At the end of any lecture to lay or medical audiences on arthritis - someone is sure to ask: 'Does diet affect arthritis? Should I avoid certain foodstuffs and drinks?'
The quick answer in most cases is NO. But eating too much and increasing weight is highly undesirable. Excess weight lessens mobility and the sufferer is less likely to move his joints or to take enough exercise.
Eating a properly balanced diet is highly desirable for the arthritic patient but it often seems that 'fads outumber the facts'.
Since the early 70's, people have become much more health conscious and it is fashionable to be fit - jogging, fitness clinics, tennis and squash clubs have become popular and not surprisingly, a host of 'food experts' and health shops have sprung up like dandelions after a spring rain. There are too many UNQUALIFIED people making claims for diet and arthritis that simply are not valid.
Scientists are engaged in the study of nutritional therapy and its relation to arthritis. Much work is also being done on the interaction between food and the body's immune system but until there is more proof, patients should make every effort to maintain a well balanced diet and be sceptical of any claims for 'miracle cures', including 'fad diets',
It is advisable that Gout patients, who are overweight, should try to achieve their normal weight if possible but your weight control measures must be supervised. Do NOT go on faddish starvation diets. This can result in raising your serum uric acid and can AGGRAVATE YOUR GOUT.
Clinical dieticians point out that arthritic patients are usually on medication some of which impare ability to tolerate certain foods - in these cases, the doctor may advocate modifications or supplements.
Overweight people, - for instance, patients with osteoarthritis - may gain weight because their activity is limited. Increasing their activity level, thus reducing weight, is something that is often hard to achieve, especially when every movement may be causing pain. Your doctor or dietician may advise a low calorie diet to keep your weight in check.
If the diet is adequately balanced - even if it is low in calories - patients will NOT feel fatigued.
However, many patients with rheumatoid and other inflammatory types of arthritis often feel fatigued and short of energy. Usual!y this is because of the disease itself, not because of the low calorie diet.
Doctors also point out that vitamin supplements can be dangerous if taken in excess, particularly the fat soluble vitamins A D E and K, for they accumulate in certain tissues of the body, such as the liver and cause disease. The so-called mega doses (very large doses) of vitamins, popular at one time, did occasionally cause disaster. Too much of a Good Thing, as the old saying goes, can be a Bad Thing!
Nutrition is big business today! The sales of products like health foods and vitamin supplements averaged R1 900 million in the USA last year to say nothing of the amounts spent on the purchases of useless copper bracelets, magnetic necklaces and the like!
Much research is going on but meanwhile do not waste YOUR money on new dietetic cures or miraculous food supplements without your doctor advising you. Above all, avoid fad diets which are so often given prominence by the lay press, they can be dangerous.