The link between arthritis and food


May 19, 2002|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN; King Features Syndicate

Q. I was eating a piece of chocolate when a friend said, "That's not good for your arthritis." Since then, another friend told me to avoid tomatoes.

All this advice is confusing me. Are there really foods I should avoid, and are there any foods that might help arthritis?

A. Researchers at Tufts University recently reported that small changes in diet might make a difference in arthritis control. Omega-3 fatty acids, found primarily in fish but also in flaxseed, pecans, walnuts, tofu and green leafy vegetables, help fight inflammation. Common oils such as corn, sunflower and safflower oil are full of omega-6 fatty acids and might actually promote inflammation and joint pain.

The researchers suggest at least six servings a day of produce (three vegetables and three fruits) to get adequate vitamin C and beta carotene. They also recommend substituting fish, beans (including soy) and nuts for meat. Vitamin D and fish oil supplements (for those who cannot stomach fish) might also be helpful.

Chocolate and tomatoes might trigger pain for some sensitive individuals. Most folks, however, don't have to avoid these treats. You'll have to be your own judge on whether specific foods trigger your discomfort.

Q. My husband is a waiter and is on his feet all day long. When he comes home he has to prop his feet up for hours because they ache so badly.

He read in the paper that some men are wearing pantyhose to relieve varicose veins, and now he wants me to buy him some. I'm having a hard time imagining him in women's pantyhose. Does someone make an equivalent for men that would have a fly?

A. We located a men's support leotard that has a fly. According to the manufacturer, Ames Walker (877-525-7224), it provides the same medically approved graduated compression found in support hosiery.

Operating-room nurses, surgeons, bank tellers, cashiers and other people who must spend hours on their feet find compression hosiery helpful in combating circulatory problems and leg fatigue. Support stockings are also valuable on long airplane flights to reduce the risk of blood clots forming in leg veins.

Q. I feel as though I am caught between a rock and a hard place. My allergies are awful, but most antihistamines and decongestants warn that they're not to be used by men like me. I have an enlarged prostate, so Benadryl and Sudafed are off-limits. Is there anything natural that would help my allergies and not aggravate my prostate problem?

A. Most over-the-counter allergy medicines contain either an antihistamine or a decongestant that can make urination more difficult for a man with an enlarged prostate. An herbal remedy that might substitute is stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

According to European research, extracts of this herb can do double duty to relieve allergy symptoms and help improve urine flow in men with benign prostate enlargement. Side effects are uncommon.

Q. I am a 70-year-old woman. My cholesterol has always been between 206 and 220, with high HDLs and a good ratio. Last summer, my doctor said 214 is no longer acceptable and put me on Zocor. My HDL was 65.

My cholesterol has now dropped to 145. Since I've read that low cholesterol might be linked to strokes, I am concerned. My mother died of a massive stroke and my father of a cerebral hemorrhage.

My weight and blood pressure are normal, and I exercise daily. When I see my doctor again, should I question the need for Zocor?

A. Low cholesterol has been linked with bleeding strokes. With your family history, you should certainly discuss this with with your physician. Your ratio of total cholesterol to good HDL cholesterol was great even before you started on Zocor. Many experts now believe that this ratio is more important than cholesterol alone.

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