Phil Mickelson Adopts Vegetarian Diet Due to Arthritis
At a press conference at the 2010 PGA Championship this week, Masters winner and number 2 ranked golfer in the world Phil Mickelson has publicly announced that he is being treated for psoriatic arthritis and has adopted a healthier lifestyle to deal with the symptoms, including following a vegetarian diet.
Arthritis itself means “inflammation of the joints”, although the cause can come from several factors. Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an autoimmune disease that affects between 6 and 42% of people with psoriasis, a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales.
According to reports, Mickelson first developed symptoms right before the US Open. He says that he woke up in so much pain he could not walk and the symptoms continued to progress. “It was (in) my Achilles and my piriformis muscle, my left index finger was sprained and I couldn’t bend it, and my right wrist was sprained; and there was no injury and it got worse.”
Phil began a weekly treatment with the injectable medication Enbrel (etanercept), prescribed to relieve the symptoms by blocking the activity of a body substance that causes inflammation. In addition, he has begun a regular exercise program to improve muscle strength and joint mobility.
The biggest change in the golfer’s lifestyle was the adoption of a vegetarian diet seven weeks ago. He reports that he eats a “lot of fruits and vegetables and some whole grain wheat and pastas and stuff.” He admits the change has been difficult, but “if it will somehow keep this (arthritis) in remission or stop it from coming back, yeah, I’ll be able to do it.”
Most research linking the vegetarian diet and the relief of arthritic symptoms has been conducted on patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Although psoriatic arthritis is different than rheumatoid arthritis, both are autoimmune and inflammatory disorders and the same benefits may exists, though not well studied.
There are several ways that a vegetarian diet can benefit patients with autoimmune-related arthritis. First, many vegetarian diets are low-calorie and appear to be helpful in maintaining a healthy body weight. Obese adults face a higher risk of psoriatic arthritis, according to a recent study conducted at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Second, vegetarian diets are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, which may help reduce inflammation in the body. Red meat in particular has been linked with increased inflammation. Third, vegetarian diets that are well planned and include lots of fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants that block inflammation.
It appears that Phil Mickelson’s arthritis was diagnosed early before significant joint damage has occurred. He is very optimistic about his health. At the end of the second round, he was tied for 34th place in the 2010 PGA Championship at -2.