Arthritis is a serious health crisis that affects millions of people of all ages, genders, races, and ethnic groups. Today more than 50 million Americans have arthritis. Normally cartilage covers the end of each bone, but with OA (Osteoarthritis), the cartilage breaks down, causing pain and swelling. As OA worsens, bones may break down, and “spurs” occur. An inflammatory process starts that further damages the cartilage and finally, bone rubs against bone, causing more joint damage and more pain.
So is there a diet for arthritis? There answer is both yes and no. There is no diet cure for arthritis, but certain food categories have been shown to fight inflammation and boost the immune system, so emphasizing these foods in a balanced and varied diet may help to ease the symptoms of arthritis. Some studies have shown that people who eat a high fiber diet have lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in the blood; CRP is a marker of inflammation. A fiber-rich diet can also help with weight loss which helps with managing joint pain but increase fiber slowly and drink plenty of water. Also known as a “Mediterranean diet”, some of those inflammation-fighting foods include:
- Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that support the immune system, the body’s natural defense system, and they also provide significant soluble and insoluble fiber. They should make up about 1/2 of your plate at mealtime. Choose colorful foods such as cherries, blueberries, blackberries, oranges, spinach, broccoli, and carrots.
- Beans, an excellent source of protein which is important for muscle health. Some varieties are rich in folic acid, magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium, also known for heart and immune system benefits. Beans are an excellent fiber source and phytonutrients which also help lower CRP.
- Nuts and seeds provide monounsaturated fat, protein, and fiber too. Consume about 1.5 oz. daily, which is about a handful. The best sources are walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and almonds.
- Whole grains are recommended - select brown rice, whole oats, and whole wheat bread. If you prefer white bread, look for “whole grain white” on some bread labels – the whole flour is softer in texture and still white in color.
Keep in mind that a balanced diet also contains healthy fats, seafood and lean meats, and low-fat dairy. Also, limit saturated fats, reduce salt and refined sugars, and avoid Trans fats in processed foods.
Should those with arthritis avoid nightshade vegetables – eggplant, tomatoes, red bell peppers, and potatoes? It all depends on how your body reacts. These foods do provide a variety of nutrients with a minimum of calories, but if arthritis pain flares after eating them, it is advised to eliminate all nightshade varieties from your diet for a few weeks and note any differences. Consult with your physician or RD.
There are myths that encourage the consumption or elimination of certain foods, but no credible evidence exists that supports those food myths. Beware of any “miracle food” treatment. The best advice – talk to your healthcare professional about managing your arthritis through medications and advanced therapies, healthy diet, weight management, and regular exercise. For more information regarding living a full life with arthritis, please check out the Arthritis Foundation® at www.arthritis.org.
Source materials retrieved from www.arthritis.org - “Arthritis by the Numbers” (2015), “Arthritis Diet/The Ultimate Arthritis Diet” by Amy Patural (updated October 2015) and “More Fiber, Less Inflammation” (updated June 2015) and www.eatright.org – “Inflammation and Diet” by Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD (published September 2014).