Reduce Inflammation From Arthritis With These Foods
More than 54 million Americans, or 23 percent of all adults, have one physical condition in common: arthritis. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), arthritis is a leading cause of work disability and has an annual price tag of $303.5 billion for medical spending and lost wages.
Arthritis is a disease that causes joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation that worsens with age. The degenerative joint condition causes the cartilage that normally cushions joints to break down, resulting in bone rubbing against bone. According to the CDC, 60 percent of working-age (18-64 years old) adults say that arthritis either limits the type of work they can do or keeps them from working at all.
The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which mostly affects joints in the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Other forms include gout, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder that can cause joint pain and damage throughout the body.
Arthritis can be treated through medication, but changes in lifestyle and diet can also help to relieve pain and discomfort from the joint disorder. Melissa Ann Prest, a registered dietician, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics highlights the Mediterranean and DASH diets as helpful to people with arthritis because the diets limit added sugar, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats, all of which can cause inflammation and lead to arthritis pain.
5 Superfoods That Help Fight Arthritis
Researchers have discovered that eating foods that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties help to reduce joint pain and even slow down the progression of arthritis.
Here are the top 5 superfoods known to have an effect on easing arthritis pain:
1. Oily Fish
Oily fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which helps to fight inflammation, which is one of the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to the body, yet the body cannot make this type of fat on its own. But, these healthy fats can be found in oily fish, such as:
- Lake trout
- Lake white fish
- Sea bass
- Striped bass
- Tuna, solid white albacore, both fresh and canned
People who do not like to eat fish can get omega-3 fatty acids from supplements, such as krill oil, fish oil, or flaxseed oil, and from chia seeds and walnuts.
Besides fighting arthritis, omega-3 fatty acids are also good for the heart. The American Heart Association recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings of non-fried fish, or about a three-quarter cup of flaked fish every week to maintain heart health.
2. Olive oil
Recent studies have found that olive oil helps to stem chronic inflammation. A study published in the journal, Nutrients, found that extra virgin olive oil helps to reduce cartilage damage in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Olive oil helps in the fight against arthritis because it contains oleocanthal, a compound that scientists say works similar to anti-inflammatory painkillers, like ibuprofen and naproxen. Research shows that about three and one-half tablespoons of olive oil is equal to about a 200 mg tablet of ibuprofen, which is used to help control pain and inflammation, according to the Arthritis Foundation. However, the foundation recommends consuming olive oil in moderation since three and one-half tablespoons of olive oil has more than 400 calories and can lead to weight gain.
Olive oil can be used in salads and as a replacement for saturated fats like butter, margarine, and mayonnaise. Research also shows that olive oil, like omega-3 fatty acids, has cardiovascular benefits and may lower the risk of heart disease.
Cherries are rich with anthocyanins that are not only powerful antioxidants, but also give fruits, like cherries, blueberries, and raspberries, their colorful pigments. What’s more, anthocyanins “may help minimize oxidation and oxidative stress that contribute to inflammation,” including in your joints, according to Toby Amidor, a registered dietician and author of The Family Immunity Cookbook.
Oxidative stress, caused by an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity, has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis. Some studies suggest that tart cherry juice, because of its anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, helps to reduce pain and inflammation from osteoarthritis.
One group of investigators reviewed 29 studies that examined the health benefits of consuming cherries. According to researchers, 8 out of 10 studies showed consumption of cherries decreased markers for oxidative stress, inflammation, and arthritis. A study in the journal, Arthritis & Rheumatism, found that people with osteoarthritis of the knee experienced a decrease in pain after drinking two bottles of tart cherry juice every day for six weeks.
Garlic is the go-to vegetable to spice up any dish. Besides bringing out the flavor of a dish, garlic also helps to fight inflammation. Garlic contains diallyl disulfide, a compound that limits the growth of cytokines, which are small proteins that can increase inflammation and potentially damage cartilage.
One recent study examining the effects of garlic involved 70 women with rheumatoid arthritis. The women were randomly divided into two groups: one group took a 1,000 mg garlic supplement and the control group was given a placebo for eight weeks. The women who took the garlic on a regular basis reported a significant decrease in pain intensity, tender and swollen joints, and fatigue.
5. Spinach and kale
Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are generally in the top 10 of any list of superfoods. That’s because leafy greens are loaded with vitamin K, which is essential to cartilage health, according to Prest.
Observational studies have found that older adults who do not get enough vitamin K are more likely to develop osteoarthritis. What’s more, current literature shows that a sufficient level of vitamin K lowers the risk of osteoarthritis and joint disorders.
For people taking blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin), health experts warn that consuming too much vitamin K can counteract the impact of the blood thinner. So, check with your doctor before making any major dietary changes.
Besides eating these and other superfoods, the CDC says people with arthritis should maintain a healthy weight to reduce their risk of knee osteoarthritis and stay physically active to decrease arthritis pain. The CDC also recommends that people with inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, talk with their doctor about their condition. Early intervention can lead to a better quality of life if they are diagnosed early, receive treatment, and learn how to manage their condition, according to the CDC.