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Does Atkins Diet Reduce Joint Pain?

Joint pain is a condition that we all experience occasionally due to physical activity, injuries, etc.  However, as we age, joint pain may become a chronic condition due to arthritis.  There are two main varieties of arthritis:  Osteoarthritis is the more common and affects some 20 million people in the United States alone.  The condition is caused by a gradual loss of cartilage and the resulting overgrowth of bone in the joints.  This causes joint pain (especially in the knees, hips, elbows, and even fingertips) because bone grinds against bone instead of having a cushion of cartilage.

Rheumatoid arthritis, however, is far less common condition and only affects 2 million Americans.  There is no known cause of rheumatoid arthritis but it is a more painful and aggressive condition than osteoarthritis.  Joint pain tends to be more chronic and severe and while no known cause is known, research has linked dietary habits to the onset of symptoms. 

In particular, dairy products are known to trigger joint pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.  The affects vary with some patients having no further joint pain after removing dairy products from their diet.  There are some patients who note no lessening of symptoms but the vast majority of patients saw improvement and less joint pain when dairy products were removed from their diet.  Fat content did not seem to be a factor as skim milk was as likely to produce joint pain as whole milk.  Instead, it is thought the proteins in dairy products were the link but no conclusive research has proven this.

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are also known to decrease when you eat a diet rich in antioxidants (such as orange vegetables like carrots, yams, squash, etc.).  Antioxidants are known to neutralize free radicals (oxygen free radicals attack your body and are known factors in heart disease and joint degeneration).  Most arthritis medicines are anti-inflammatory and are designed to stop free radicals.  Therefore, it is thought that a diet rich in antioxidants can prevent joint pain before it ever becomes a problem by neutralizing free radicals.  

So, at the end of the day, will the Atkins diet help reduce joint pain?  With some modification, yes.  Although fruits and vegetables have carbohydrates in them, the fact is that they are the â??good carbohydratesâ?.  By completely avoiding the processed sugars, breads, and pastas as the Atkins diet recommends, a person can get plenty of antioxidants by eating orange and green vegetables.  The carbs in pears, prunes, carrots, cabbage, spinach, beans, lettuce, and artichokesâ??are relatively low while still rich in antioxidants.  However, there will need to be some modification to the Atkins diet to minimize joint pain for those with rheumatoid arthritis.

High-protein substances like dairy and meat products are known to increase joint pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis.  By limiting intake of both dairy and meat products while making sure to eat foods rich in antioxidants, you can reduce joint pain while still adhering to the Atkins diet.  It is very important to balance protein intake with antioxidantsâ??by doing so, you can still adhere to the diet while minimizing joint pain. 




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