcium needs. Similarly if you are not able to have fruits like oranges and grapes include other fruits like banana, pomegranate etc. in your diet.
Myth 2: I do a lot of house hold work so I do not feel the need to exercise.
Fact 2: Even if you do a lot of house work or your job involves a lot of standing / walking, you will still need regular exercise to improve muscle strength and your overall fitness.
Benefits of Exercise in Arthritis:
1. Exercise helps in weight loss: Being overweight puts extra strain on your joints especially weight bearing joints like knees, hips, ankle and feet. And because of the way our joints function, the pressure on knees is 6-8 times of your body weight when you walk/ squat. So even slight amount of weight loss can make a big difference.
2. Strengthens muscle: One of the reasons of osteoarthritis is weakness of quadriceps muscle. Exercise helps in strengthening muscles, thereby reducing joint pain.
3. Reduces joint stiffness.
Remember arthritis can make exercise painful, so it is important to find something you can manage and enjoy doing so that you do it regularly. Swimming is particularly a good exercise, if you have arthritis especially spondylitis. Swimming takes the weight off your joint and exercises about all your muscle groups. Cycling and walking are also good as they are low impact exercises which do not put much strain on your joints. Many people find yoga helpful. There are few researches which show effectiveness of yoga in reducing pain in rheumatoid arthritis.
Concluding Tip: Limit exercising when your joints are swollen.