Nutrition And Your Health: Your Dietary Changes Can Treat Or Prevent Disease

Your diet can determine much about your health, as we’re all aware. What isn’t so obvious are the specific dietary measures you can take to avoid or reduce the affects of diseases and illnesses. In this series of articles, we’ll delve into nutrition and your diet and how that can affect particular ailments. The goal is to help you to plan meals, offer dietary advice and research vitamins, minerals and their adequate dosages just for you.

With the Centers for Disease Control projecting some form of arthritis to affect nearly 19 million adults, scientists are looking for causes so that treatment and prevention can be addressed.

Arthritis is basically an autoimmune disease that results in the inflammation of joints. It may be caused by the body’s inability to produce enough antibodies or antibodies that cannot differentiate between healthy and viral cells, allergies, elevated uric acid levels, obesity, certain repetitive activities and infections. Certain genes have also been linked to specific types of arthritis establishing the possibility of a genetic disease.

Most types of arthritis are more prevalent in women and can affect people at any age, though the disease is more common in the elderly. The four most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

Osteoarthritis typically develops when the cartilage between bones wears down causing the edges of the bones to rub together resulting in pain and stiff joints. Usually weight-bearing joints are commonly affected, such as hips and knees.

The causes of fibromyalgia are unknown, but researchers conjecture that genetics and physical or emotional trauma may be possible contributors. Fibormyalgia sufferers experience general body-wide pain with specific tender joints. Among its symptoms, people with fibromyalgia usually experience sleep disturbances and fatigue.

Rheumatoid arthritis tends to distress all joints, destroying cartilage and tissues around joints and sometimes the bones themselves. When this happens, joints are fused together with scar tissue and may cause swelling and pain.

Gout is generally attributed to obesity and a diet high in fats, refined carbohydrates and alcohol consumption. Affecting more men than women, gouty arthritis is a result of uric acid accumulation in the small joints of hands and feet.  According to the Office of Dietary Supplements nutrition may help sufferers of arthritis, though medical treatment is also recommended. Consult your doctor for any dietary practices you are thinking of implementing. Following is a list of vitamins and minerals that could help ease the pain of arthritis.

Nutrition and Food

It is also important that we carefully make wise decisions about the food we take. Our diet is one of the necessary factors that determine how we live a healthy life. The good news is that there are some websites that will educate you about proper diet and nutrition. One of those is Nutshell Nutrition.

Vitamin C

Benefits: Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C prevents capillary walls in the joints from breaking down. A primary function of vitamin C is maintaining collagen, a protein necessary in the formation of connective tissues in the skin, ligaments and bones. Also an antioxidant, Vitamin C is able to assist in the removal of damaging oxidizing agents in the body and regenerates substances, such as iron and copper, which are linked to the pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis.

Recommended dosage: 90 milligrams per day are recommended for adult men and 75 milligrams for adult women. People with high copper or iron blood levels need larger daily dosages. Conditions which also require elevated vitamin C intake include schizophrenia, hypoglycemia and stress. Smoking, birth control pills, and periods of menstruation additionally require increased dosages.

Dietary suggestions: High concentrations of vitamin C are found in red peppers, orange juice, kiwifruit, oranges and grapefruit juice. Green peppers, broccoli, strawberries, tomato juice and cantaloupe contain a third to half of the recommended allowance. However, baking soda creates an alkaline medium that destroys vitamin C and drinking excessive amounts of water will also deplete the vitamin. Vitamin C deteriorates rapidly in processing, storage, cooking, cutting and exposure to light, air and heat. Storage of food is important in retaining its store of vitamin C.


Benefits: Selenium is an essential mineral that can prevent and relieve arthritis and many other diseases by preventing the degradation of elasticity in tissues, acting as an antioxidant protecting cell membranes, and maintains certain energy-producing cells by ensuring adequate oxygen supply. Selenium is related to optimal health and increased lifespan. In conjunction with vitamin E, selenium has been proven to be an immune system builder.

Recommended dosage: Adult males should have an intake of 70 micrograms of selenium per day and 55 micrograms for women (higher dosages are recommended for pregnant or lactating women).

Dietary suggestions: Once ounce of dried Brazil nuts offers the highest concentration of selenium, but it can also be found in oil-canned tuna, beef, cod, turkey and non-fatty chicken breast. Lower concentrations are also found in eggs, low fat cottage cheese, oatmeal, rice and whole wheat bread.


Benefits: In adequate dosages, manganese can repair worn cartilage. It also plays a part in maintaining healthy nerves and brain, skeletal development, boosting the immune system and the formation of blood. Manganese is also effective in increasing copper excretion from the body.

Recommended dosage: Adult men and women are suggested to have a manganese intake of 2 to 5 milligrams per day. A high calcium and phosphorus consumption necessitate an increase in the daily dosage, though very high dosages can result in the body’s inability to store and utilize iron, causing anemia.

Dietary suggestions: High grain cereals, avocados, seaweed, egg yolks, nuts, seeds, legumes, blueberries, pineapples, spinach, dried peas, and green vegetables are some of the better sources for manganese. Though little is stored in the body, typically 12 to 20 milligrams at any given time, the content in the food you eat is dependent on the amount of manganese in the soil the food in which the food is grown.


Benefits: Zinc is an anti-inflammatory that also fights disease and protects the immune system. It assists enzymes, such as carbonic anhydrase, which aids in digestion and metabolism and is necessary for tissue respiration. It is a component of insulin as well as part of the enzyme that helps break down alcohol. As an anti-inflammatory, zinc helps to relieve symptoms associated with arthritis.

Recommended dosage: 8 to 11 milligrams of zinc on average are suggested for adults. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should increase their intake to 11 to 14 milligrams. While zinc is relatively nontoxic, high doses could induce side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, loss of muscle coordination and, in men, a decrease in the level of HDL (the good kind of cholesterol). Vitamin A is also needed in large amounts when zinc is added to a diet. Extremely large doses of zinc may impair the immune system and antagonize the beneficial effects of selenium.

Dietary suggestions: Diets high in red meat and poultry, oysters, whole-grains, brewer’s yeast, wheat bran and wheat germ, herring and pumpkin seeds are typically high in zinc. Talk to your doctor about increasing the levels of foods containing zinc into your diet.

Other dietary measures

Vegetarian diets prepared with natural ingredients have been found to benefit arthritis sufferers. Reducing fats in your diet can relieve inflammation. According to the Nutrition Almanac, canola oil is the best to use since it contains both omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, though olive oil is acceptable. Herbs such as chickweed, feverfew, comfrey, chaparral, yucca extract and devil’s claw have been helpful for arthritis and Wobe-Mugos, enzymes found in pineapple, have been particularly helpful in rheumatoid arthritis cases.

Additional suggestions

Exercise is important in prevention and treatment of arthritis since unused joints tend to become stiff. Yoga, swimming and other water exercises have been shown to be slow enough to loosen joints without causing undue discomfort. Posture can cause weight to be distributed unevenly in the body putting more pressure on joints. Obesity also affects weight-bearing joints, which may increase the likelihood of contracting osteoarthritis. Always talk to your doctor before engaging in a radical dietary change or introducing supplements into your daily routine as some drugs used to treat arthritis may interfere with these nutrients.

Written by 

Patrick is a part-time fitness trainer and pursuing his Master’s in American Literature from Stanford University. He wishes to share his fitness plan with others to help them achieve their goals in terms of fitness and education.