In this guest post by Nyaka Mwanza, discover some helpful and natural ways to lesson symptoms of psoriatic arthritis and improve your overall health and well-being.
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects people who have psoriasis, a chronic skin condition. Approximately 30 percent of people who have skin psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis. PsA symptoms include inflammation, joint pain, and swelling. Over time and without treatment, these can cause debilitating, irreversible joint damage.
Treatment of psoriatic arthritis can include oral anti-inflammatory or antirheumatic drugs, as well as biologic therapies that are injected or infused. However, there are several things you can do to manage the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis that don’t involve pills, shots, or infusions. Physical activity, healthy foods, and stress management are key ways you can help control your condition and reduce its symptoms.
Get Enough Exercise
Exercise can help you achieve and maintain your body’s best condition. Research has shown that people who have psoriatic arthritis tend to exercise less than those who don’t. This is often due to pain, stiffness, inflammation, and swelling in affected joints.
Because of PsA symptoms, many give up on exercise and become increasingly sedentary — to the detriment of physical and mental health. Lack of physical activity can lead to increased stiffness and worsen other PsA symptoms. A lack of exercise also compounds the risk factors that make other health conditions, like diabetes, osteoarthritis, and heart disease, more common among people with psoriatic arthritis.
A regular exercise regimen of 20 to 30 minutes per day, or just 150 minutes per week, can reduce your risk of developing other conditions sometimes associated with psoriasis, such as fatty liver disease and heart disease. Regular physical activity for people living with psoriatic arthritis can also:
- Reduce pain and stiffness
- Increase flexibility
- Preserve range of motion in the joints
- Increase strength and well-being
- Accelerate recovery
People with PsA are more likely to be obese, which also contributes to developing comorbidities. Additional weight puts excess pressure on joints which are already coping with the effects of PsA. Sometimes, excess weight can reduce the effectiveness of certain medications used to treat psoriatic arthritis. Regular exercise — and a healthy diet — can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. It can also support your cardiovascular health.
Regular exercise has also been shown to aid stress management, combat depression and anxiety, increase self esteem, and improve mood. Low-impact exercise, like yoga, can improve strength, flexibility, and balance. It is important to consult your doctor or rheumatologist before beginning any new exercise routine.
Choose a Healthy Diet
A healthy, balanced diet is beneficial for everyone. If you have psoriatic arthritis, a healthy diet can help reduce inflammation, manage your symptoms, and assist with maintaining a healthy weight. People with PsA have an increased risk of developing other health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. A good diet can lower your risk for these and other health problems.
No diet can cure PsA. However, a psoriatic arthritis diet that is balanced and healthful can:
- Lessen symptom severity
- Reduce the frequency of psoriatic arthritis flares
- Increase the length of remission
- Lower the likelihood of developing comorbidities
- Improve overall health and quality of life
The recommended diet for those with psoriatic arthritis is rich in fresh, whole foods containing antioxidants, dietary fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. It is very light on (or totally free from) foods that contribute to inflammation, such as processed sugars, saturated fats, and alcohol. Some people with psoriatic arthritis find their symptoms are improved by adopting a gluten-free or anti-inflammatory diet. An anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, a high-fiber diet, or a plant-based diet, includes a lot of whole-grain foods and fresh fruits and vegetables — which help reduce inflammation in the body.
Deep breathing, psychotherapy sessions, and support groups are just some of the ways people living with psoriatic arthritis can lessen or better manage their stress. There is some evidence that mindfulness and meditation are effective stress relievers. Regular exercise also helps reduce stress. Activities such as yoga and tai chi provide low-intensity physical activity and stress relief that can help reduce PsA flare-ups.
If you are living with psoriatic arthritis, making changes in these three key areas of your life — diet, exercise, and stress reduction — can make a huge difference in disease progression and your health outcomes. An added bonus: diet, exercise, and reduced stress don’t just impact your PsA, they have a positive effect on your overall health and your everyday quality of life.
- Living With Psoriatic Arthritis — National Psoriasis Foundation
- Psoriatic Arthritis — National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
- Psoriatic Arthritis Diet: The Ultimate Guide — MyPsoriasisTeam
- Healthy diet and other lifestyle changes that can improve psoriasis — American Academy of Dermatology Association
- Dietary Modifications — National Psoriasis Foundation
- Psoriatic Arthritis — Arthritis Foundation
Nyaka Mwanza is a freelance writer for MyHealthTeams. She completed a BA in Communications: Visual Media from American University and undertook post-baccalaureate studies in Health/Behavioral Communications and Marketing at Johns Hopkins University. Nyaka is a Zambian-born, E.U. citizen who was raised in sub-Saharan Africa and Jacksonville, N.C. However, she has called Washington, D.C., home for most of her life. For much of her career, Nyaka has worked with large global health nonprofits focused on improving health outcomes for women and children. Nyaka believes words hold immense power, and her job is to meet the reader where they are, when they’re there.