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​How the Vegan Lifestyle Can Help with Inflammation and Pain

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Inflammation is not only a marker of cardiovascular disease; it is also the cause of severe pain in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, which affects millions of people across the globe and causes swollen, painful joints that can lose their functioning ability. Although research suggests that genetics have an important role to play in diseases like arthritis, our diet, too, can influence the development of inflammation related diseases. A 1989 survey revealed that the foods that tend to worsen this type of pain include dairy, red meat, sugar, fat, caffeine, salt and so-called nightshade produce (including tomatoes and eggplant). In this post we reveal what research has found on the relationship between the vegan diet and reduced inflammation and pain:

  • One study, published in 2002, looked directly at how a low-fat vegan diet can impact rheumatoid arthritis-related pain. Participants were placed on a four-week low-fat vegan diet and in just one month, their symptoms were significantly reduced. The journal Rheumatology also found that a gluten-free vegan diet was beneficial for pain reduction. In a third study, a raw vegan diet reduced joint pain and stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. A large-scale review of studies on the subject concluded that a vegan diet might be considered useful in managing this type of pain. Those who suffer from arthritis please note: the following foods have never been found to contribute to pain: cooked green, orange and yellow vegetables, water (still or sparkling), most condiments which are not too high in salt), cooked or dried fruits (except bananas, peaches or tomatoes), and brown rice.
  • Vegan diets keep us slimmer. Obesity is related to inflammation, which is why if you suffer from any inflammatory diseases, it is vital to stick to a healthy weight. In one important study carried out at the University of Southern California, subjects were placed on one of five diets: vegan, vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian and omnivore. Findings showed that the group that lost the most weight was that of the vegans. Although they ate more carbohydrates than, say, the pesco-vegetarians or the meat eaters, they lost more fat, and also showed reductions in cholesterol and fat levels. One important side effect of vegan diets is its effects on the skin; since fruits and vegetables contain high phytochemical and antioxidant contents, they fight free radicals and are also ideal for anyone who wishes to detoxify the body. Therefore, the vegan way of life is also indicated for those recovering from addiction or alcoholism, since these substances are pro-inflammatory and can also lead to weight gain.
  • Vegan Gut Microbiota May Stave Off Metabolic Syndrome. Obesity has been linked to altered bacteria which reside in the gut and which produce a chronic state of low grade inflammation. The latter, in turn, can interfere with insulin signalling and cause metabolic dysfunction which is found in those with Type II diabetes and obesity. Interestingly, studies have shown that one type of bacterium (F. prausnitzii) is more prevalent in vegans than in vegetarians. This type of bacteria plays an important role in staving off metabolic disease. There is a strong link between having low levels of F. prausnitzii, and suffering from intestinal disorders, inflammation and obesity. On the contrary, high levels of this bacterium are associated with a reduced risk for heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes and obesity.
  • Vegan diets directly prevent many autoimmune diseases. Many autoimmune diseases and disorders (including lupus and alopecia areata) can be painful or uncomfortable. Studies have proven that a vegan diet can produce a rapid change in gut bacteria – one study, carried out on patients with rheumatoid arthritis, revealed a significant change in intestinal flora after just one year following the vegan lifestyle assiduously.
  • Veganism reduces neuropathy pain. Pain from diabetic neuropathy (or nerve damage) is very difficult to treat; between 40 to 60 per cent of people achieve only partial relief but the good news is that new research has shown that plant-based diets can reduce this type of pain. Research had already shown that a low-fat vegan diet can improve glucose control in patients with Type II diabetes, though a more recent study was carried out to determine the effect of this type of diet, on neuropathy pain. For the study, 17 adults with Type II diabetes and neuropathy pain were placed on a vegan diet, while another (control) group was simply given B12 supplements. The results showed that those on the vegan diet experienced significantly reduced symptoms of nerve pain. Moreover, blood circulation and nerve function were enhanced, and participants also lost an average of 14 pounds in a 20-week period.

Further Reading:

http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/foods-and-arthritis

http://www.rehabs.com/pro-talk-articles/what-do-we-really-know-about-treating-prescription-opioid-addiction/

http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/6/11/4822

http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/vegan-diet-reduces-neuropathy-pain-study-shows/

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/5/1627S.full

http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/vegetarian-foods-powerful-for-health

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian

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