Like the chicken or egg dilemma, determining whether weight gain or arthritis comes first is a real head-scratcher.
On the one hand, obese people are 60% more likely to develop arthritis than those of normal weight. On the other hand, an official arthritis diagnosis is often the catalyst for immediate weight gain, a fact that manufacturers of arthritis relief products take into account.
Here’s what you need to know about the relationship between weight and arthritis:
Drugs: prescription drugs used to combat arthritis, such as corticosteroids, often have side effects that lead to weight gain. Typically these side effects are an increase in appetite, a slower metabolism, and/or water retention.
Fear: for sensitive people, a doctor’s arthritis diagnosis can radically disrupt their lives. The disease becomes their prime identity (“I’m arthritic”). The fear of hurting themselves overrules everything else. This fear makes the disease’s progression inevitable and exercise nearly impossible, even with aids for arthritis.
Diet: diet is the most important factor for anyone managing their weight. It’s even more important when taking arthritis medication. Arthritis patients function best on an anti-inflammatory diet. That’s to say, a diet featuring lots of green vegetables and produce, with comparatively little sugar and processed food.
Other contributors to weight gain include stress and poor sleep.
Losing excess weight is always good when you have arthritis. One reason is that it reduces joint strain. By some accounts, every pound of extra weight adds four pounds of extra pressure on the knees, requiring arthritis supports. A second reason is that body fat itself contributes to arthritis. Researchers at the Mayo clinic have discovered that fat cells produce inflammatory proteins. A third reason is that extra pounds dilute the effectiveness of drugs, making higher dosages necessary.
An arthritis diagnosis does not mean you will put on weight. And if you’re overweight now, arthritis is not inevitable.