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Can you eat to baat arthritis AND DITCH THE DRUGS? There's now increasing evidence that an antiinflammatory diet could ease arthritis symptoms, and a new book explores if food could be an effective alternative to medication.

Byline: Caroline Jones reports

Arthritis is a disease that affects a shocking 10 million people in the UK, causing painful joints and disability for many sufferers.

But whether you have osteoarthritis, the most common wear-and-tear type, or the debilitating autoimmune variety, rheumatoid arthritis, there's increasing evidence that what you eat could influence symptoms.

And although experts are quick to point out there's no proven diet cure, certain foods have been shown to fight inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system, all of which can help ease symptoms. In a new book, A Quest For Well-Being: How Much Does Food Hold The Key?, Marina Young, charts a successful diet-based approach to tackling her rheumatoid arthritis, which reduced symptoms to the point where she could even stop medication completely.

"The more I looked into the latest scientific papers, the more convinced I was of a link between certain foods and inflammatory conditions like arthritis," Marina says. "I found modern eating habits - too many processed foods, carbs, sugars and a severe lack of fibre - could trigger the release of inflammatory messengers, cytokines, that are linked to arthritis. I stopped eating these and started eating more inflammation-fighting foods and am now living pain free."

The inflammation-disease link

Inflammation occurs when the immune system attacks the body, as in rheumatoid arthritis. It's not clear why this happensbut, as a result, body tissues are damagedand these release inflammation-causing chemicals. Experts now believe inflammation also has a role in the joint damage that leads to osteoarthritis.

How can food help?

"What seems to happen is certain nutrients dampen the production of these chemicals that trigger inflammatory processes," explains nutritional immunologist Professor Phillip Calder, from Southampton University. "They reduce inflammation and, as a result, the pain this causes."

What you need to be eating

Researchers have found a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytochemicals supplies the body with powerful antiinflammatory nutrients.

"These foods are commonly part of a Mediterranean-style diet of fish, olive oil, fruits, veg, nuts, seeds and beans," Prof Calder adds.

People on this diet have also been found to have a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis, compared to those who eat a more sugarladen Western diet. While other studies found changing to a Mediterranean diet can ease pain and stiffness in those already with arthritis.

Professor David Isenberg, leading rheumatology expert and spokesperson for Arthritis Research UK stresses that "everyone is different" and what works for one person, like Marina, might not work for another.

He also stresses that no one should come off medication without consulting their doctor. However, they are currently funding research into the link between bacteria in our gut and inflammatory arthritis.

"Some people find changing their diet improves their symptoms," he says. "Some find that following a Mediterranean-style diet is helpful."

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 23, 2016
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