When we hear about arthritis, we often think of it as an age-related disease; so what does anti-inflammatory foods have to do with this?
The term for this inflammatory disorder actually covers over 100 different types of rheumatic ailments and conditions. Arthritis affects your joints and the tissue that surrounds them, as well as the connective tissue. The most common forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), fibromyalgia, and gout (1). While each of these conditions can cause varying degrees of pain in different areas, any type of arthritis can severely limit your life in many ways. Luckily, the condition can be managed by eating anti-inflammatory foods.
Who Gets Arthritis?
While the largest percentage of people diagnosed with arthritis is people over 65 (almost 50 percent), just over 7 percent of the population between 18 and 44 also experiences this often debilitating disease (2). What’s more upsetting, however, is that almost 300,000 babies and children in the US alone also suffer from arthritis or a rheumatic condition—that’s 1 in 250 kids (3).
In general, 1 in 5 Americans (5 million) currently suffer from arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, that number will rise to over 78 million by 2040 (4).
Typically, arthritis pain results from an injury of some form to your joints, whether it is caused by an accident. It may also occur because of physiological issues and autoimmune conditions. In either case, damaged tissues release specific chemicals that alert nearby sensory nerves. Once signaled, the nerves send a message up your spinal cord to your brain, which processes the message and then sends a “danger” signal to your motor nerves causing them to take immediate action. A good example is if you touch a hot stove. Your automatic response is to pull your hand away before you cause more damage.
In either case, damaged tissues release specific chemicals that alert nearby sensory nerves. Once signaled, the nerves send a message up your spinal cord to your brain, which processes the message and then sends a “danger” signal to your motor nerves causing them to take immediate action. A good example is if you touch a hot stove. Your automatic response is to pull your hand away before you cause more damage.
Our bodies also spontaneously manage pain by releasing “painkilling chemicals,” known as endorphins. Your brain also sends “blocking signals” through your nerves to stop your body from receiving any further pain messages, essentially cutting off the sensation (5).
Currently, the conventional treatment for arthritis pain includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAID) such as ibuprofen, aspirin or when severe, even steroids such as prednisone. While these medications may help to relieve pain symptoms temporarily, they do not address the underlying cause of the disease. Plus, they are proving to be dangerous, especially if taken long-term (6).
NSAIDs are linked to ulcers and even strokes, hypertension, kidney disease and cataracts. In fact, research published in Lancet, clearly shows that your risk of heart attack increases by as much as a third after long-term use. Plus, the risk of heart failure actually doubles for chronic and heavier users of NSAIDs (7).
Treating Arthritis Naturally
What your doctor will not likely tell you, however, is that there are other, more natural ways to treat arthritis. One such way is simply through diet.
Inflammation is the main cause of arthritic pain. Luckily, there are a number of foods that can not only help to reduce inflammation once it occurs but to also prevent it. Certain foods can further help to block the pain signals and even better, heal existing damage to your joint tissues and cartilage. Just like some foods can help heal arthritis, others, like all processed foods and sugar, can contribute to the condition, causing more inflammation. Standards of the inflammatory diet include processed fats, caffeine, and alcohol.
Here are 30 of the best foods to eat for arthritis.
30 Anti-inflammatory Foods For Arthritis Pain
By learning how to eat healthy and avoid inflammation-causing foods, you can eventually relieve your arthritis pain and heal your body. You can even prevent inflammation and ultimately serious disease.
Here are a few standards of the low inflammation diet.
Ginger is one of the most recognized anti-inflammatory spices on the planet. This tangy spice contains potent compounds called gingerols that can help to prevent the production of chemicals and hormones that trigger pain. Studies show that ginger, whether eaten raw or cooked, can work as well as or even better than several common NSAIDs, including ibuprofen.
A 2012 study found that ginger extract can ease the muscle and joint pain, swelling and stiffness associated with arthritis within two months for 63 percent of the participants (8).
Another 2009 study shows that taking 250 mg of ginger, four times daily, is as effective as taking mefenamic acid and/or ibuprofen, the conventional treatments for relieving menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea) (9).
A quick, easy, and highly effective way to take advantage of ginger’s anti-inflammatory benefits is in tea. Simply add 4 or 5 pieces of fresh ginger root to boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes, then enjoy. You can even chew on a peeled piece of raw ginger for quick pain relief.
2. Hot Peppers
If you have ever eaten hot peppers, you know how quickly they can affect your body. Hot peppers like cayenne peppers contain capsaicin, the active ingredient that triggers your body to release endorphins (“happy hormones”).
These chemicals can not only make you feel good by elevating your mood, but they can also help to lessen or even relieve chronic pain.
Capsaicin can further reduce the amount of substance P in your body, the chemical that carries pain messages to your brain. By reducing this substance, it also reduces the pain messages so they can no longer reach your brain, which essentially relieves any pain sensation (10).
You can eat hot peppers cooked or raw. Just add a few to your meals or add a half teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper to a glass of water, tea, juice or even milk, and drink daily. You can also take capsaicin in capsule form or use it in a cream for external use, although you should find a cream that contains at least 0.075 percent capsaicin.
This sweet, yet tangy fruit contains a slew of anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants that also give cherries their rich, red color. Anthocyanins block inflammation and inhibit pain enzymes in the same way as NSAIDs. A 2004 study at Johns Hopkins University shows that tart cherries can significantly reduce pain sensitivity and are even as effective as many conventional anti-inflammatory drugs (11).
Other studies reveal that the powerful anthocyanins in cherries are as effective as two of the most common NSAIDs used for inflammation. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University even state that tart cherry juice may be a safer way to treat muscle pain and inflammation than OTC pain relievers (12). According to their study, athletes who drink 10½ ounces of cherry juice twice a day for seven days prior to a race have less muscle pain compared to those who do not.
Garlic is a powerful anti-inflammatory that has been used for centuries to help ease a number of health conditions, including the pain and swelling of arthritis. Garlic contains antioxidants and a particularly potent sulphur-containing compound known as alliin. When raw garlic cloves are crushed, chopped, or chewed, they release alliinase, another powerful enzyme that converts the alliin into allicin, which is responsible for garlic’s characteristic odor, taste and powerful healing properties (13).
Studies show that allicin can help relieve the painful symptoms of arthritis. In fact, one study shows that taking 600-1200 mg of garlic extract that contains a minimum of 1-3 percent allicin, can effectively relieve arthritis pain when taken three times daily (14).
You can also simply add fresh garlic to your meals as much as possible. Eating just one clove of fresh garlic daily is enough to experience the multitude of health benefits it affords. Typically, fresh garlic contains 4 percent allicin. If using topically, look for a cream that contains 0.4- 0.6 percent allicin.
Beets are a vital source of betanin and vulgaxanthin, both phytonutrients known as betalains that have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification properties.
Betaine is associated with lower levels of several inflammatory markers, including “C reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha.”
The anti-inflammatory compounds in beets not only offer important cardiovascular benefits, but they also provide significant anti-inflammatory benefits (15).
You can add beets to your diet by simply grating them ucooked and adding them to salads or as a garnish for soups. You can also marinate steamed beets in fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh herbs for a tasty side dish. You can also get your fill of beets by juicing them, which is delicious as well as highly nutritious.
6. Salmon (Wild-Caught)
Salmon contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fatty acids are shown to help prevent or reduce inflammation and lessen the pain and swelling caused by arthritis. Studies show that people who eat fish high in omega-3s regularly, are less likely to develop RA. As well, for people who already have arthritis, omega-3s from fish can help to reduce joint swelling and pain (16). You should eat two servings a week (3.5-ounce portions) of fish to experience the many benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. You can also take natural fish oil supplements.
As it turns out, eating your broccoli really is good for you. Studies show that broccoli is full of antioxidants, as well as some pretty powerful anti-inflammatory agents. They not only work to lower oxidation stress in your cells, but to battle the effects of chronic inflammation it causes. This can ultimately help to ease the pain for people suffering from arthritis (17).
8. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil contains a compound known as oleocanthal, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen (18). A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry shows that oleocanthal is particularly beneficial for RA and can significantly impact both the chronic inflammation and acute inflammatory processes (19).
You probably shouldn’t be surprised to see blueberries on this list.
They are touted as one of the most powerful antioxidants available and most popular anti inflammatory fruits.
But what you may not know is that these sweet, blueberries also contain a very potent anti-inflammatory compound known as quercetin.
Quercetin is a powerful phytonutrient that helps fight excess inflammation, which helps to reduce the pain of arthritis (20).
Everyone knows that oranges are a key source of vitamin C, which is the number one remedy for colds and flu. But a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology reveals that taking vitamin C is also responsible for a 30 percent lower risk of developing RA (21).
11. Bok Choy
Bok choy is filled with a number of vitamins, minerals, and potent antioxidants—more than 70 in fact, including hydroxycinnamic acid, known to effectively reduce inflammation. Bok choy is also a key source of omega-3s, also powerful anti-inflammatory agents. This leafy green is also full of vitamin K, another powerful agent for regulating your body’s inflammatory responses (22).
12. Green Tea
Green tea is a widely known antioxidant. It is also full of a polyphenol known as catechin, including epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which constitutes up to 63 percent of all of the catechins found in green tea (23). Studies show that EGCG is 25 to 100 times more potent than both vitamins C and E when it comes to antioxidant abilities (24). Just one cup of green tea can provide 60 to 125 mg of catechins, including EGCG, which helps to lower inflammation and slow the destruction of cartilage (25).