Thanks to Kaitlin for writing this guest blog on diet. @kaitlincolucci
As a current student at the University of Nottingham studying a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics, I have an interest in all fields of work to do with nutrition and diet. I aim to lead a healthy lifestyle and promote fitness and nutrition in all forms. I want to be able to inform the public and make them more aware of how diet is tied into every aspect of life. My blog aims to get people to think about how diet can influence men and women in new ways, and in ways that they would have never thought of before.
The internet and popular health magazines nowadays are littered with all sorts of nutritional advice on how some foods or supplements can help with chronic pain – arthritis, headaches, osteoporosis to name a few.
There are many foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, of which many are scientifically proven. Plans like the Mediterranean diet are built on the principles of the anti-inflammatory theory. When you talk about a diet that emphasises foods that are said to have an anti-inflammatory effect, the diets are going to look very similar. Each diet emphasises slightly different things but there is a main focus on antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, little to no processed or refined foods, and an emphasis on omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish oils.
For example, red grapes contain a powerful compound, Resveratrol, which blocks the enzymes that contribute to tissue degeneration. There is evidence that resveratrol is particularly useful in the prevention of osteoporosis, especially in women who do not benefit from hormone replacement therapy. The compound of resveratrol also found in red wine, which is popular in the Mediterranean, is more easily absorbed due to the form it is in.
Olive oil is another popular food used in the Mediterranean diet that due to its high content of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (the good fats) has favourable properties of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This is due to the compound known as olive oil phenols that have been shown to reduce the rate of cell death.
One thing we must be aware of is that the majority of studies linking diet to disease are either too small or not reliable in the information they are receiving from the participants, such as an inaccurate recall of the foods they consumed. But this doesn’t mean anti-inflammatory diets are all bad. However, patients shouldn’t expect a miracle cure.
When it comes to pain caused by arthritis, which much of the ageing population is suffering from, it is evident that a bigger contributor to the worsening of this condition is body weight rather than diet. Physical activity has been shown to be significantly more effective at improving tiredness and pain caused by arthritis than any other diet including omega-3 supplementation, the Mediterranean diet and herbal medicine.
For decades old Chinese remedies and herbal medicines have been said to help with pain throughout the entire body. This is something that interests me more and more as old herbal doctors have sworn by these passed down family traditions, and they seem to work without fail. Proper clinical studies to date that have delved into this topic further have shown that herbs like turmeric work the same way in the body as ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and pain. Similar effects have also been found in ginger, long known as a digestive aid. In a recent study, ginger was proved to significantly help women with severe menstrual pain and also reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
Experts warn that diet is meant to enhance, not replace treatments that have been shown to work for eliminating chronic pain. However, following the advice that is out there won’t hurt, and most evidence leads people towards following a healthy and balanced diet, encouraging them to have a healthier lifestyle.