Can Food Help Your Arthritis?
Eating to Help With Your Arthritis
We get this questions quite often from our patients, “Is there anything I should or should not eat to ease my arthritis pain?”
Arthritis is a very common ailment for many US adults. According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and estimated 52.5 million adults have been told by their doctor that they have some type of arthritis and a whopping 49.7% of adults over 65 years of age have been told they have diagnosed arthritis.
Although there is no magic food bullet studies have shown that certain food have anti-inflammatory properties and specific benefits to those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other inflammatory forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout and osteoporosis symptoms.
There is a lot of discussion lately about the role of processed sugar and inflammation. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. These cytokines signal and stimulate the movement of cells toward sites of inflammation. We generally recommend to all our patients that they try to reduce their processed sugar intake to help reduce their inflammatory reaction in the body.
We will discuss 2 common Arthritis conditions that many of our patients have, the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Osteoarthritis.
- RA and Other Inflammatory Forms of Arthritis
Although there are no specific nutrition guidelines for people with RA, researchers have found a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytochemicals supplies the body with powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients. These foods are commonly part of a Mediterranean-style diet of fish, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds and beans. This diet has been analyzed in small studies for its impact on RA symptoms. Results showed improvements in pain, morning stiffness, disease activity and physical function.
Interestingly, researchers have found that oleocanthal, a key compound in extra virgin olive oil, has a significant impact on inflammation and helps reduce joint cartilage damage. Earlier studies showed that oleocanthal prevents the production of pro-inflammatory COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes – the same way ibuprofen works.
Researchers have also found that green tea significantly reduced the severity of arthritis by causing changes in various immune responses. They showed that an antioxidant in green tea blocks the production of molecules that cause joint damage.
- Osteoarthritis (OA)
Having a balanced, nutritious diet is an important part of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. This healthy weight significantly reduces stress on joints.
A small study published in Arthritis in 2015 reported on a 6-week intervention of 40 individuals with osteoarthritis who were placed on a plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and whole grains. The group experienced significantly reduced pain and improved physical function.
An earlier study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism in 2013, revealed that a compound called sulforaphane, found in Brussels sprouts and cabbage but especially in broccoli, could be key in slowing the progress of OA and the destruction of joint cartilage.
A 2010 study in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders reported that people who regularly eat foods from the alium family – like garlic, onions and leeks, showed fewer signs of early OA. Researchers think the compound diallyl disulphine found in these foods may limit cartilage-damaging enzymes in human cells – making it a great choice if you have OA.
The takeaway we tell our patients is to eat a balanced meal. The old adage…Everything in moderation. But, if you have an inflammatory condition such as arthritis, you may benefit from eating foods that will decrease the inflammation or not cause inflammation.