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Arthritis and your nutrition

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What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints in the body and it can be painful and restrictive.

There are over 100 different types but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory response to daily wear and tear or injury. Rheumatoid arthritis however is where the body's immune system attacks its own tissue. Symptoms include pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints.

What can help?

Well, nutrition is vitally important. Eat a balanced diet to maximise your intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients, change the types of fats and oils you eat to include oily fish and olive and rapeseed oil and don't forget to have regular exercise and eat plenty of fruit and veg.

Why is nutrition so important?

The most important link between your diet and arthritis is your weight. Being overweight puts an extra burden on your weight-bearing joints like your back, knees, hips, feet and ankles. So if you are overweight, losing some excess fat will ease the strain on your joints.

What else can I do?

Some foods and supplements in particular can really help with arthritis, although the effects are fairly specific to the type you have. Omega 3 fatty acids, which are abundant in oily fish for example, have been shown to help some people with inflammatory types of arthritis.

What are fatty acids?

Polyunsaturated fatty acids divide into two main groups; omega 3's and omega 6's. The body uses both of these to control and help reduce inflammation. Because essential fatty acids don't occur naturally in our body, we need to get them from food such as oily fish and supplements.

For more information about getting the most out of omega 3's, you can watch The Benefits of Omega 3 video.

Glucosamine for osteoarthritis

Joint cartilage is repaired from building blocks found in glucosamine and chondroitin and it's thought that taking supplements of these natural ingredients may help to improve the health of damaged cartilage.

Glucosamine is available in different forms; capsule, powders, liquids, patches and gels of varying strengths. The normal advice is to try a form that you find easy to take for around three months to assess its effects and to continue to take it if you find it beneficial for your condition.

Glucosamine is available from chemists, health food shops and on the Healthspan website which also has further advice about living with arthritis.

Click here for more articles on arthritis

Sarah Brewer graduated as a doctor from Cambridge University. Having worked in hospitals and general practice, she gained a Master's degree in Nutritional Medicine from the University of Surrey. She is the author of over 60 popular health books and writes widely on all aspects of health including complementary medicine. More from this expert.

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