Osteoarthritis or knee pain is characterized by swelling, stiffness, redness, and pain in the knees. It is the wear and tear of the cartilage that provides protective padding for the bones in the knee joint.
This wear and tear occurs as a result of age and overworking of the knees. It mostly occurs in people aged 50 and above.
Going through ages of physical activity such as standing, running, walking and the likes can affect the normal function of the knees and make them weak.
As the cartilage becomes weak and the protective padding gives way, bone growths occur, which damages the ligaments and narrows the space between the knee joints subsequently causing them to rub painfully against each other.
Osteoarthritis is one of the negative impacts of inflammation. Inflammation results when the body reacts to a foreign pathogen, microbe or harmful agent. Obesity, age, and high sugar levels in the blood can trigger the production of antibodies that induce inflammatory responses. Severe inflammation can lead to diseases like Osteoarthritis or knee pain.
WHAT CAUSES OSTEOARTHRITIS (KNEE PAIN)?
Aside from the wear and tear of the cartilage due to age, other factors may subject one to being at risk of developing Osteoarthritis. They include :
Heredity: Having a family history of arthritis can expose one to the risk of developing the disease.
Gender: Women are more prone to developing Osteoarthritis than men. This could possibly be as a result of the effects of menopause when estrogen levels reduce drastically. A well-defined cause is not known.
Overworking the knees: placing too much impact or pressure on the knees consistently can lay a foundation for the disease to develop. Excessive weight gain can lay a burden on the knee joints which can cause the knee joints to become weak.
Other activities such as bending the knees and squatting too often can also place unnecessary pressure on the knees.
Knee injury: Can damage the joints and cause long term effects such as the occurrence of Osteoarthritis. Injury may not result in the immediate appearance of the disease but may trigger it in the long run.
HOW DOES DIET RELATE TO KNEE PAIN?
Osteoarthritis does not have an established cure but the symptoms can be relieved through certain medications and lifestyle changes that include exercise and following a diet that contains foods rich in anti-inflammatory properties.
Treatment for Osteoarthritis is restricted and only controls the symptoms. Some treatment options may include taking medications like Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, steroid injections, orthobiologic injections that are obtained from the stem cells of a baby’s placenta or from human platelet-rich plasma, that can be used to induce the growth of other cells.
Other methods include taking hyaluronic acid injections that lubricate the synovial joint of the knees, using an uncommon type of braces known as unloaders that remove or reduces pressure from areas of the knees where the cartilage has been subjected to wear and tear and undergoing Surgery.
All of these treatment options have dents with the exception of dieting. NSAIDs, when taken continuously, can induce stomach ulcers, kidney failure, stroke, and heart attack. steroid and hyaluronic acid injections have short-lived effects and may not work for some people.
Orthobiologic injections are relatively new and have no scientific backing to prove it’s effectiveness. Moreso, it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Surgery involves total removal of knee joints and has a high-risk rate and should only be used when no other alternative remains.
With all these side effects associated with the treatment of Osteoarthritis, the best bet to counteracting symptoms of the disease will be following a diet. Diet cannot cure Osteoarthritis, but it goes a long way in abating the symptoms.
Studies have shown how diet plays an important role in the battle against Osteoarthritis. In addition to helping to combat inflammation, a good diet can help people with the disease lose weight and reduce cholesterol levels. This is quite helpful as obesity can make the symptoms of Osteoarthritis worse because of the extra pressure placed on the knee, while a high cholesterol level can bring about an inflammatory response.
A GOOD OSTEOARTHRITIS DIET
A good osteoarthritis diet typically contains food rich in anti-inflammatory properties and other healthy nutrients. The diet helps in reducing inflammation, reducing cholesterol that aggravates the condition, and helps to reduce weight gain that can negatively affect the knee joints. Below is a list of foods that make for a good Osteoarthritis diet.
Fruits rich in Vitamin C: Aside from its great antioxidant properties that help fight off infections and diseases in the body, it helps to build up the cartilage and prevents wear and tear. A diet lacking in vitamin C can result in the gradual and progressive weakening of the cartilage which can lead to Osteoarthritis.
Fruits such as orange, grapefruit, kiwi, and papaya are all good sources of vitamin c. It can also be found in tomatoes and peppers.
Beans: This food from the legume family of foods is fiber-rich which means it can help reduce the number of levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) contained in the body, which plays the role inflammation pointer in the blood. It is also rich in minerals such as magnesium and zinc that strengthens the bones.
Food containing Omega 3 fatty acids: These are a form of polyunsaturated fats that provide anti-inflammatory actions. They produce resolving, a chemical that halts the inflammation process in cases of Osteoarthritis.
They also play an indispensable role in the prevention of heart diseases in people with Osteoarthritis by trimming down the level of triglycerides in the body.
They are present in fishes like oysters, mackerel, herrings, shrimps, anchovies, and sardines. They are also found in walnuts, chia, and flax seeds and in algae. They can be taken in form of supplements like fish and cod liver oil.
Foods filled with Leafy and dark green Vegetables: These vegetables of vibrant green color are a necessity in an Osteoarthritis diet. They are packed full of Vitamins A, C, and K which are antioxidants that hamper the effect of joint attacking free radicals.
Examples of these vegetables are Swiss chard, cabbage, spinach, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower.
Soya Bean: They contain an estrogenic plant-based compound called isoflavones that are good for the bone and hampers inflammation. They are also crucial for lowering cholesterol levels and hindering the development of cardiovascular diseases.
They can be consumed in it’s modified form such as tofu and soya milk. They are also available in form of capsules and supplements.
Diary milk: The intake of dairy products like milk in people suffering from Osteoarthritis is not well established as it is a topic of controversy among health experts.
While some are of the notion that it serves as a good source of calcium that is good for bone strengthening, others believe it contains a protein that may aggravate joint damage. To play it safe, you can substitute dairy milk with almond milk or its likes.
Oils: Oils such as olive oil contain a compound called oleocanthal that mimics the anti-inflammatory mechanism of NSAIDs.Three and a half tablespoons of olive oil are proportional to 200 milligrams of ibuprofen and are just as effective. Other oils include avocado oil and walnut oil that is super rich in omega – 3 fatty acids.
Garlic and onions: These contain anti-bacterial properties and a compound called diallyl disulfide that lowers the level of enzymes that cause the wear and tear of the cartilage.
Nuts: They contain a variety of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and zinc. They are also rich in Fibre and vitamin E which has strong antioxidants. They also contain a compound called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system.
Green tea: Contains Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) that helps to inhibit the production of molecules that damages the joints. It also contains polyphenols that reduce inflammation and prevents cartilage damage.
SOME FOODS THAT AMPLIFY THE SYMPTOMS OF OSTEOARTHRITIS
The following foods should be avoided while treating Osteoarthritis.
PROCESSED AND SUGAR RICH FOODS: Foods high in sugar or processed foods such as cakes and fast foods can aggravate the symptoms of Osteoarthritis by worsening inflammation and increasing AGEs (advanced glycation end product), which is a toxin that is produced when animal-derived foods are fried, heated or subjected to cooking at a high temperature for a long time.
The body recruits cytokines (a form of proteins) to fight these toxins. Cytokines are pro-inflammatory and can worsen the symptoms of Osteoarthritis. Processed foods can cause systemic inflammation.
OMEGA SIX FATTY ACIDS: These are saturated fats that when consumed in large portions can increase the rate of inflammation in the body by releasing chemicals that trigger the effect. Oils like peanut and vegetable oils contain these acids.
FRIED FOODS: They can raise cholesterol levels which isn’t good for people suffering from Osteoarthritis. It also increases the body’s rate of inflammation.
SALT: An excessive intake of salt can weaken the bones by affecting the amount of calcium contained in the body. It is also known for its role in raising the body’s blood pressure which can negatively affect the health of people suffering from Osteoarthritis.
ALCOHOL: Can worsen Osteoarthritis or knee pain due to the high levels of purine in it. It can also get in the way of Osteoarthritis medications and work against its effectiveness.