Arthritis: The Role of Diet on Inflammation

Currently, there is not a specific diet for people with Arthritis, and it has not been proven that eating any one food will make joint pain better or worse.  However, there is some evidence that certain foods promote inflammation while others help to reduce inflammation within the body.  A well-balanced diet is important in arthritis management, and the following tips may help to relieve some joint pain and stiffness:

  • Achieve or Maintain a Healthy Body Weight.  Extra body weight puts added stress and strain on weight-bearing joints, which promotes damage and inflammation.  In fact, an extra 10 pounds of weight puts 40 pounds of added pressure on the knees.  Fat cells also secrete inflammatory factors, which increases potential for inflammation within the body.
  • Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Diet.  These fatty acids found in fish, walnuts and flaxseed have been found to help reduce inflammation within the body, and may help to reduce joint pain and stiffness.
  • Eat More Fruits and Vegetables and Whole Grains.  These foods are rich in antioxidants, which help to stabilize free radicals.  Free radicals are destructive molecules that lead to many chronic diseases, including arthritis.
  • Limit Saturated Fats and Trans Fats.  These unhealthy fats increase inflammation within the diet.  They are found in butter, hydrogenated vegetable oil, margarine, fried foods, baked goods and all animal fats (i.e. fats in meats and dairy products).
  • Reduce Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates.  Too many sodas, cookies, pastries and other sugary foods can lead to inflammation within the body.  They are also very calorie dense, and these added calories can often lead to weight gain which further aggravates arthritis.
  • Remember: not everyone reacts to foods in the same way.  There is no strong, reproducible evidence that nightshade plants (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers), dairy products, coffee, and animal proteins worsen symptoms of arthritis.  However, some people have found that limiting some of these foods helps to lessen symptoms associated with arthritis.  Pay attention to your body and if any foods seem to worsen your symptoms.