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How An Anti-Inflammatory Diet Can Ease Your Arthritis Pain


Posted by Dr. Scott Wilson | 15-Nov-2022

  • The inflammation caused by arthritis can damage your joints and even lead to knee or hip replacement surgery.
  • While an anti-inflammatory diet cannot cure arthritis, it can help to relieve pain and prevent joint damage leading to disability.
  • By understanding what an anti-inflammatory diet is, and adopting it as part of your regular meal planning, you can control your arthritis symptoms, maintain a healthy weight and improve your joint health.

An anti-inflammatory diet can make a significant difference to the quality of life of those suffering with arthritis. In Canada, arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability and it affects people of all age groups. And while arthritis causes chronic joint inflammation, it’s also linked to severe degenerative conditions and musculoskeletal disorders. If you regularly experience joint pain, swelling, morning stiffness, and tenderness in the joints, you know how limiting and disruptive arthritis can be. And if you’ve been diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Osteoarthritis (OA) or a similar condition, you may have already been encouraged by your doctor or rheumatologist to steer clear of certain foods to avoid weight gain or to limit inflammation. If not, or if you want to learn more about the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet, here’s what you need to know.

What Is An Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

An anti-inflammatory diet includes food such as fruits, vegetables, spices, lean protein and more. Such a diet that is rich in plants, fiber, and foods that are high in antioxidants can reduce inflammation and help relieve arthritis pain. The Mediterranean Diet is a popular diet consisting of polyphenols, carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, and extra virgin olive oil. It’s often recommended by doctors for its anti-inflammatory properties. This sort of diet, combined with regular exercise, can significantly reduce joint pain and improve joint health. 

Of course, adding specific foods to your diet is only part of the equation. Limiting foods that cause inflammation can also help in easing arthritis pain. Common foods that cause inflammation include fast foods, fried foods, alcohol, foods that contain high trans-fat and saturated fat, and processed meats.

Inflammation is a critical factor in the deterioration of joint health and can also result in diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other neurodegenerative diseases. While there’s no miracle food that can cure arthritis, it is possible to reduce the symptoms and pain by including anti-inflammatory food in your diet. 

How Does An Anti-Inflammatory Diet Relieve Arthritis Pain?

Inflammation is the root cause of arthritis pain. By sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet your body can suppress inflammation and several other factors that contribute to different forms of arthritis. In particular, an anti-inflammatory diet helps you:

1. Reduce Inflammation And Prevent Further Damage

Arthritis is a degenerative condition that causes inflammation in the joints. An overall healthy and balanced diet can help reduce levels of inflammation. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet will give your body the ability to prevent further damage to the joints. Foods that are rich in vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as omega-3, can help strengthen bones, joints, and muscles. 

2. Lower Cholesterol Levels

High cholesterol levels are not only bad for your heart, but could be bad for joint health too. Studies have shown that cholesterol can increase tendon complications, inflammation, and result in joint damage (arthritis). Therefore, an anti-inflammatory diet is highly recommended because it can reduce cholesterol, prevent arthritis and any further damage to the joint or cartilage. 

3. Helps Maintain A Healthy Weight

It’s not surprising that being overweight can have a significant impact on joint health. Excess weight can put extra pressure on your joints, and excess fat can increase inflammation. Therefore, if you don’t want to exacerbate joint pain; stick to maintaining a healthy weight through an anti-inflammatory diet.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods That Can Ease Your Arthritis Pain and Improve Your Joint Health

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega – 3 fatty acids can reduce the arachidonic acid binding to cell membranes, resulting in a noticeable inflammatory response that can decrease inflammation in the joints. Furthermore, by including omega-3 in your diet, your body reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and joint cartilage-degrading enzymes that lead to arthritis. 

Some of the common foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids are oily and fatty fish. These fishes have anti-inflammatory properties and you should include at least two portions of fish per week in your diet.

Examples of fatty fish include: 

  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Trout
  • Anchovies

A vegetarian who refrains from consuming fish can take omega-3-rich supplements instead, such as fish oil tablets.

2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The phenolic compounds present in extra virgin olive oil are endowed with anti-inflammatory properties. Polyphenol extracts exert potent anti-inflammatory reactions and are significant in decreasing joint edema, bone erosion, cell migration, and cartilage degradation which are all related to arthritis. The polyphenol and oleocanthal extract found in olive oil reduces the levels of proinflammatory cytokines and prostaglandin in the joints. These compounds have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties and promote good health.

Olive oil can be used instead of butter while cooking. You can also use extra virgin olive oil to:

  • Sauté vegetables
  • Fry breaded items 
  • Use it as salad dressings
  • Bread Dips
  • Toss pasta or veggies

3. Dairy Products

Dairy products are believed to have either a neutral or a protective effect against the inflammatory processes in arthritis. An emerging body of evidence indicates that consuming dairy foods, such as milk, cheese, kefir, and yogurt, can decrease the risk of inflammation. A dairy-rich diet provides a package of essential nutrients such as calcium and Vitamin D. Dairy products are considered to be the best among foods that can improve bone health and muscle strength. You can reduce the amount of stress your body puts on the joints by strengthening muscles and bones.

4. Legumes and Beans

A vegetarian diet that includes legumes and beans is rich in bioactive compounds like peptides, polyphenols, and saponins. Because these compounds exhibit antioxidant, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, and other biological activities, they could significantly reduce the effects of inflammatory diseases, including arthritis. Plant-based nutrition plays a pivotal role in health and disease mitigation. It’s the most important modifiable risk factor for controlling the onset and progression of arthritis pain.

Some of the most common plant-based nutrition that you can include in your diet are: 

  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Pinto beans
  • Red beans
  • Black-eyed peas

Frequently Asked Questions About Arthritis And Joint Pain

Q1: What types of foods should be avoided if you have arthritis?

Answer: There are certain types of food that show pro-inflammatory effects. High consumption of these foods has been associated with an increased risk of arthritis, inflammation of joints, an induction of insulin-resistance and obesity. Here’s what you should look to avoid in your diet: 

  • Processed foods
  • Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Sugar and certain sugar alternatives
  • Red meat and fried foods
  • High-fat dairy
  • Alcohol

Q2: What are the best treatment options for arthritis?

Answer: Physiotherapy and exercise among the most important and effective treatment options for arthritis. Physiotherapy exercises can improve your joints, strengthen the muscles and reduce reinjury. Physiotherapists leverage a combination of different treatment methods including hydrotherapy, manual therapy, stretching exercises, joint massages, electrotherapy, and much more to treat arthritis. Some other treatment options for arthritis include:

  • Over-the-counter pain-relievers
  • Corticosteroid medications
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 
  • Pain-relieving creams, gels, and ointments

Q3: Can fish oil tablets help relieve joint pain?

Answer: Yes, fish oil and similar joint pain supplements are rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These omega-3 fatty acids can reduce joint inflammation, swelling, and pain. They can even lower your cholesterol level and triglyceride levels, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke in people with arthritis.

Relieving Arthritis Pain with Physiotherapy and Exercise

An anti-inflammatory diet combined with proper exercise can do wonders for your joint health. Physiotherapy exercises and treatment methods can improve your joint health by strengthening the muscles around your joints and enhancing your flexibility. Working with a Physiotherapist can help to increase your overall level of activity, regardless of your age. It can help to prevent further disability of your joints, increase your functional capacity, and reduce the amount of pain your experience. Your Physiotherapist will assess your current condition and lifestyle and then develop a customized treatment plan that works for you.

Don’t let arthritis restrict you from living your life to its best. Contact us today and let us show you why, at Physiomed, Healthier Starts Here.

Dr. Scott Wilson

Dr. Scott Wilson is the Founder & Chairman of Physiomed; one of Canada’s largest franchised networks of inter-disciplinary healthcare clinics. A graduate of Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Dr. Wilson founded Physiomed in 1994 and has since grown Physiomed to over 30 clinics in Southern Ontario and British Columbia. With hundreds of practitioners from over a dozen disciplines, Dr. Wilson and Physiomed have helped over 100,000 Canadians with physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, orthotic therapy, compression therapy and clinical conditioning as part of a program of rehabilitation and health optimization. In addition to helping patients improve their physical and mental well-being, Dr. Wilson has also mentored hundreds of practitioners to provide better care while enjoying more fulfilling careers. He is also a keynote speaker on many health related topics including how physiotherapy, chiropractic and health & wellness treatment can help with stress, weight loss, and unlocking the true potential within to achieve lasting physical well-being.

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