In this article I would like to look at how a vegan diet is good for the treatment of arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. I want to include why it might be part of the best treatment for, and the best pain relief for, arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. I also want to explain some great benefits of vegetables on arthritis!
Understanding Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis.
Probably the first place to start is what these conditions involve. Arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the joints, causing pain, stiffness and swelling. Ankylosing spondylitis is a specific type of arthritis that primarily affects the spine and pelvic joints.
Both conditions can be, at least partly, managed and mitigated through lifestyle changes, including dietary modifications. A vegan diet can play a beneficial role in reducing inflammation and managing symptoms. Indeed many of the problems associated with these conditions are as a result of the inflammation and swelling that is a natural reaction of the body.
That is not to say it is the only treatment, but it perhaps should be considered alongside others. As with many human conditions the prevention is better than the cure, so the earlier you implement a useful change of lifestyle the better. That is not to say that those that have had this condition for sometime cannot benefit from the dietary advice’ as they generally can but the earlier it is adopted is probably the better.
Having said that, nothing in this article is there to suggest you do not need a healthcare professional’s advice. If you have come to this page you have probably already done this, but even so I need to make it clear from the outset. The advice given here is intended only to supplement such a professional’s recommendations/treatments and not to replace them.
The Anti-inflammatory Benefits of a Vegan Diet.
A vegan diet can be naturally anti inflammatory due to its emphasis on plant based foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds are rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber which help reduce inflammation in the body. Please do not underestimate the value of vegetables and indeed the other foods mentioned here.
Studies have shown that a vegan diet can decrease levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) when compared to a traditional western diet including meat, fish and animal products. Without going into technical details, these studies show THAT and HOW, the vegan diet benefits us by reducing this inflammation ad swelling and subsequently the pain it causes.
Key Nutrients for Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis.
When following a vegan delight for arthritis it is important to ensure an adequate intake of specific nutrients.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These essential fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation. Plant based sources of Omega-3 include flax seeds, chai seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds. Consider incorporating these foods into your daily meals. It is a common misconception that in order to get one’s Omega-3 one has to eat oily fish. This is more a marketing tactic than anything else. In reality, fish cannot produce Omega 3 in the same way that humans and animals cannot produce protein. It all comes down to what is eaten. As well as the above sources, Omega-3 comes from seaweed or algae. When the fish eat the seaweed, algae or prey upon a smaller fish that does, they obtain the Omega-3. One can of course get Omega-3 by buying seaweed or a supplement. I would respectively suggest that one reads the label to make sure that any supplements are vegan in nature.
- Vitamin D: This vitamin is important for bone health and may play a role in reducing inflammation. While sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, vegan friendly options include fortified plant based milks and supplements.
- Calcium: Calcium is crucial for maintaining strong bones and joints. Good plant based sources of calcium include firstly leafy green vegetables, but also tofu, tempeh (both made from soy beans) fortified plant based milks, other vegetables and sesame seeds.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect and repair tissue. Include in your diet a variety of fruits and vegetables like oranges, bell peppers, strawberries and broccoli to ensure sufficient intake. As an aside here the white or pith on the orange segments are the greatest source of vitamins. Although some people find it a little bitter it really should be eaten with the orange segment.
- Turmeric: This spice contains curcumin a compound known for its anti-inflammatory properties, amongst other benefits. Add to your meals or consider taking curcumin supplements to potentially alleviate joint pain and inflammation. There are some warnings for people with heart conditions against taking turmeric. If this is you then I suggest you consult your doctor or dietitian before supplementing your diet with this spice.
Foods to include in a Vegan Diet for Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Fruits and vegetables: Aim For a colorful variety to obtain a wide range of essential nutrients and antioxidants
- Whole Grains: Choose whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa and oats to increase fiber intake and promote gut health.
- Legumes: Lentils Beans and chickpeas are excellent sauces of plant based protein, fiber, and anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Nuts and seeds: Include almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, chai seeds, and hemp seeds for Omega 3 fatty acids and essential minerals.
- Healthy fats: Incorporate avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil in moderation to provide healthy fats.
- Herbal teas: Consider herbal teas, like ginger, green tea, and chamomile to further promote antioxidant and anti- inflammatory effects
- Vitamin B-12. Many vegans (myself included) take a vitamin supplement, particularly B-12. Apologies for repeating this for those that have read many of the articles on this website, however, there will be people coming to the site just to read this post. Though if you are interested in going vegan, even if it is someway off yet and you are just considering it at present, I would encourage you to read more of my website. This vitamin is naturally found in bacteria that live in the soil. It gets onto plants that grow in this soil. However, with the modern intensive farming methods that are mostly employed now relatively few animals live much of their life outdoors, and are fed largely processed high protein food so lack the vitamin B-12 themselves. The result is these animals are given a B-12 supplement themselves.
Consulting with a Healthcare Professional and Personalization.
As stated previously it is vital to consult with the health care professional or registered dietitian before making any significant dietary changes, especially if you have arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis. The severity of your condition, medications, an individual nutritional needs may require personalisation by the vegan diet to ensure optimal results.
Working with a healthcare professional can help go to personalized meal plan specific to your needs and to monitor your progress.
So for those suffering with arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis a vegan diet can have huge benefits alongside other necessary treatment and medication. However, undertaking a vegan diet need at least some planning and organization, if this is done it can ensure optimal nutrient uptake.
Whilst you may well have come here just for the details in respect of these conditions there are a couple of other points I would like to make.
Firstly, there is a lot of advice about taking cider apple vinegar to combat ankylosing spondylitis. I see that some people are recommending you consume 30 to 60 ml of this per day mixed with water or other drinks. I am not an expert in this field. However, from what I have seen there is some anecdotal evidence of this providing benefits to those with this condition. However, through clinical trials I read that there is no proven medical research that supports such an approach.
Finally, whilst I have written here of the benefits of a vegan diet for these two conditions I would like to add that there are a great many other advantages to this lifestyle. Firstly, properly managed it is healthy and we see that it helps to prevent many medical conditions directly related to the consumption of animals and animal products, these range from heart disease, intestinal problems to obesity and some cancers. And if you would care to look in the about me page you will see some impact that a vegan diet had on my health.
Without eating fish, meat and meat products you are also playing your part in at least reducing the dreadful treatment and slaughter of animals that we have deemed suitable for such treatment and the over fishing of our seas.
You are also helping our planet. The production and consumption of livestock is a major contributor to the deforestation of the amazon, the massive use of water and the vast increase in the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere. Please consider a vegan diet not only for these conditions, but for your general health, for animals and for the planet.
Can I at this point recommend the Spondylitis Association of America for further information on this condition. They also produce an anti-inflammatory cookbook to help them raise funds. Please note I receive no commission from recommending this site but have found them during discussions to be good people trying to help out. The link to their cookbook is here, just click.
Thank you for spending the time to read my article. If you have any questions of feedback on this article or the website in general, please do not hesitate to contact me below.