Can a Vegan Diet Help a Senior With Rheumatoid Arthritis?
If you are a man or woman over the age of 65, or if you have a parent or other loved one in that age group that you assist regularly, health matters are likely a concern. For example, if you are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or have a loved one with the condition, you likely have many questions about the disease. Included in these queries likely is what can be done to aid in helping a person with this diagnosis. Recent research has dived into whether or not a vegan diet might be helpful to a senior with rheumatoid arthritis.
Basic Definition of a Vegan Lifestyle (Or Diet)
Before discussing any potential benefits of a vegan diet for a person with rheumatoid arthritis, we provide a basic overview of this nutrition regimen. Many argue that the vegan diet is one of the healthiest and most environmentally conscious dietary choices. It involves abstaining from all animal products, such as meat, dairy, eggs, honey, fish, and seafood. It also involves avoiding processed foods containing animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin or lard. Vegans do not use animal products or by-products in clothing or other items. This includes fur, leather, and wool.
Results From Research Study Reported by Harvard Medical School
We now turn to the study mentioned previously. In this study, researchers enrolled 44 people with rheumatoid arthritis. All were women, mostly white and highly educated. They were randomly assigned to one of two groups for 16 weeks. These two groups were:
- Vegan Diet. Participants followed a vegan diet for four weeks, followed by additional food restrictions that eliminated foods the researchers considered common arthritis-trigger foods. These foods included gluten-containing grains (wheat, barley, and rye), white potatoes, sweet potatoes, chocolate, citrus fruits, nuts, onions, tomatoes, apples, bananas, coffee, alcohol, and table sugar. After week seven, these foods were reintroduced, one at a time. Any reintroduced food that seemed to cause pain or other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis was eliminated for the rest of the 16 weeks.
- Use Diet Plus Placebo. These participants followed their usual diet and took a placebo capsule each day for 16 weeks. The capsule contained insignificant doses of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. After the initial 16 weeks; participants took four weeks off. The groups then swapped dietary assignments for an additional 16-week period of time.
Researchers concluded that the vegan regimen seemed to help lessen symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Specifically, study participants reported improvement while on the vegan diet but no improvement during the placebo phase.
A growing body of evidence suggests that diet can play a role in treating rheumatoid arthritis. However, it is one thing for a person to feel better on a particular diet. It is quite another thing to say that diet is enough alone.
Dietary changes are the first treatment for high cholesterol or high blood pressure. However, rheumatoid arthritis is different. Disabling joint damage can occur early in the disease. Therefore, taking effective medications as soon as possible is vital to prevent this deterioration.
General Points About a Vegan Diet
While the jury is out on the overall effectiveness of a vegan diet on rheumatoid arthritis, while speaking of a vegan lifestyle, we do share some other points about it. Vegan diets are becoming increasingly popular due to their health benefits and the fact that they are more sustainable and ethical than other dietary options. A vegan diet is one in which no animal products or by-products are consumed, meaning no meat, eggs, dairy, honey, or gelatin. Instead, vegans rely on plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds to provide them with the necessary nutrients for a balanced diet. Here are four key points about vegan diets:
- Vegan diets are incredibly nutrient-dense due to their focus on plant-based food sources. This means that vegans can get all their essential vitamins and minerals from their food choices without relying on supplements. For example, dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, contain high iron and calcium concentrations. In addition, legumes like lentils provide a great source of protein. Moreover, whole grains like oats provide complex carbs. Finally, nuts and seeds contain healthy elements like omega-3 fatty acids.
- Vegan diets have been linked to various health benefits, including lower cholesterol levels due to the reduced consumption of saturated fat in animal products. In addition, a vegan diet appears to be able to lower the risk of heart disease thanks to dietary fiber found in whole grains. Vegan diets also appear able to lower the risk of certain types of cancer thanks to the antioxidants present in many fruits and vegetables. In addition to these health benefits, research suggests that vegans may live longer than non-vegans due to their healthier overall lifestyle choices.
- Veganism has also been making significant impacts on the environment; since animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of global warming emissions (responsible for anywhere between 15 to 51 percent), reducing our dependence on animal products can have a huge impact on climate change mitigation efforts worldwide. Additionally, livestock farming requires large amounts of land for grazing animals which then displaces native ecosystems resulting in decreased biodiversity—something that can be avoided by switching over to more sustainable plant-based options instead.
- Finally, following a vegan diet is an ethical choice for many people who wish to reduce suffering in animals caused by factory farming practices or other unsustainable industry standards employed by companies across the industry today. Many vegans also choose not to support companies that test products on animals or produce items made out of leather or fur, as well as those who exploit animals for entertainment purposes (in zoos or circuses). By abstaining from these activities through their dietary choices, they can help bring attention to improving these industries while still living an ethical lifestyle.
Is a Vegan Diet Safe for Seniors?
In conclusion, we visit a moment about whether or not a vegan diet can be safe for seniors. Like any dietary choice, it’s important to ensure that you get all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals for good health and wellness. A vegan diet is plant-based and typically does not include meat, dairy products, eggs, or other animal-derived ingredients.
For seniors, getting adequate amounts of key vitamins and minerals is especially important to prevent deficiencies that can lead to osteoporosis, anemia, and heart disease. When following a vegan lifestyle as a senior, take extra care to consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, along with whole grains, legumes, and nuts.
Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins such as vitamin C, which help produce collagen in our bodies and keep skin looking youthful. They also provide beneficial antioxidants that fight free radicals, which cause cell damage linked with aging. Legumes are an excellent source of protein for vegans, plus they contain fiber which helps keep digestion regular. Whole grains contain B vitamins that help convert food into energy. At the same time, nuts are great sources of essential fatty acids like Omega 3 that promote healthy brain development and function.
In addition to ensuring you get plenty of these key components from your food choices, it’s also wise to consider taking a multivitamin supplement specifically designed for seniors since older adults tend to need additional doses of certain vitamins, such as B12, more than younger people do because their bodies absorb them less effectively with age. It is also recommended that seniors focus on cutting out processed foods from their diet as this can help reduce unhealthy levels of sodium intake, which can increase blood pressure over time if consumed too often.
Overall, a vegan diet can be perfectly safe for seniors when done correctly with the proper planning using whole foods high in nutrition and supplements tailored specifically for the needs of older adults when necessary. Eating a mostly plant-based diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is incredibly beneficial to seniors wanting to maintain good health while still sticking with their dietary preferences or beliefs concerning animals or the environment.