Although corticosteroid medications are the primary treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica, a healthy diet, limited in certain foods, could help reduce your symptoms. Because PMR is an inflammatory condition, replacing foods that cause inflammation with healthier options can help minimize inflammatory responses, which trigger pain and swelling. A healthy diet can also enhance weight control, guarding against added strain from excess pounds. Before making major dietary changes, seek guidance from your physician or dietitian.
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Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is a source of trans fats, which are made through a process in which hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it solid. Trans fats lower your HDL, or "good," cholesterol and increase your LDL, or "bad," cholesterol -- shifts that raise your risk for heart disease. Avoiding trans fats is particularly important if you have PMR, which a study published in "Arthritis Research" in 2009 linked with a significantly heightened risk for peripheral arterial disease. Common sources include many commercially made fried foods and baked goods, such as pizza dough, pie crust, crackers and cookies. To determine if a food contains trans fats, read the nutrition facts panel and look for partially hydrogenated vegetable on the ingredients list.
High-Fat Meats and Dairy Products
High-fat meats and dairy products are major sources of saturated fat, which can trigger inflammation. To prevent these foods from worsening PMR, rely on lower fat and anti-inflammatory alternatives. Lean meats, beans and fish can supply the protein you need, with less fat. Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring, provide omega-3 fats, which can lower inflammation and your risk for heart disease. Particularly fatty meats include lamb, steak, dark-meat and skin-on poultry, and bacon. Replace high-fat dairy products, such as whole milk and heavy cream, with skim or low-fat milk.
While many starchy foods, such as whole grains and sweet potatoes, are nutritious, low-fiber starches, such as white bread, low-fiber cereals and instant potatoes, could make your PMR symptoms worse. Because refined starches have a high glycemic index and a greater impact on your blood sugar, they stimulate inflammation. Instead of high-glycemic cereals, such as cornflakes and puffed rice, have oatmeal or bran flakes. Swap out white breads and instant rice in your diet with whole-grain equivalents, such as 100 percent whole-grain bread and brown or wild rice.
Sugary sweets are high-glycemic and easy to overeat. The more sugary fare you consume, the less room you have in your diet for nutritious foods that could help manage PMR symptoms while enhancing your overall health -- such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Cut back on high-sugar items, such as soft drinks, candy, pancake syrup and frosted cakes. For a healthy dessert, have an all-fruit frozen bar, cooked pumpkin dusted with cinnamon or baked pear and apple slices. Instead of soft drinks, have herbal tea, water with a splash of fruit juice or sparkling water.
- American College of Rheumatology: Polymyalgia Rheumatica
- Linus Pauling Institute: Two Faces of Inflammation
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- Arthritis Research: Increased Risk of Peripheral Arterial Disease in Polymyalgia Rheumatica: a Population-Based Cohort Study
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Linus Pauling Institute: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load