Arthritis is a condition characterized by pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints. It has the reputation as a disorder of the elderly, but in fact can affect people of any age. If you have arthritis, you understand how painful it can be. Some days you’ll have stiffness and aches, but flare-ups may be so agonizing that you can barely get out of bed.
There are many different types of arthritis, but two are quite a bit more common than the others. Osteoarthritis develops in joints that are overused. Repetitive stress from certain careers or sports can play a part.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system goes rogue and attacks your joints. (Seriously, what did you ever do to justify such mutiny?) Other less common forms of arthritis include gout, fibromyalgia, and psoriatic arthritis.
If you have arthritis, regardless of type, we bet you’d do just about anything to avoid triggering an attack. Thankfully, many foods can reduce arthritis-related inflammation and relieve some of that grinding, radiating, off-the-charts pain. Following are 8 great choices.
8. Fatty Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to have strong anti-inflammatory effects, and that’s what you want when arthritis is dominating the picture.
Certain fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, and trout are especially high in omega-3 and adding them to your diet is a smart move. Fish in general is also high in vitamin D, and some studies have concluded that rheumatoid arthritis is associated with low levels of D.
It doesn’t take much – just two servings per week are enough to reap the anti-inflammatory properties, but you don’t have to stop there if you enjoy fish.
If you’re someone who thinks it looks and tastes gross, a fish oil supplement is a good alternative. You could be rewarded with less morning stiffness, a decrease in pain intensity, and a reduced need for pain medication.
We’ve double-teamed these two seasonings because it’s not like you can just snack on either. They are, however, extremely versatile ingredients for lots of different meals.
They even go nicely together. Garlic has a strong anti-inflammatory effect to go along with its strong flavor. It may even enhance the ability of certain immune cells to bolster the immune system and decrease some inflammatory markers of arthritis.
Ginger has a similar effect. It can be consumed as a tea, in soups or stir fries, and either fresh, powdered, or dried. The components of ginger (over 200 individual ones) seem to work together to block the production of substances that cause inflammation in the body. Both of these ingredients go nicely with our next food suggestion.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are associated with reduced inflammation, but broccoli in particular has another component that may reduce your arthritis pain.
Sulforaphane blocks the formation of a particular kind of cell that plays a key role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. It also limits production of inflammatory markers and could thereby slow the progression of the disease.
Other cruciferous veggies like Brussels sprouts and cabbage also contain sulforaphane, but they are more of an acquired taste. If you’re new to the world of cruciferous vegetables, start slow as they are also notorious for producing gas.
Walnuts are another food high in omega-3 fatty acids and therefore may be good for reducing inflammation. This easy snack is also nutrient-dense and offers a bunch of other compounds that can further soothe symptoms. An analysis that looked at 13 individual studies came to the conclusion that eating walnuts does help in this regard.
Additionally, walnuts contain enough fiber, antioxidants, and unsaturated fat to offer some heart protective benefits. That’s important because people with rheumatoid, psoriatic, and gout arthritis are at an elevated risk of heart disease. Feel free to eat a handful every day, but don’t overdo it as they are also fairly high in calories.
Berries are great because there is a ton of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in almost every variety available. Berries are also high in two plant compounds that are thought to reduce inflammation: quercetin and rutin. Together they block the processes that spark painful swelling.
A diet rich in berries could lower the chance of developing elevated levels of inflammatory markers in the blood by as much as 14%. Enjoy any kind you like. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries all deliver the goods.
We know spinach is not for everybody. But it should be! That distinct flavor is actually indicative of the fact that spinach, like other dark leafy greens, is simply packed with nutrition. The good thing about that is you can get what you need without eating a ton of it. But we digress.
Spinach is particularly high in the antioxidant kaempferol, which is known to decrease the discomfort caused by the inflammatory agents associated with rheumatoid arthritis. It may even be able to slow or prevent the progression of osteoarthritis.
More research is needed, but since spinach also increases the production of red blood cells, reduces the risk of cancer, prevents free radical damage, detoxifies heavy metals, and helps fight infection, you should be eating it anyway.
Grapes are another fruit that offers a nice dose of antioxidants along with anti-inflammatory properties. In one study, a daily dose of grape powder equivalent to 1 ½ cups of fresh grapes reduced inflammatory markers in the blood of participants. Grapes also contain a tongue-twisting plant compound called proanthocyanidin, which also reduces inflammation.
Red grapes in particular contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that could help prevent thickening of the joints as occurs in arthritis. Good news – red wine contains resveratrol, too! Ask your doctor first, but we suspect a little glass of wine might also help you care less about your arthritis pain.
While no diet can completely cure arthritis – indeed, no treatment of any kind has been found to do that – it is clear that attention to what you eat can make a huge dent in your suffering. Combined with traditional treatments offered by your doctor, we encourage you to make the foods on our list staples in your diet. Not only are they healthy and nutritious, but they can also reduce your arthritis pain and consequently your reliance on medication.