Psoriatic arthritis: Why healthy fats matter
One food source I see neglected often in my clients, especially those with psoriatic arthritis, is dietary fats.
In the 80s, fats were demonised, and low-fat, high-carbohydrate products took their place. Since this time, there has been an increase in people getting diagnosed with autoimmune disease and psoriatic arthritis, and although there are many factors at play when it comes to these conditions, ensuring that you have adequate amounts of healthy fats in your diet is crucial.
Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that combines the symptoms of psoriasis, a skin condition causing red, scaly patches, with those of arthritis, resulting in painful inflammation of the joints.
This article will delve into the benefits of these healthy fats, specifically omega-3s, omega-6s, and oleic acid from extra virgin olive oil, for individuals with psoriatic arthritis and provide examples of food sources for each. We will also discuss the significance of maintaining an appropriate omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, which can be revolutionary for your joint health.
Healthy fats in psoriatic arthritis
Healthy fats are essential for overall well-being and can significantly impact inflammation levels in the body. Inflammation is a critical driver in conditions like psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
When I first started making changes to my diet, I tracked my food intake daily, and as a vegetarian at the time, I was shocked to see how little fat was in my diet. Most of my fats came from processed foods rather than natural sources, and just switching my focus to fats in my diet made a big difference in my joint health.
Omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, and oleic acids have all demonstrated potential benefits in managing psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are renowned for their anti-inflammatory properties. They can help reduce inflammation in the body by inhibiting the production of specific inflammatory molecules. Foods rich in omega-3s include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Plant-based sources include flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. You can easily incorporate these fats into your daily meals, starting with chia seed pudding in the morning, crushed walnuts sprinkled over your lunchtime salad, and baked lemony salmon for dinner.
Omega-6 fatty acids
Omega-6 fatty acids are also essential but must be balanced with omega-3s. While omega-6s can promote inflammation, they are still necessary for proper immune function. However, the modern Western diet tends to have an excessive intake of omega-6s, which can lead to an imbalance and increased inflammation. Good sources of omega-6s include nuts like almonds and pine nuts.
However, many of us eat too many through the consumption of industrial seed oils such as soya bean, canola and sunflower oil in processed foods and restaurants. One of the primary sources of industrial seed oils I see in my clients is oat milk which may contain rapeseed and sunflower oil.
I started drinking oat milk flat whites in lockdown on a daily walk with a friend, and I started having water retention issues, a known cause of excess omega-6 fats. After I stopped drinking these, it went away, so be mindful of your milk choices, and opt for milk that has fewer ingredients, ideally just spring water, nuts and salt.
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is a specific type of omega-6 fatty acid found in evening primrose oil. GLA has anti-inflammatory properties, potentially helping to balance the pro-inflammatory effects of other omega-6 fatty acids. This is why evening primrose oil has been explored for its potential to manage inflammatory conditions, such as psoriatic arthritis.
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat found in high quantities in olive oil. This fat has been linked to anti-inflammatory effects and may play a role in reducing inflammation associated with psoriatic arthritis. Olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, known for its potential to lower inflammation and improve overall health.
You can drizzle olive oil over salad and vegetables, use a base for sauces and dips such as pesto and hummus, and use it for baking root vegetables.
Why balance is key: The omega-3 to omega-6 ratio
Maintaining an appropriate balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is crucial for individuals with psoriatic arthritis. A diet that is overly rich in omega-6s and lacking in omega-3s can contribute to chronic inflammation. It is recommended to aim for a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids that is around 2:1 or 3:1. This balanced ratio can help mitigate inflammation and support overall joint health.
At The Autoimmunity Nutritionist Clinic, we offer a test that shows your omega fat balance plus other fats, including saturated fats, which can provide some great insight into what might be driving inflammation in psoriatic arthritis. You will find a sample report of this test here.
Harmful fats on psoriatic arthritis
While incorporating healthy fats like omega-3s, omega-6s, and oleic acid can be beneficial for managing psoriatic arthritis, it's equally important to be aware of fats that can have a negative impact on the condition. Trans fats, saturated fats, and oxidised fats from industrial seed oils are examples of harmful fats that should be minimised in your diet due to their potential to worsen inflammation and exacerbate psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
As with any food, it is crucial to track your symptoms with your food intake to be able to gauge which foods trigger symptoms, as everyone will have a different threshold when it comes to harmful fats, which is why testing can be helpful as well.
Incorporating healthy fats into the diet, such as omega-3s, omega-6s, and oleic acid, can be valuable in managing psoriatic arthritis. These fats offer anti-inflammatory benefits and can contribute to improved joint health and overall well-being.
By paying attention to the sources of these fats and eating omega-3-rich foods to maintain an appropriate omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, you can take a proactive step in alleviating your symptoms and improving your quality of life.
If you would like to find out more about taking a natural approach to managing your arthritis, please get in touch or book a free consultation with me.