We all know it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet, but it’s not just our waistlines that can benefit from it. According to a few recent studies, focusing on a more balanced diet that nixes high levels of sugar and fat can help soothe chronic inflammation, joint pain, diabetes symptoms, and more.
Researchers from the University of California Davis Health looked specifically at the effect of Western diets (which they define as high in fat and sugar) on the gut microbiome. They wanted to learn more about how they contribute to inflammatory skin and joint diseases like psoriasis. The scientists began by feeding mice a diet high in fat and sugar for six weeks. They then separated them into two groups: one that continued eating the Western diet and another that switched to a more balanced ratio of nutrients.
The Western diet quickly disrupted the gut microbiome of all the mice, resulting in more severe psoriasis symptoms, including joint and skin inflammation. The group that made the switch to a healthier diet, however, were able to reverse their symptoms in just four weeks.
“It was quite surprising that a simple diet modification of less sugar and fat may have significant effects on psoriasis,” lead study author Zhenrui Shi explained. “These findings reveal that patients with psoriatic skin and joint disease should consider changing to a healthier dietary pattern.” Senior author Sam T. Hwang added, “Despite having powerful anti-inflammatory drugs for the skin condition, our study indicates that simple changes in diet may also have significant effects on psoriasis.”
It’s not just psoriasis symptoms that benefit from this diet shift. Another study published by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio just a day after UC Davis Health’s found similarly promising results. This time, they observed the effect of Western diets on arthritis, trauma-induced joint pain, and neuropathic pain from diabetes (sudden sharp, burning, tingling, or shooting aches).
Researchers explained that Western diets tend to be high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Although it has its benefits, getting too much of this omega from less healthy sources like processed snacks, fast food, cakes, and cured meats often leads to problems.
The authors looked at both animal and human studies over a five year period. Participants who lowered their omega-6 intake and increased their omega-3 with foods like flaxseeds, walnuts, and fish greatly reduced both neuropathic and inflammatory symptoms. This also lines up with another recent study which found consuming more omega-3’s helped lower the frequency of pain in migraine patients.
More research still needs to be done, but all of these studies paint a compelling argument for making a few tweaks to our diet — especially if you suffer from any of these painful chronic conditions.