Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, which means it’s caused by the immune system attacking healthy body tissue. According to the NHS, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system mistakenly sends antibodies to the lining of your joints, where they attack the tissue surrounding the joint. This causes the thin layer of cells (synovium) covering your joints to become sore and inflamed.
Depending on how much pain and stiffness you feel and how much joint damage you have, simple daily tasks may become difficult or take longer to do.
Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate these symptoms, greatly improving your quality of life.
Certain dietary decisions have been shown to provide pain relief in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
One such item is olive oil, the natural oil extracted from olives, the fruit of the olive tree.
Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, a type of dietary fat that may help to reduce inflammation and reduce symptoms, according to The Association of UK Dieticians (BDA).
What’s more, it contains a compound called oleocanthal that reduces inflammation and acts like ibuprofen in alleviating pain, says the Arthritis Foundation (AF).
Bolstering the claims, olive oil supplements have been shown to improve inflammatory markers and reduce oxidative stress in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance of unstable atoms called free radicals and substances called antioxidants in the body, which can lead to cell and tissue damage.
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It is believed to play a role in the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Olive oil seems particularly beneficial when combined with fish oil, a source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
In one study, olive and fish oil significantly improved handgrip strength, joint pain and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Olive oil is a staple of Mediterranean-style diet, which is associated with reduced risk of some inflammatory diseases because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
Clinical trials suggested beneficial effects of this dietary pattern on patients with existing rheumatoid arthritis.
A Mediterranean-style diet is based on vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.
In addition to healthy eating, exercising regularly can help relieve stress, help keep your joints mobile, and strengthen the muscles supporting your joints, notes the NHS.
“Exercise can also help you lose weight if you’re overweight, which can put extra strain on your joints,” says the health body.
What is the best type of exercise?
According to the AF, stretching is one of the best ways to reduce stiffness and maintain range of motion, and should be part of every exercise program.
“Start with a three to five minute warm-up – you can march in place and pump your arms either sitting or standing,” the health body advises.
It says to then stretch and hold different muscles and joints for 10 to 20 seconds before releasing.
This should improve flexibility and range of motion.
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