Managing Arthritis During the Active Summer Months

Kim Arrey, author of The Complete Arthritis Health, Diet Guide & Cookbook, talks managing arthritis through simple dietary tweaks

Take control of your arthritis through informed dietary choices

Arthritis is the third most common chronic condition affecting British Columbians aged 15 years and older – this amounts to 15 per cent of B.C.’s population or over 4.6 million Canadian adults (one in six Canadians). According to The Arthritis Society, a total of 18 per cent of women and 12 per cent of men in B.C. report that they suffer from arthritis.

The foods we eat, especially during BBQ season, have a direct impact on the body’s response to inflammation. Kim Arrey, dietician and author of “The Complete Arthritis Health, Diet Guide & Cookbook” recommends a 360-degree holistic approach to pain and inflammation management. An arthritis sufferer herself, Arrey has over 35 years experience helping Canadians take control of their health through their diet.

Click through for Arrey’s tips to manage inflammation in the body through simple dietary changes.

What are the most effective ways to manage inflammation in the body during the summer?

“Foods we eat, particularly during BBQ season, can have a direct impact on the body’s response to inflammation so it is important to make smart food choices by reducing the consumption of highly processed meats, grains and sugars. Look at your diet to be sure it is high in nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory foods and low in the pro-inflammatory foods that are so accessible to us. Even when you’re eating out, there are ways to cut out the added sugar and fat – for instance, ask for olive oil with lemon instead of salad dressing and opt out of fried food and choose steamed vegetables.

“Also, many of us grill our foods at high temperature and this can lead to the formation of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) that seem to be linked to the premature ageing of the tissues which can increase inflammation. Instead, cook foods at a lower temperature in a slow cooker or braise them slowly in the oven to reduce the formation of AGEs. If you really want to BBQ, remember to marinate the meat, fish or chicken in an acidic marinade.

“As part of a holistic approach to pain management, it is important to revisit your medication because, just as with certain foods, some types of arthritis medication can cause upset to your gastrointestinal system. I’ve seen patients avoid important vegetables and fruits as a result of stomach irritation that is actually caused by their over-the-counter pain medication. This can negatively impact their diet and therefore their inflammation. If you are experiencing stomach irritation, it is a good idea to speak to your pharmacist or physician about the medications you are taking (both over-the-counter and prescription) to see if this could be the cause.

“Whether you exercise once a week or daily, we can all make easy changes to our diet. The better you feel from making good diet choices, the more able you will be to enjoy an active life during the beautiful summer months in Vancouver.”

What are some helpful diet tips to incorporate in to our everyday lives?

Pack your diet full of nutrient-rich foods.

  • Fresh veggies and fruit are the most important factors, since they’re abundant in nutrients that can help lower inflammation.
  • Omega-3s and monounsaturated fats can also help lower inflammation. Omega 3s are found in fatty fish like salmon or sardines, and vegetable sources like flaxseed and walnuts. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, avocado and nuts.
  • Choose foods with a lower Glycemic Index.
  • Choose high fiber foods and whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, buckwheat, and bulgur.
  • Choose lentils, chick peas, kidney beans and other legumes and pulses to replace red meat.

How do your clients respond once they’ve changed their diet?

“When it comes to diet, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. However, we do have statistics that show that a Mediterranean-type diet is one of the healthiest and is linked to reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. We do have many case reports of clients who have done very well when they’ve changed their diets. Some clients are able to pinpoint particular “trigger” foods while others see a more general improvement in their well-being.

“One of my clients notices that her arthritis gets worse when she consumes more grilled foods. In the wintertime, she does more stewing and braising and uses her slow cooker and steamer a lot. In the summertime, her family enjoys eating outside and have lots of BBQ meats. And every summer her arthritis gets worse and in the winter it gets better.

“Another client has switched her diet and she finds that she has more energy and is less depressed, better able to deal with her pain. Another has stopped all pain medication since she started her diet. Each client is different, as is each client’s ability to make sustainable dietary changes.”