How does fish oil help with arthritic aches? And is turmeric more than just a curry spice? Find out from Dr Libby.
Question: I have rheumatoid arthritis and last year, a friend suggested I change my diet somewhat and take high-dose fish oil supplements. Although my fingers are still disfigured, I am now pain free but don’t understand how the fish oil has helped. Can you explain this? Thanks, Dorothy.
Hi Dorothy, fish oil contains antiinflammatory fatty acids. There are two types of these fatty acids in fish oil; EPA and DHA. These fatty acids work by inhibiting the signal to inflame a joint, which can help prevent swelling and the subsequent redness and pain that is felt.
Research shows that a dose of three grams per day of omega-3 fish oil (containing DHA and EPA) is needed to reduce inflammation. If you are doing this via supplementation, look for a high quality brand that has been tested for heavy metals. The capsules need to be relatively fresh smelling; if they smell very fishy this could mean that the fish oil has gone rancid and it will no longer provide any benefit to you.
Fish oil supplements with additional vitamin E can help to keep the fats fresh.
Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids include; oily fish like salmon and sardines, flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. Try including these foods in your diet regularly for a whole food source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Question: I read an article recently about how healthy turmeric is but have no idea how to use it. Do you have some suggestions? Thanks, Meg.
Hi Meg, turmeric has a long history of use in Chinese and Indian medicine; it is most often used as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent. While the turmeric root contains a range of nutrients, it is the orange pigment, curcumin that is the active agent.
Inflammatory processes induce what is known as oxidative stress. This induces the over-production of free radicals, which react with cell membrane fatty acids and proteins impairing their function, at times permanently.
Studies suggest that chronic inflammation could play a role in a wide variety of degenerative diseases including type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases.
Curcumin works as a powerful antioxidant inside the body, and helps to prevent oxidative damage by neutralising the free radicals present. Curcumin also works by inhibiting enzymes and immune cells that facilitate tissue damage and subsequent inflammation in the body.
You can buy turmeric as a whole root or as dried powder. The whole root is perfect for juicing – try using a 4-5 centimetre piece in a juice with carrots and lemons; alternatively the root can be grated and added to curries and dals.
The dried powder tends to be easier to come by and is also versatile.
It is commonly added to curries, dahls and soups, or used as part of a rub for meat or fish.
You can also add a teaspoon to a smoothie, or homemade nut-milk chai. Dr Libby is a a nutritional biochemist, best-selling author and speaker. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional.