July 1, 2022

Can Your Diet Impact Arthritis?

10 Do’s and Don’ts.

The short answer: yes. Learn about how different foods can relieve arthritis symptoms, which foods cause inflammation, and the best food for arthritis.

The CDC reports that over 54 million people have arthritis – that’s 23% of the adult U.S. population [1]. And while there’s no magic pill to cure arthritis, there are quite a few well-researched holistic options available to help relieve arthritis pain.

When it comes to arthritis, medical options include joint surgery, hyaluronic and steroid injections, statins, and other medications to improve joint health and reduce pain.

But for those of you who find medical approaches aren’t an option, aren’t enough, or who just prefer a more holistic solution – an often overlooked path to aid in arthritis relief is diet.

Infectious arthritis – also known as septic arthritis – is a painful and sudden form of arthritis brought on by an infection that can cause permanent joint damage.

Metabolic arthritis is caused by uric acid build-ups that form needle-like spikes in joints that trigger sudden and intense pain.

Dietary Factors that Impact Arthritis

There are three central ways your diet can impact your arthritis symptoms. 

Inflammation

Inflammation plays a critical role in most forms of inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis. In healthy joints, the bone is covered in a protective layer of a flexible yet durable substance called cartilage. Cartilage provides a cushion that helps facilitate movement and protects the bones. 

Surrounding the cartilage is a liquid called synovial fluid, which transports nutrients into the joint to keep it healthy. In the case of an injury, a heightened immune response helps deliver vital nutrients that help you heal. Paradoxically, the chronic inflammation that flares as a reaction to normal wear or misinterpreted immune signals can lead to further cartilage damage [3], unproductive swelling, and long-term, severe pain.

Foods that contain anti-inflammatory properties or antioxidants that balance immune system function can help manage inflammation and potentially relieve arthritis symptoms.

Weight Loss

Weight loss can improve arthritis symptoms by relieving pressure from joints. And we’re not talking about getting into “perfect” shape, if there is such a thing. Even a few pounds can make an impact. Weight loss is most helpful for arthritis of the knees or hips. (The Arthritis Foundation [4] says carrying an extra 10 pounds equates to the equivalent of an extra 15-50lbs of pressure on your knees!) 

Weight loss also impacts arthritis by influencing levels of leptin, a hormone produced by fat that tells us when we’re full. Leptin helps our bodies recognize when we’ve eaten enough and impacts our mood, energy levels, and immune system activity. And while it’s healthy to have a strong immune system, too much immune activity can increase inflammation. 

Research on leptin and osteoarthritis [5] found that people with OA typically have increased leptin levels inside their joints. The leptin lives inside the joint’s synovial fluid and releases pro-inflammatory cytokines that prompt cartilage breakdown and slow new, healthy cartilage production.

If you’re looking to lose a bit of weight and don’t know where to begin, activities like short walks, swimming, and water aerobics can help you lose weight and get healthier without putting too much pressure on your joints.

Cholesterol

While most of us have learned that cholesterol is “bad” for us, there are actually two types of cholesterol – high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The cholesterol type known for leading to plaque build-up in arteries and causing strokes, heart attacks, and heart disease are LDLs.

Cholesterol facilitates a number of critical responsibilities in the body, including:

  • Communication between cells

  • Cell movement

  • Vitamin D production

  • Sex hormone production

  • Helping our livers break down fats

Both LDL and HDL are critical in performing these functions. LDL helps transport cholesterol throughout the body to achieve these effects, while HDL clears and recycles the cholesterol left by LDL. The trouble arises when we have higher levels of LDL than HDL. While our bodies easily transport cholesterol into our bloodstream, we don’t have enough HDLs to clear the cholesterol out. 

As more cholesterol builds up, blood vessels constrict, preventing oxygen and nutrient-rich blood from reaching joints to feed and repair cartilage. Additionally, cholesterol leads to the production of chondrocytes. With high cholesterol levels, chondrocytes produce reactive oxygen, further impairing cartilage formation.

Diet can heavily influence the impact cholesterol has on your arthritis. Focus on selecting foods that decrease your LDL intake and increase HDL levels can help balance your cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Additionally, eating foods with antioxidants that combat the effects of reactive oxygen can also help.

5 Inflammatory Foods to Avoid with Arthritis

There are several types of food you may want to consider dropping from your grocery list if you struggle with arthritis.

Processed sugars like those found in the sodas, baked goods, candy, and fruit juices we love so much can actually lead to the production of inflammatory cytokines [6]. Don’t worry, there’s no need to completely eliminate your favorite sweets from your diet – the key is moderation.

Trans fats trigger inflammation [7] and can usually be found in fried foods, frozen meals, processed snacks, donuts, and cookies. To reduce trans fats, avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils on the label.

Saturated fats lead to increased levels of LDL cholesterol, which worsens both heart disease and cartilage damage. Try to lessen your consumption of processed meats (especially red meat), cheeses and other full-fat dairy products, and baked goods.

Refined carbohydrates on the high end of the glycemic index boost inflammation by fueling the creation of advanced glycation end (AGE) products [8]. To lessen the risk of AGE-related inflammation, try reducing the white flour products, cereals, white potatoes, and white rice in your diet.

Alcohol consumption, when moderate, actually lends protective anti-inflammatory properties. But when alcohol consumption gets out of hand, excessive alcohol triggers increased inflammation [9][10]. Additionally, heavy drinkers may face a problem called leaky gut that drives widespread inflammation and organ damage.

5 Foods that Help with Inflammation

If you’re looking for foods that reduce inflammation, you’ll want to focus on ingredients with plenty of antioxidants, that help maintain a healthy weight, and balance unhealthy cholesterol. You can find an extended list of foods that help with inflammation here.

Fruits and Veggies (antioxidant-rich)

Many fruits and veggies are filled with antioxidants that reduce inflammation by fighting oxidative stress from free radicals. Infuse your diet with fresh fruits and veggies featuring vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E [11], melatonin, and glutathione [12]. 

High-powered anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables to add to your grocery list include:

  • Vitamin C: Red peppers, citrus fruit and juice, broccoli, strawberries, brussel sprouts [13]

  • Vitamin E: Spinach, broccoli, avocado, kiwi, mango [14]

  • Glutathione: Spinach, asparagus, avocado, green beans, cucumber, papaya [15]

  • Melatonin: Strawberries, apples, tart cherries, ginger, pepper, tomatoes [16]

Heart-healthy Nuts (lowers cholesterol)

Many nuts feature polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that clear bad LDL cholesterol from your arteries. With clear arteries, you make it easier for oxygen-rich blood to keep your joints healthy with all the nutrients they need. Additionally, many nuts also contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that fight inflammation [17].

Nuts, legumes, and seeds that could help reduce arthritis symptoms include: walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, flaxseeds, chia seeds.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (fights inflammation)

Research has found oleocanthal [18] – a core component in extra virgin olive oil – may be as effective, if not more so, than popular nonsteroidal anti inflammatory steroids (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen! Oils rich in oleocanthal include: olive oil, walnut oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, canola oil, soybean oil [19].

Beans (fight inflammation)

Numerous studies have found that various types of beans lower levels of inflammatory markers known as C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. Most beans also benefit the immune and cardiovascular system and are rich in magnesium, iron, potassium, and polyphenols (powerful antioxidants) [20]. Great beans to add to your diet include: black-eyed peas, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), black beans, adzuki beans, and Anasazi beans.

Coffee and Green Tea (fight inflammation)

Looking for antioxidant-rich drinks to add to your diet? Studies suggest both coffee [21] and green tea [22] could serve as powerful anti-inflammatories. Green tea and coffee are rich in polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants. To reduce inflammation, try adding a cup of green tea or coffee to your morning or lunch routine.

Struggling with the chronic pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis and don’t know where to turn? Give us a call. At Healing Lab, we specialize in energy healing for osteoarthritis and helping people get back to the activities that bring them joy.

Are you ready for less pain?

Take the next step in your healing journey. Schedule your free consultation with our founder and expert healer, Mike Sententia, and find out if Healing Lab is right for you.

Book your free consultation

Leave A Comment