Firstly, what is Polymyalgia? Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory disorder that usually affects a person in shoulder and upper body regions. Inflammation usually occurs when the body produces substances to protect us from foreign organisms like bacteria and viruses. With disorders such as Polymyalgia and other autoimmune disorders, the body mistakenly releases substances to attack invaders that are not actually there and the body ends up attacking its own joints and tissues. Since inflammation is the problem, the best diet for Polymyalgia Rheumatica is an anti-inflammatory diet. This type of diet will help reduce the body’s overall inflammation and hopefully a reduction in symptoms will follow. It also a good idea to have a diet that is high in calcium and vitamin D because some PMR medications can increase the risk of Osteoporosis.
It has not yet been 100% proven that a specific diet will impact PMR symptoms in a significant way. Everybody is different and particular foods may make some people feel better whilst have a negative impact and side effects on others. Its a good idea to eat a well-balanced diet and to keep track of new foods that you do introduce to see if they help your individual body.
Fight The Inflammation!
Researchers have found that the best diet contains foods which help to control inflammation. Many of these foods are found in the “Mediterranean diet”, which concentrates on fish, vegetables and olive oil, among other staple foods.
Fish, fish the glorious dish - Certain types of fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies and other cold-water fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation in the body.
Ideally consume at least 100 grams, twice a week.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants especially colourful fruits like strawberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges, tomatoes and leafy greens like spinach and kale. These foods support the immune system and may aid in fighting against inflammation.
Try to consume at least 1½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per meal.
Go nuts! Nuts are packed full of inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fat, protein and filling fibre too. The best kind of nuts to eat are pistachios, almonds, pine nuts and walnuts. Consume about a handful, it’s a great idea to have a handful of nuts before bedtime as the protein will help regulate your blood sugar during the night and assist a good night’s sleep.
Get on the bean scene. Beans contain several antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They are great source of fibre, protein, folic acid and minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium plus they are affordable. There are many beans to try such as black beans, kidney beans and garbanzo beans. Try to eat one cup, twice a week.
Olive oil is healthy oil which provides energy and contains antioxidants and oleocanthal which can help to lower inflammation and alleviate pain. It can be used as a salad dressing or a topping on cooked vegetables or even dip your favourite bread in it.
Recommended daily dose is 2 to 3 tablespoons per day.
The vegetable worth crying for. Onions reduce the risk of heart disease and are stacked with beneficial antioxidants. They may also reduce inflammation and bad cholesterol. There are many different ways to prepare them such as grilled or raw in salads, stir-fries, in soups, on the barbeque or even sandwiches.
Stay regular while you are at it! Consuming fibre from fruit and vegetables lowers C-reactive protein (CRP),which is a substance in the blood that indicates inflammation. Foods that have carotenoids, the antioxidants that provide peppers and carrots and some fruits their colour, are particularly good at lowering CRP.
Calcium And Vitamin D
Because some of the medications used to manage Polymyalgia increase the risk for osteoporosis, it is a good idea to eat foods high in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium has the ability to strengthen the bones, and vitamin D can help the bones absorb calcium.
Dairy products are a really good source of calcium such as milk, yogurt, and cheese but make sure that you
always choose low fat options because high fat options contain more saturated fats which does not help inflammation. We can also get calcium from other foods such as spinach, sardines with bones and broccoli too.
Vitamin D can be absorbed by being outside and having exposure to the sun. Some foods which are high in vitamin D, include:
fortified dairy products
Foods to watch out for
Salt – There have been mixed reports on salt. We know it causes fluid retention which can be a factor leading to high blood pressure. Some medications such as corticosteroids can cause the body to retain more sodium. Discuss salt with your doctor and possibly ease up on it
Alcohol – There is a substance in red wine called Resveratrol, which may have anti-inflammatory effects
however overall people with Polymyalgia should drink in moderation if at all. Alcohol can impact the effects of some medications (such as methotrexate) too so discuss with your doctor.
Nightshade vegetables – It may be worth doing an experiment from nightshades such as eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. The jury is out on whether or not nightshades impact symptoms. Try cutting nightshades from your diet for two weeks or so to see if symptoms improve.
Other foods to avoid that have been linked to inflammation include processed foods, red meat, processed meat (lunch meats, hotdogs), white bread, pastries, margarine, fried foods and foods with added sugar.
Don’t forget water! Staying hydrated can help to combat inflammation. Adults should drink 2-3 litres of water per day, you may even feel like getting a little wild by adding a squeeze of lime or lemon to your drinking water.
Paying closer attention to your diet can make a difference so try to eat healthier. A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables.
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