If you’ve been diagnosed with one of the many forms of arthritis, painful and movement-limiting inflammation might be a part of your everyday life. While you should certainly always follow your doctor’s advice and instructions, there are a number of ways you can help to reduce inflammation through your diet and lifestyle.
Many studies have found that diets low or completely devoid of processed foods, including fast food and most of what we generally call junk food, tend to be better for all of us, including those with arthritis. A healthier, well-balanced diet will provide our bodies with more nutrients that can be used to repair and rebuild damaged systems, including joints. A healthier diet also leads to a healthier immune system, which can be key to managing the symptoms of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Many people are discovering the natural anti-inflammatory properties of ginger. Making ginger tea or including fresh or ground ginger in smoothies and other meals gives many the same positive effects of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) without any of the possible negative side effects. Pineapple is another great inflammation-fighting food. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain that has been proven to help reduce various kinds of swelling and inflammation. In addition to being found in pineapple, you can also find bromelain supplements at most drug stores. Other great natural anti-inflammatories include turmeric, garlic, celery, and beets, just to name a few.
Even though it can be hard to exercise when your joints are swollen and achy, light exercise is one of the best ways to manage arthritis symptoms for most people. A little exercise can help improve blood flow and minimize the joint stiffness that comes from inactivity. Weight-bearing exercises like walking can help with lower-body symptoms, while carrying light weights (like canned vegetables) can help with the upper body. For arthritic hands, try squeezing a stress ball or other hand exerciser off and on throughout the day. Swimming and water aerobics are great low-impact ways to get exercise that can help muscles and joints while putting very little stress on joints.
A good night’s rest is critical for all of us, but can be especially beneficial to those who suffer from arthritis. Sleeping well (combined with proper nutrition) gives the body time to do some repairs that can make waking up easier. A restless night means more moving around (tossing and turning), which means that the body isn’t able to get quality down time. A restless night also means well, less rest. Giving our bodies some good “quiet time” helps to relieve inflammation. Pain and stiffness can make it hard to sleep well, so you should try to find ways to relax as completely as possible before bed. A warm bath or shower can help, as can a massage. Consider a massage chair that you can spend a little time in each evening. A good massage can relax muscles, which can lead to better sleep, which can lead to better mornings that start with less inflammation and stiffness. If you can’t afford or don’t have room for a massage chair, try simple heat therapy with a heating pad. A little heat is a great way to relax tense muscles. You also might try a little meditation at bedtime. This doesn’t have to be anything formal or fancy–just spend a few minutes focusing on deep breathing, as this can also help to relax stressed-out or hurting bodies, allowing for a better night’s sleep.