Whether it is your favorite pizza or a cool glass of milk, dairy products form a major part of our diets. Packed with essential nutrients such as calcium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12, zinc, protein, and much more, dairy products can be crucial to a healthy diet. However, could it also impact the symptoms of your arthritis?
There have been various studies looking at how dairy can impact the soreness and pain of your arthritis. One study published in the Journal of Nutrition back in 2015 examined how a diet heavy on dairy products resulted in more frequent cases of low-grade inflammation. This was further cemented by another study of 40,000 people living with osteoarthritis, which found that those who ate more dairy were more likely to need a hip replacement.
So are dairy products harmful?
Although there are studies that show dairy products can have a detrimental effect on the pain and soreness of arthritis, there are many that show its benefits. A survey of 52 clinical studies in Critical Reviews in Food, Science, and Nutrition found that dairy generally offered some anti-inflammatory properties.
Consuming dairy products can be very beneficial to your diet. It can help to reduce the risk of type two diabetes as well as help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. As a child, you were probably told that drinking milk would ensure you grew up big and strong, and this is true. Milk can improve the health of your bones, particularly in children and adolescents, while it can also lower the risk of osteoporosis. Having a diet that is high in dairy and milk can also reduce the risk of childhood obesity and help to improve overall body composition.
However, while dairy products do have a range of benefits, there are several downsides, too. Dairy is known for being high in fat, which can result in high cholesterol levels. This can be very damaging to your health and can lead to coronary heart disease. There are also increasing concerns about the possible impact that growth hormones in milk can have on the human body, but research on this is still ongoing.
Are milk and dairy good or bad for arthritis?
Given that milk is proven to help improve the strength of your bones and their development, you might think that drinking it will improve your arthritis. The recommendation to consume dairy products will depend on the type of arthritis that you are suffering from. One study by Harvard on women living with osteoarthritis found that there was a slower progression of the condition in those that were regularly consuming dairy, particularly for those who were drinking milk.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis in the world, typically occurring in older people when the tissue in their joints begins to break down. For some individuals, it can be a very minor inconvenience, while others can have a lot of stiffness and pain. The Harvard study found that 90% of women drinking low or fat-free milk were able to reduce the soreness they felt. However, for the men in the study, there were no signs of improvement.
Dairy products do not just help with osteoarthritis, though. Studies have shown that eating yogurt and milk can reduce the symptoms of gout. Gout is another very common form of arthritis, typically affecting the joint in the big toe, as well as the knees and ankles. This condition can normally flare up for several days, while some individuals will experience stiffness and pain for a lot longer. Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid, and eating one yogurt a day or drinking skim milk can help to lower the levels of this acid in the body.
Further research found that drinking standard skim milk or incorporating glycomacropeptide-enriched lactose powder can help to reduce the pain of gout, although not the frequency. Consuming dairy products can also help with various other forms of arthritis, including fibromyalgia and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Of course, like any food, it is best to eat in moderation and not to eat too much of any one kind. Too much dairy can result in weight gain while also increasing the risk of breast and prostate cancer. Drinking too much milk can also lead to acne breakouts, bone fractures, and inflammation.
What other foods should you eat or avoid?
If you are struggling with stiffness and pain from arthritis, then there are certain foods that you should try to avoid and certain ingredients you should include. When it comes to food to avoid, these include:
- Processed foods
One of the first things that you want to remove from your diet is processed foods. Things such as pre-packaged meals and baked goods contain lots of trans fats which can result in an increase in inflammation.
Everyone is partial to some sweet treats, but too much sugar can be harmful to the body. When we digest sugar, our bodies release a protein known as cytokines, and too many of these can result in inflammation.
- Fried foods
Another range of foods that you should remove from your diet is fried foods. These meats can lead to an increase in weight as well as inflammation, which can make the pain and stiffness of arthritis even more.
Alcohol can be a very harmful substance to the body and can lead to an array of health issues. Regular consumption can also make arthritis worse, not only through inflammation but also by reducing the quality of your sleep.
While cutting these foods out from your diet can help to reduce the stiffness and soreness that is commonly associated with arthritis, incorporating additional foods can help to reduce this further. Some of the best foods to add to your diet include:
- Omega-3 fats
Certain fats can be very good for the body, and omega-3 fats from fish such as salmon offer fantastic anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce pain.
Another great addition to your diet is nuts. These delicious snacks are full of protein, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin E, which can help to alleviate soreness and stiffness.
Beans are a great source of fiber and protein, as well as being packed with an array of minerals and vitamins to help boost your immune system and improve the symptoms of arthritis.
- Citrus fruits
If you are looking to ditch the sugar but still enjoy a sweet treat, then citrus fruits are a great replacement. Not only are they sweet, but they are packed with vitamin C, too.
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