Plant-based diets appear to decrease inflammation via a variety of mechanisms, including boosting our adrenal gland function due to the consumption of potassium rich foods.
Potassium and Autoimmune Disease,
Images thanks to: James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia Commons.
Potassium is best known for lowering blood pressure and stroke risk, but “A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial of potassium supplementation was tried in patients with rheumatoid arthritis,” published in the Journal of Pain. Rheumatoid arthritis is kind of the classic autoimmune inflammatory arthritis. Sufferers tend to have inappropriately low glucocorticoid levels, which are circulating steroid hormones like cortisol that suppress inflammation, and so low levels may allow for more inflammation. Glucocorticoids also help our kidneys excrete potassium, and so when we eat a lot of potassium, our adrenal glands secrete more glucocorticoids so we don’t build up too much, and so maybe if you gave people with rheumatoid arthritis some extra potassium it would boost steroid levels and help with the inflammation. So they bumped their daily intake up to 6500 a day— still not reflective of our evolutionary heritage, but at least making the cut for adequate intake — and indeed, higher potassium intake was associated with an improvement in rheumatoid arthritis and a lower disease activity and pain intensity reflecting an anti-pain effect for potassium” and so they suggest planning a successful dietary regimen, including much more use of leafy vegetables. Those placed on a plant-based diet experience a significant increase in potassium intake. Though even those eating vegan aren't eating enough greens, maybe this bump in potassium helps explain why plant-based diets are so effective at treating rheumatoid arthritis. If this is the mechanism, though, if potassium rich foods boost natural anti-inflammatory hormones in the body, then should it work for other inflammatory conditions? That’s exactly what was suggested recently. Some studies have shown vegetarian diets to improve psoriasis symptoms maybe this is why, suggesting a “cortisol-potassium” theory as a novel mechanism for the beneficial effects of vegetarian diets.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ashley Rhinehart, RN.
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This is the third of my three video series on potassium this year. Check out Wednesday's 98% of American Diets Potassium Deficient and yesterday’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Preventing Strokes with Diet. I've got a few other arthritis videos, including Preventing Arthritis and Diet & Rheumatoid Arthritis. Eating healthy doesn't improve everyone's joint pain, but as with all nontoxic treatment modalities, they should always be tried first.
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