Health Foods for Arthritis

What is Arthritis? 

Arthritis is a degenerative condition characterized by inflammation of the joints. In fact, the word “arthritis” comes from the Greek words for joint (“arthron”) and inflammation (“itis”). It’s a common disease that can cause chronic pain, and decreased mobility and dexterity in sufferers.

There are an estimated 91 million adults in the United States, and hundreds of millions more worldwide, living with some form of arthritis. In the UK, more than 10 million people have arthritis or other, similar conditions that affect the joints.

Arthritis affects people of all ages, including children.

People who work in manual-labor-intensive jobs, like farm workers are at a higher risk for the condition, a risk that increases with every year on the job. Growing older is also a risk factor, although arthritis can strike at any age.

Other known factors are obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes – all of which are profoundly impacted by your diet and lifestyle choices.

Causes of Arthritis

Factors in the development of arthritis include injury, abnormal metabolism, genetic makeup, infections, and immune system dysfunction. Treatment aims to control pain, minimize joint damage, and improve or maintain quality of life. It involves medications, physical therapies, and patient education and support

Common Forms of Arthritis

There’s no single disease called arthritis; it’s actually an umbrella term that can refer to over 100 distinct conditions. The most common forms of arthritis include:

  • Osteoarthritis:

Characterized by pain, decreased range of motion, aches when moving, and the feeling of stiffness, this is the most common type of arthritis. People with osteoarthritis often feel wear and tear of the joints caused by use, overuse, injury, or infection. Areas most often affected include the knees, hips, feet, and spine.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis:

Often shortened to “RA”, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. This means that it’s a condition in which the body mistakenly attacks itself.

By attacking joint linings, RA causes joint pain and swelling, in addition to nodules in the knuckles, heels, or elbows. RA can have consequences beyond the joints, including the eyes, lungs, and the cardiovascular system.

  • Psoriatic arthritis:

This is also an autoimmune disorder. It’s similar to RA but also involves the skin. Psoriatic arthritis causes pain, swelling, redness in the joints (especially the hands), nail changes, fatigue, eye problems, skin rashes, and swelling and tenderness in the fingers and feet.

  • Gout:

This causes sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in the joints, often in the joint at the base of the big toe. Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate in your joints, causing inflammation and intense pain called a gout attack.

Urate crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid — a normal end product of metabolism — in your blood.

  • Lupus:

This is an autoimmune disease that can affect your joints and many organs in your body. It’s caused when your immune system, instead of attacking viruses and other invaders, causes inflammation and pain throughout your body – often especially in your joints, organs, and brain.

It typically appears between ages 15-44, and disproportionately women and especially African-American women of childbearing age.

Signs and Symptoms You May Have Arthritis

  • Painful swollen joints. Considered a hallmark symptom, joint pain caused by arthritis is often described as dull, achy, and sometimes throbbing.
  • Redness
  • Joint stiffness.
  • Joint deformities.
  • Crepitus in the joints.
  • Decrease range in motion
  • Joint pain that is worse in the morning

The 14 Best Foods to Eat If You Have Arthritis

1. Fatty Fish.

Fatty fish varieties such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory effects.

Some of the richest sources of plant-based omega-3 fats are flax seeds (freshly ground for best nutritional value), chia seeds, hemp seeds, certain forms of algae, and walnuts. This type of fat has been shown to reduce swelling, tenderness, and morning stiffness of joints among people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Fatty fish varieties such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory effects.

In one small study, 33 participants were fed either fatty fish, lean fish, or lean meat four times each week. After eight weeks, the fatty fish group had decreased levels of specific compounds related to inflammation.

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

An analysis of 17 studies found that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements decreased joint pain intensity, morning stiffness, the number of painful joints, and the use of pain relievers in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Similarly, a test-tube study showed that omega-3 fatty acids reduced several inflammatory markers that are involved in osteoarthritis.

Fish is also a good source of vitamin D, which can help prevent deficiency. Multiple studies have found that rheumatoid arthritis may be associated with low levels of vitamin D, which could contribute to symptoms.

The American Heart Association recommends including at least two servings of fatty fish in your diet each week to take advantage of the beneficial anti-inflammatory properties.

2. Garlic.

Garlic is jam-packed with health benefits.

Garlic is a pungent food in the allium family. It’s known to be one of the best natural medicines for alleviating arthritis, largely due to its anti-inflammatory organosulfur compounds.

In some test-tube studies, garlic and its components have been shown to have cancer-fighting properties. They also contain compounds that may lower the risk of heart disease and dementia.

Additionally, garlic has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect that may help decrease symptoms of arthritis.

In fact, some research has shown that garlic may enhance the function of certain immune cells to help strengthen the immune system.

In one study, researchers analyzed the diets of 1,082 twins. They found that those who ate more garlic had a reduced risk of hip osteoarthritis, likely thanks to garlic’s strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Another test-tube study showed that a specific component in garlic could decrease some of the inflammatory markers associated with arthritis.

Adding garlic to your diet could benefit both arthritis symptoms and overall health

3. Ginger.

Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger may help reduce pain from osteoarthritis and RA. Some compounds found in ginger may act like a COX-2 inhibitor, which corresponds to the way that some arthritis medications work to relieve pain.

A meta-analysis of 5 studies, published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage in 2015, found that people with osteoarthritis who took ginger reduced their pain by 30%, and their disability by 22%, compared with control groups.

Besides adding a burst of flavor to teas, soups, and sweets, ginger may also help ease the symptoms of arthritis.

Ginger Study

A 2001 study assessed the effects of ginger extract in 261 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. After six weeks, 63% of participants experienced improvements in knee pain.

One test-tube study also found that ginger and its components blocked the production of substances that promote inflammation in the body.

Another study found that treating rats with ginger extract decreased levels of a specific inflammatory marker involved in arthritis.

Consuming ginger in fresh, powdered, or dried form may reduce inflammation and aid in reducing symptoms of arthritis

4. Broccoli.

It’s no secret that broccoli is one of the healthiest foods out there. In fact, it may even be associated with reduced inflammation.

One study that looked at the diets of 1,005 women found that the intake of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli was associated with decreased levels of inflammatory markers.

Broccoli also contains important components that could help reduce symptoms of arthritis.

For example, sulforaphane is a compound found in broccoli. Test-tube studies have shown that it blocks the formation of a type of cell involved in rheumatoid arthritis development.

An animal study also found that sulforaphane could reduce the production of certain inflammatory markers that contribute to rheumatoid arthritis

While more studies in humans are needed, these test-tube and animal study results show that the compounds in broccoli may help decrease symptoms of arthritis.

5. Walnuts.

Walnuts are nutrient-dense and loaded with compounds that may help reduce the inflammation associated with joint disease.

One analysis of 13 studies showed that eating walnuts were associated with reduced markers of inflammation.

Walnuts are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to decrease the symptoms of arthritis.

In one study, 90 patients with rheumatoid arthritis took supplements of either omega-3 fatty acids or olive oil.

Compared to the olive oil group, those who received omega-3 fatty acids experienced lower levels of pain and were able to reduce their use of arthritis medications.

However, most existing research focuses on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in general on arthritis. Further studies are required to learn more about the effects of walnuts, specifically.

6. Berries.

Tons of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals are crammed into each serving of berries, which may partially account for their unique ability to decrease inflammation.

In one study of 38,176 women, those who ate at least two servings of strawberries per week were 14% less likely to have an elevated level of inflammatory markers in the blood.

Additionally, berries are rich in quercetin and rutin, two plant compounds that boast a huge number of benefits for your health.

Quercetin.

In one test-tube study, quercetin was found to block some of the inflammatory processes associated with arthritis.

Another study gave rats quercetin and rutin supplements, both of which decreased arthritis-related inflammation.

Fortunately, if you want to take advantage of these impressive health benefits, there’s a wide variety of berries to choose from. Strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries are just a few options that can satisfy your sweet tooth and provide plenty of arthritis-fighting nutrients.

A 2018 study published in Food & Function examined current evidence, including research from clinical studies, regarding the effectiveness of berries in reducing arthritis pain and inflammation.

The authors concluded that blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries offered some of the best protection for arthritis, largely attributed to anti-inflammatory fruit polyphenols like quercetin, anthocyanins, and citrus flavonoids.

Another 2018 study published in Arthritis Care & Research evaluated survey responses from 217 participants regarding their diet and arthritis symptoms. The authors found that blueberries were one of the foods most often reported to improve symptoms.

7. Spinach

Leafy greens like spinach are full of nutrients, and some of their components may actually be able to help decrease inflammation caused by arthritis.

Several studies have found that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables is linked to lower levels of inflammation.

Spinach, in particular, contains plenty of antioxidants as well as plant compounds that can relieve inflammation and help fight disease.

Spinach is especially high in the antioxidant kaempferol, which has been shown to decrease the effects of the inflammatory agents associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

A 2017 test-tube study treated arthritic cartilage cells with kaempferol and found it reduced inflammation and prevented the progression of osteoarthritis.

However, more research is needed to study the effects of spinach and its components on humans with arthritis.

Research and Study of Arthritis

The same Arthritis Care & Research study mentioned above found that in addition to blueberries, consuming spinach was also very often attributed to an improvement in arthritis symptoms by survey participants.

Test tube research suggests that spinach has anti-osteoarthritic effects that appear to target cartilage cells. For a long time, gout sufferers were told to avoid spinach, as its high levels of purines might trigger an attack.

However, a 2012 study found that while animal foods rich in purines were associated with five times the risk of attack, plant-based purine-rich foods did not increase gout incidence or severity.

8. Grapes.

Grapes are nutrient-dense, high in antioxidants, and possess anti-inflammatory properties.

In one study, 24 men were given either a concentrated grape powder that was equivalent to about 1.5 cups (252 grams) of fresh grapes or a placebo daily for three weeks. The grape powder effectively decreased levels of inflammatory markers in the blood.

Additionally, grapes contain several compounds that have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of arthritis. For example, resveratrol is an antioxidant present in the skin of grapes.

In one test-tube study, resveratrol showed potential for helping prevent the thickening of the joints associated with arthritis by blocking the formation of rheumatoid arthritis cells.

Grapes also contain a plant compound called proanthocyanidin, which may have promising effects on arthritis. For example, one test-tube study showed that grape seed proanthocyanidin extracts reduced inflammation related to the disease.

Keep in mind that these are test-tube studies using concentrated doses of antioxidants far greater than the amount you would consume in a typical serving.

Further research is needed to determine how these results may translate to humans.

9. Olive oil

Well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties, olive oil may have a favorable effect on arthritis symptoms.

In one study, mice were fed extra-virgin olive oil for six weeks. This helped stop the development of arthritis, reduce joint swelling, slow cartilage destruction, and decrease inflammation.

In another study, 49 participants with rheumatoid arthritis consumed either fish oil or an olive oil capsule each day for 24 weeks.

At the end of the study, levels of a specific inflammatory marker had decreased in both groups — by 38.5% in the olive oil group and between 40–55% in the fish oil group.

Another study analyzed the diets of 333 participants with and without rheumatoid arthritis, finding that olive oil consumption was associated with a lower risk of the disease.

Although more research is needed on the effects of olive oil on arthritis, including olive oil and other healthy fats in your diet can definitely benefit your health, and may also reduce arthritis symptoms.

10. Tart cherry juice

Tart cherry juice is an increasingly popular beverage derived from the fruit of the Prunus cerasus tree.

This potent juice offers a wide array of nutrients and health benefits, and may even help reduce the symptoms of arthritis.

In one study, 58 participants received either two 8-ounce (237-ml) bottles of tart cherry juice or a placebo every day for six weeks.

Compared to the placebo, tart cherry juice significantly decreased symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduced inflammation.

In another study, drinking tart cherry juice for three weeks reduced the levels of inflammatory markers in 20 women with osteoarthritis.

Be sure to look for an unsweetened variety of tart cherry juice to make sure you don’t consume excess added sugar.

In combination with a healthy diet and other arthritis-fighting foods, a serving of unsweetened tart cherry juice per day may help decrease some of the symptoms of arthritis.

11. Citrus fruits

Polyphenols like hesperidin and naringenin, found in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and limes, have been found to help reduce the inflammation that can worsen arthritis symptoms. A 2016 study published in Clinical Rheumatology assessed the impact of dietary choices on the risk of developing RA among a Chinese population.

The authors found that RA patients tended to have a low intake of citrus fruits, indicating that there might be a correlation between citrus fruit intake and susceptibility to arthritis.

12. Mushrooms

Mushrooms have long been used in traditional medicine to alleviate a number of conditions with their natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Even the run-of-the-mill white button variety appears to have the potential to reduce the incidence and severity of arthritis in animal studies, though more research is needed.

Note that some mushrooms may contain vitamin D, an important nutrient that may be helpful for arthritis due to its immune-boosting properties. Studies have found low levels of vitamin D among people with osteoarthritis and that vitamin D deficiency has been linked to the most debilitating symptoms of RA.

Keep in mind that the form in mushrooms is vitamin D2, which is less bio available than vitamin D3. The most reliable way to get vitamin D is from the sun, or with a vitamin D3 supplement, but some mushrooms can be beneficial as well.

13. Turmeric

The main polyphenol found in turmeric, called curcumin, has been heavily studied for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. One study found that 8–12 weeks of standardized turmeric extracts (the equivalent of taking approximately 1000 mg/day of curcumin) could be as effective as pain medication in reducing arthritic symptoms.

Note that taking curcumin on its own has not been shown to be very effective. Taking it with piperine (the main active component in black pepper), or with other bioavailability enhancements such as micelle liposomal delivery, has been found to increase absorption.

14. Cinnamon

Derived from tree bark, cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid, compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may be beneficial for arthritis.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that 500 mg per day of cinnamon supplementation for 8 weeks was helpful in reducing RA symptoms among 36 women with the disease.

There are many forms of cinnamon available. Ceylon cinnamon is the healthiest type.

In addition, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine offers a list of “pain-safe” foods that are not at all associated with arthritis pain. These include rice; cooked green, orange, and yellow vegetables; and cooked or dried non-citrus fruits.

Here are 8 foods and beverages to avoid if you have arthritis.


  • Added sugars. You should limit your sugar intake no matter what, but especially if you have arthritis.
  • Processed and red meats.
  • Gluten-containing foods.
  • Highly processed foods.
  • Alcohol.
  • Certain vegetable oils.
  • Foods high in salt.
  • Foods high in AGEs. – Advanced Glycation End Products – include meat (especially red meat), certain cheeses, fried eggs, butter, cream cheese, margarine, mayonnaise, oils, and nuts. Fried foods and highly processed products also contain high levels.

Summary

Arthritis is a common — sometimes debilitating — condition affecting millions of people worldwide. There are many different types of arthritis, but inflammation, stiffness, and pain is a common complaint among those afflicted.

Having a good understanding of your condition will help you know about your treatment options and why exercise and other self-management methods are important. It will also mean you’re in a good position to get the most out of your appointments with healthcare professionals.

If you’re ever struggling with any aspects of managing your arthritis or notice new symptoms, you should see a GP. They could also refer you to another relevant healthcare professional.

If you have arthritis it does have the potential to have an impact on your quality of life. However, with the right treatment, support, knowledge, and approach, you will be able to live a fulfilling, happy and successful life.

The more you’re able to stay physically and socially active the more control you’ll have over your life, and the less control arthritis will have over you.

Change in Diet.

Research on the most common types of arthritis shows that altering your diet can reduce symptoms and sometimes even reverse disease progression.

This is especially true with whole food, a plant-based diet that incorporates anti-inflammatory foods, and avoids highly-processed, sugary, and animal-derived foods.

Whether or not you’re currently struggling with arthritis, the best time to bring down inflammation is now. And the best place to start is with the food on your plate.

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Please let us know in the comments below:

1. Are you familiar with arthritis before you read this topic?

2. Do you know of anyone who suffers from it? If so, what form?

3. What measures do they used to lessen the underlying pain? Did it help them at all? If not, why not?

Disclaimer

Information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We encourage you to do your own research. Seek the advice of a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet.

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References:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20039434/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-foods-for-arthritis

https://foodrevolution.org/blog/best-and-worst-arthritis-foods/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/

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