Dr. Chris Renna explains the anti-inflammatory diet and other dietary changes a person can make to deal with osteoarthritis
Missy: I have heard about the anti-inflammatory diet. Can you explain a little bit more about that and which foods for example are the most inflammatory?
Dr. Renna: Sure. There are several anti-inflammatory diets or several approaches to reducing inflammation through the diet. The first one is to try and choose whole foods. In other words, foods that you know total content and ingredient.
Any food that’s in a box or in a bag or in a can or any food that comes out of the kitchen and served to you probably isn’t a whole food. So identifying whole foods is the first step. A chicken breast, some broccoli, some brown rice – those are all three whole foods and they make up the components of a very healthy meal for most people.
The second thing is to eat foods fresh when possible, in-season. There is a certain rhythm to us that gets programmed into us when we are very young and going back into that rhythm is actually anti-inflammatory. But I think the anti-inflammatory diet or the points that you are interested in are those that have to do with gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye, dairy products, and the entire Pandora’s box of sugared, sweetened and artificially sweetened products.
In my opinion and in quite a bit of medical literature, those foods create inflammation after we grow up. They probably create inflammation in kids and we are probably seeing the result of that now in childhood obesity in America, but we know for fact that they create inflammation, excess inflammation, dietary inflammation in the majority of adults who eat.
So a simple anti-inflammatory diet means no gluten. So remember that’s no wheat, no rye, no barley, no dairy products, no sugar. Now that sounds awful. It sounds like how could I ever do that? How can I not eat meat? How can I not eat processed? I have to eat out at lunch every day, how can I not eat any sugar? It’s the only reward I get.
Honestly, I am the same way. Whenever I am told by my nutritionist, Dr. Renna, you have to make a change, I have the same resistance and I am grown accustomed to it and I realize that if I just do it one thing at a time, like this week I am just not going to eat any gluten, and I’ll keep eating cheese and I’ll keep having milk products and dairy products as much as I want.
And the next week I am going to eliminate the dairy products, and then the last week I am going to eliminate the sugar. The best dairy product, sugar combination is chocolate, right? So you just got to ease yourself into it but once you begin it feels so much better that the positive effect that you have reinforces you.
So that’s my view of an anti-inflammatory diet. Now at LifeSpan Medicine we use serotype dieting which is blood-type dieting. We use metabolic type diet. We use food elimination diets, and we also use the combination of popular diets that was put together by the South Beach people, which is a little bit of Atkins, a little bit of Zone.
We customize all of our treatments to each individual. So we take their history and listen very carefully to that and try and figure out just what the best strategy is for that person.
Missy: Very interesting. I myself have been gluten-free and dairy-free for the past five years and I can tell you I truly have noticed the difference, not only in the inflammation but also in my digestive track as well.
Dr. Renna: You look like it.
Missy: Well thank goodness today’s markets actually carry a wide variety of gluten-free products so it makes it a lot easier.
Dr. Renna: Yeah, I think it is.
Missy: Also, besides diet, tell me what other natural supplements can I take to reduce my inflammation – non-medical agents.
Dr. Renna: Dr. Wehling and I wrote a book called “The End of Pain.” It’s available on internet websites and in order to write the book I did quite a lot of research, or I didn’t do any research but I reviewed quite a lot of research about what dietary supplements work to reduce pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis, which ones don’t.
And what I found is that there are articles that support the effectiveness of those agents which are probably most well known, like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate. There are also articles that say that ginger helps reduce the stiffness of pain of osteoarthritis, a number of natural substances do.
The problem with them is that each of them relieves the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis in a small number of people. So any of the studies that showed significant efficacy only showed significant efficacy in a small minority of the people that try them.
So what I do is make a recommendation and if someone wants to take a natural anti-inflammatory I’ll go with the one that had the best results, which was glucosamine chondroitin. It didn’t help more than about 15 percent of people who tried it but for those 15 percent it was very effective, and I usually suggest they try that.
Different brands have different amounts. So if one doesn’t work I usually ask them to try another one, giving the process about a month at a time, which is how the supplement companies package their product. Usually buy one bottle, it lasts a month.
So I’ll have them try it twice and if it doesn’t work two times then I’ll advise them to change to something else – try something different. And I find that a lot of people with osteoarthritis who have injections, or even those who don’t, will find one of the natural products that helps them feel a little bit of ease.
Missy: That’s very interesting. Well I look forward to coming to see you in Los Angeles very soon.
Dr. Renna: Thank you.
Missy: Thank you.