By Kelley Herring
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It affects nearly 27 million people in the United States alone, and more than 40% of people over the age of 70.
This debilitating disease occurs when cartilage in the joints breaks down. As the protective cushion deteriorates, bones begin to rub against one another. The end result is pain, inflammation, disability and a significant decline in the quality of life.
And while a number of factors can increase the risk of OA – including age, genetics, high impact jobs and the mechanical stress associated with carrying extra body fat – new research shows that your diet can also play a big role in the development and progression of the disease.
Today, we cover the links between a high carbohydrate diet and the development of OA. You’ll also discover the two (surprising!) dietary factors that are most problematic. And how you can eat to prevent arthritis… as well as reduce pain and symptoms in case you’re already suffering.
Stopping Arthritis Pain at the Source
In conventional medicine, the first-line treatments for degenerative arthritis are anti-inflammatory and painkilling drugs. Many doctors also advocate for joint replacement surgery.
Of course, with the “opiod epidemic” in full swing, we understand the risks associated with painkillers. In addition, there are also significant risks associated with surgical treatment, including infection, rejection or implant illness, and a potentially long recovery.
However, new research shows there may be safer and better ways to prevent and treat OA: Your diet!
We’ve long known that free radicals and the “oxidative stress” caused by these compounds plays an important role in most chronic diseases. And arthritis is no exception…
A recent study, published in Pain Medicine, evaluated the levels of oxidative stress in test subjects and how these levels are correlated with painful symptoms. The researchers already knew that lower oxidative stress is associated with less pain.1
But they also sought to discover which diet could reduce oxidative stress the most – and therefore provide pain-relief for those suffering degenerative arthritis.
The researchers examined a group of subjects over the age of 65 – all of whom experienced arthritic pain and damage in their knees. The subjects were split into three groups and prescribed a diet. One group followed a low-carb diet. Another followed a low-fat diet. And the third group ate as they normally would.
Every three weeks, the researchers analyzed the patients’ levels of pain and oxidative stress. What they found was a strong link between a low-carb diet and reduced pain.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Robert Sorge, said: “People can reduce their pain with a change in diet.” He also noted that eating fewer carbs is a “great way to reduce the use of pain relievers and improve general health.”
Fiber & Sugar: A Painful Combination?
It’s no secret that a high-carb diet elevates blood sugar, increases inflammation and promotes oxidative damage. But there’s another way your carb-addiction could cause painful joints – by altering your microbiome.
A study published in Disease Models & Mechanisms found that the carbohydrate composition of diets increased the risk of osteoarthritis in animals (even when the animals didn’t differ in weight).2
According to the lead researcher, Dr. Timothy Griffin, “We know increased body fat elevates risk, but we haven’t appreciated as much how diet affects the disease risk. […] There can be significant dietary effects linked to increased OA risk – even in the absence of obesity.”
In the study, the primary culprits that increased OA risk were fiber and sugar.
The researchers found that a high-sugar diet increased signs of inflammation in the joints. No surprise there. But they also discovered that a high-fiber diet caused unhealthy changes in cellular stress-response pathways and the genes that regulate cartilage production and repair.
This might come as a surprise, as fiber is often touted as a “necessary” component of a healthy diet. But this study indicates that fiber may have a dark side, when it comes to OA.
Your Personalized Pain-Relieving Plate: Eat to Alleviate Discomfort
Adopting a low-carb or ketogenic diet has been shown to benefit nearly every form of chronic disease. It can also go a long way toward alleviating the pain of OA by:
- Stabilizing blood sugar
- Reducing oxidative stress
- Lowering systemic inflammation
- Positively altering the microbiome
Of course, achieving an ideal weight, optimizing vitamin D levels, getting adequate sleep and engaging in healthy movement are also important for overall health.
If you have OA a low-carb diet just might be just the change you need to improve your mobility and quality of life. To get started, here are some simple and delicious low-carb and keto meal ideas:
- Pastured eggs and sugar-free bacon with sliced avocado
- Wild sardines with arugula salad
- Grass-fed franks with mustard and sauerkraut
- Grass-fed ribeye with sautéed onions and steamed broccoli
- Wild salmon coconut curry over cauliflower rice
- Pastured pork with olives and Romaine salad
For more health & wellness articles by Kelley Herring, visit our Discover Blog.
Kelley Herring is the author of the brand new book Keto Breads – which includes more information you need to know about why it is so important to avoid wheat and grains in your diet, plus how to use healthy replacements for these foods to create all the breads you love… without the gluten, carbs and health-harming effects. Click here to learn more about Keto Breads…
- Strath LJ, et al. The Effect of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets on Pain in Individuals with Knee Osteoarthritis. Pain Med. 2019 Mar 13.
- Donovan EL, et al. Independent effects of dietary fat and sucrose content on chondrocyte metabolism and osteoarthritis pathology in mice. Disease Models & Mechanisms, 2018.