Arthritis is a painful condition where one or more joints of the body become inflamed; it typically worsens with age. With over one hundred different types of arthritis, the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While the different types have different causes, most often the body’s immune system begins to attack its own tissues, thus breaking them down.
Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are several common treatments that can help to manage the condition and the associated pain. These treatments include plenty of rest, physical therapy, medication, exercise, and sometimes surgery.
Nutrition can help treat arthritis pain as well. Certain foods can help to improve the pain while others may worsen it. Understanding which foods to choose can make all the difference in your body’s experience with arthritis.
Foods that Help Arthritis Pain:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Once ingested, omega-3 fatty acids convert into compounds that are much more potent than the original fatty acids themselves. One important type of compound, called resolvin, is effective in signaling the inflammatory response to end. In arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, an overactive immune system causes degradation of body tissues. Resolvins flip the “inflammation switch” to the off position. For best results, food sources of omega-3 fatty acids, like fatty fish salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines, walnuts, walnut oil, flaxseed and flaxseed oil are preferred over supplements.
- Fiber: Consuming adequate amounts of fiber appears to lower a protein in the blood called C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of inflammation. When blood levels of CRP are high, it is a strong indicator that something is causing an inflammatory response in the body. While it can’t be officially said that high fiber foods will treat arthritis specifically, lowering CRP levels may be helpful.
- Strawberries: These juicy red berries have the same effect on blood levels of CRP as fiber does. A study conducted at Harvard University found that women who ate 16 or more strawberries each week were 14% less likely to have elevated CRP levels compared to those who did not eat strawberries.
- Cruciferous Vegetables: Foods like broccoli or kale contain chemical components that can help to decrease the inflammation seen in arthritis. As a result, the symptoms associated with arthritis often decrease too.
Foods that Hurt Arthritis Pain:
- Omega-6 Fatty Acids: This type of fatty acid is prevalent in all types of snack foods, deep fried foods, and margarine-like spreads. Coincidentally, overindulging in processed snack foods has been linked with enhancing joint inflammation and obesity. Obesity and arthritis are further associated with one another because fat cells can produce cytokines, a type of protein that promotes inflammation.
- Processed Foods: Packaged foods are often high in sodium, oils, and sugars, none of which is good for managing arthritis. These ingredients encourage the progression of arthritis and do little to help.
- Alcohol: Alcohol increases inflammation in the body and puts your body at risk for several different health complications. It’s best to avoid alcohol completely or consume it in amounts that are sparing.
Hopefully this information can be of practical use to your or a loved one dealing with arthritis. If you find a food causing an increase in your pain levels, consider eating less of that food to see if your experience improves. The goal of arthritis treatment is to prevent the condition from getting worse and to manage painful symptoms. Eating healthfully can do just that.