Vegan Nutrition with Dina Aronson, M.S. R.D.
Dina Aronson, MS, RD is a vegan dietitian whose specialties include chronic disease prevention, vegetarian/vegan nutrition, and lifestyle management. She is the founder and director of VeganRD.com, a nutrition consulting company. Active in many vegetarian nutrition organizations, Dina was the recipient of the American Dietetic Association's Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award in 2002.
Since becoming vegan, I have noticed that I feel joint pains more often and some pains seem to persist, such as my shoulder and knee. I have been taking Glucosamine, MSM, Calcium, Omega-3, as well as a complete multi-vitamin; however, the pains still seem to persist. I am thinking that I am missing something in my diet that I had received before (mostly vegetarian, some chicken/fish). Do you have any suggestions?
Sorry to hear that your joint pain has worsened recently. Since becoming vegan,
did you also change your exercise routine, job, or your daily schedule? Often
just moving your body differently can explain bodily aches and pains. Even
changing desk chairs can cause problems, as your body changes its alignment for
much of the day. If this is possible, check with a chiropractor or other
practitioner who does body work to see if your problems are related to your
activity or lack thereof.
Weight gain may also trigger joint pain.
Joint pain is very often caused by inflammation related to an unhealthy immune
system. Unfortunately, inflammation is a complex and not very well understood or
easy to diagnose process, but it is the root of many ills, and is gaining
notoriety for being the basis of such diseases as heart disease.
As far as diet, except for fish, there really aren't any animal products that
have been shown to assist with decreased inflammation, joint healing, or pain
relief. To get the beneficial components in fish, as you suggested, you should
take omega-3 fatty acids and include healthy vegan sources such as canola oil,
walnuts, green leafy vegetables, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds.
I'm not sure if you're following an essentially whole-foods vegan diet, or using
foods like refined flour products, sweets, sugar, and the like. Certainly if you
replaced animal products with these kinds of foods, your body might have a
If your diet is not predominantly whole intact grains, vegetables, fruits, and
legumes, now is the time to start. Such a diet may play a role in healing the
gut, thus promoting a healthy immune system. Continue taking the supplements you
mentioned, and try a whole-foods diet for 6 weeks to see if you find relief. I
also recommend that you try probioitics, which may help balance out the good
bacteria in your digestive system, which may then strengthen your immune system.
Unfortunately, there are some whole vegan foods which may play a role in
inflammation and/or joint pain. These include wheat, the nightshade family of
vegetables (potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers). Other foods not listed
here may be your personal triggers; keep a food diary to see if you notice a
relationship between what you're eating and subsequent pain.
I strongly recommend that you visit a holistic practitioner, who can better
evaluate your situation by asking you important questions, making observations,
and providing more in-depth and specific advice.
I wish you the best of luck and healing.
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