Rheumatoid Arthritis: NHS on common signs and symptoms

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Arthritis can be life-limiting. That’s because swollen and painful joints – the characteristic symptoms – can impair your ability to perform even basic tasks. The key to managing arthritis is to tamp down inflammation where possible. Being aware of the dietary triggers forms part of this process.

The role diet plays in triggering inflammation is complicated. Evidence pertaining to specific items is often scant or conflicting.

A prime example of this is the role dairy products may play in promoting inflammation.

Express.co.uk caught up with Sas Parsad, Founder at The Gut Co, which aims to educate the public about gut health, to understand more about the link.

“Dairy products contain a protein called casein which has been linked to irritation in the tissue around joints,” the gut health expert explained.

He advised: “Switching to plant-based milk can help eliminate this particular trigger, as plant-based milk does not contain casein.”

All cow’s milk and goat’s milk contains casein, so this includes dairy cheeses, milk, cream, ice cream and any products containing cow or goat’s milk.

Jury is out

A note of caution is needed. The association does not mean you should shun all dairy products from your diet.

As Mr Parsad pointed out, “dairy can have many benefits and is often associated with strong bones and teeth”.

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Researchers are also yet to pin down which, if any, components in milk trigger inflammation.

Studies have produced conflicting results. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2015 found that eating dairy foods increased low-grade inflammation in a small sample of German adults.

And a study of more than 40,000 people with osteoarthritis (OA) found that those who ate more dairy products were more likely to need hip replacement surgery.

On the other hand, several studies have found that drinking milk and eating yogurt can lower the risk of gout.

What’s more, A 2017 review of 52 clinical studies, published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, concluded that dairy generally has anti-inflammatory effects, except in people allergic to cow’s milk.

Still, the authors of that review noted there’s surprisingly little known about what components of dairy products might be helpful versus harmful.

Milk-based products contain all sorts of nutrients and active compounds, including calcium, vitamin D and a variety of fats and proteins. And the proportions of those nutrients vary from food to food.

“Anecdotally, some people with arthritis and related conditions find that avoiding certain foods can reduce flares,” reports the Arthritis Foundation (AF).

The AF continues: “For others, dietary choices don’t seem to make much difference.

“To find out if you’re sensitive to cow’s milk, you might consider an elimination diet. You simply cut out dairy for a while and then reintroduce it to see how you respond.”

What does the health body advise?

“If you decide to cut back on dairy, make sure you’re choosing other foods with those nutrients.”

Good sources of calcium include:

  • Collard greens
  • Kale, soybeans
  • Chickpeas
  • Almonds
  • Calcium-fortified juices
  • Non-dairy milks (soy, almond, hemp, rice).

For good sources of vitamin D, look to eggs and fortified juices, cereals and non-dairy milks.

Incidentally, the Government urges everyone to consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter. This is due to the lack of sunshine making people more prone to deficiency.

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