IN Pakistan, Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of the many chronic inflammatory diseases that predominate in women. The prevalence is about 2.5 times higher in females than males. According to a survey carried out in the largest city of Pakistan, Karachi, about 4,900 patients suffered from Arthritis, among which female to male ratio was 4:1. Among the age group 16-29 years females were most affected, whereas greater number of males presented between 50-75 years of age. Rheumatoid Arthritis is also linked with many other diseases including cardiac, pulmonary and some hormonal diseases. The age of onset of Arthritis varies between twenty to forty years of age. In some forms of Arthritis, for some unknown reasons the defence system of the body attacks the joints (synovium), activating them to thicken. As the growth extends in the joints, it results in damaging the cartilage and bone. If Rheumatoid Arthritis is not taken care of in its initial stages, it results in damaging one’s organs, risk of development of osteoporosis increases, scarring of lungs and heart problems arises in the long run.
When the joints are affected by arthritis, one may be bothered by stiffness in those joints especially in the morning or after sitting for a long time. Joints may become painful, swollen and warm. Loss of joint function occurs. One faces difficulty in performing daily life activities like buttoning shirt or tying shoes etc. One of the core reasons of this is that bones and joints are not taken care of from young age by proper intake of calcium through diet. As a result, when ageing process begins or even before that, scarring of bones starts. One may start experiencing constant fatigue, weight loss and fever. One of the main reasons of Arthritis is the lack of calcium from the young age, especially in women. Along with Calcium, Vitamin-D is also essential as it helps in absorbing Calcium in bones and teeth. One of the richest sources of Calcium is milk and yogurt. Yogurt fortified with Vitamin D helps in the absorption of Calcium in bones and muscles. Exposure of body to sunlight in the morning is also one of the best sources of Vitamin D. Young girls should be given milk and yogurt in order to prevent calcium deficiency. If the deficiency remains until young age, women face problems during lactation period. As calcium is extracted from the bones to be added in the milk, resulting in the erosion and low density of bones. This deficiency goes a long way and results in osteoporosis, arthritis, osteoarthritis and many other problems of the bones and tooth decay. Some of the best sources of calcium includes dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese etc, coconut, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and ladyfinger, nuts such as almonds, seeds such as sesame, celery and chia seeds etc.
It is necessary to take care of one’s dietary routine. Certain amendments need to be made in diet which aid in the cure of the disease. For people with Rheumatoid Arthritis, varieties of fish which are high in omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Other foods to be taken includes garlic, ginger, broccoli, walnuts, berries, spinach, grapes are excellent foods and are found to have anti-inflammatory properties. It is known from many surveys and studies that diet and staying active play a major role in preventing arthritis and many other diseases. While altering one’s diet may help with inflammation, it also promotes overall health of an individual. In our country, a large number of people face joint problems, which cause them to withdraw from daily life activities. As the pains increases, slowly and gradually individuals limit their activities. Staying active from young age and exercising on a daily basis prevents the body from becoming stiff. However, if the problem has already accelerated in one’s body, it is recommended to see an orthopedic surgeon. During active inflammation (stiffness, pain, swelling, redness) rest is recommended for some time. Medication may be prescribed as oral or injections by the doctor.
Each and every part of the body needs to be well kept and well nourished from infancy, as the base or foundation is formed from developing age. Taking a proper and nutritive diet and staying physically active helps prevent Arthritis and slows the progression if one already has Arthritis. Children should be given yogurt and milk from early age so that their muscles and bones develop properly. Certain foods that are well known for fighting inflammation such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, nuts, leafy green vegetables, fatty fish and some fruits should be added in diet on a regular basis. On the contrary, fried foods, sodas, refined carbohydrates, processed meats and foods causes inflammation and should be strictly avoided. As previously said, “Prevention is better than cure” So, by making small changes in our daily routine, one can avoid bigger consequences later on in life.
—The writer, a Gold Medalist, holds MSc. in Foods and Nutrition from College of Home Economics, University of Peshawar.