Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect one joint or multiple joints. There are 100 types of arthritis with different causes and treatments. The most common types are osteoarthritis that develops due to joint overuse and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. RA is commonly seen in adults over 65 years of age, but can also develop in children, teens and younger adults.
It has been found that diet can impact the severity of arthritis symptoms. There is no diet cure for arthritis, but having a wide range of healthy foods can fight inflammation, improve the immune system, and strengthen the bones. Likewise, when you have arthritis, your body is in an inflammatory state and eating certain foods can increase inflammation and also lead to other chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Avoiding such foods can ease the symptoms of arthritis by easing the inflammation in your body. Here are the foods to include and avoid if you have arthritis:
Foods to Include:
- Oily fish and other Omega-3 rich foods: Oily fish contains plenty of healthful omega-3 fatty acids – polyunsaturated fats that have anti-inflammatory properties. People with osteoarthritis should include at least one portion of sardines, mackerel, salmon, and fresh tuna in their diet per week. People who don’t eat fish can include omega-3 rich items like walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseed oil in their diet.
- Cherries: It has been found that cherries can reduce the frequency of gout attacks. Cherries contain an ingredient called anthocyanins that have an anti-inflammatory effect. It is also found in blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
- Broccoli: This green vegetable contains a compound called sulforaphane. Researchers believe that it could slow down the progression of osteoarthritis. Broccoli is also rich in calcium and Vitamin K and C.
- Garlic: Studies have found that people who include foods like garlic, onion, and leeks show fewer signs of early osteoarthritis. Research has found that garlic has cancer-fighting properties, lowers risk of heart disease, and helps strengthen the immune system. According to a study published in Science Direct, diallyl disulfide, an anti-inflammatory compound in garlic limits the effects of proinflammatory cytokines and helps fight the pain, inflammation, and cartilage damage of arthritis.
- Spinach: Eating leafy greens can decrease inflammation. Spinach contains plenty of antioxidants and plant compounds that decrease the effect of the inflammatory agents associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Dairy: Low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese contain calcium, and vitamin D. Vitamin D helps in calcium absorption, which helps increase bone strength and boost the immune system. If dairy products don’t agree with you, eat green leafy vegetables rich in vitamin D and calcium.
Foods to Avoid
- Highly-processed foods: Fast foods, breakfast cereal, and baked goods are high in refined grains, preservatives, added sugar, and other inflammatory ingredients. These items can worsen arthritis symptoms.
- Alcohol: Drinking too much of alcohol affects liver functioning, interrupts multi-organ interactions, and causes inflammation. Studies have shown that alcohol consumption may increase the severity and frequency of gout attacks. People with arthritis should avoid alcohol or drink in moderation.
- Foods with high salt content: Foods that are high in salt such as pizza, certain cheeses, canned soups, and other processed items should be avoided. Studies have found that a low salt diet decreased severity of rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers have also found that high sodium intake can lead to autoimmune diseases like inflammatory arthritis.
- Processed sugar: The sugars that manufacturers added to sweetened beverages like soda, flavored coffees, and some juices are processed sugars that can give rise to cytokines. They act as inflammatory messengers in the body. Sugar goes by many names so look for the word that ends with “ose” on ingredient labels. For instance, fructose or sucrose.
- Refined carbohydrates: Wheat flour products like breads, rolls, and crackers, white potatoes, white rice, and many cereals are refined carbohydrates that can fuel the production of AGE (Advanced Glycation End) oxidants. They can increase inflammation in the body.
- Saturated fat: Foods such as pizza, red meat, full-fat dairy products, pasta dishes, and grain–based desserts etc. are high in saturated fat and can cause inflammation in the fat tissue. They increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, and other health conditions, and can make arthritis inflammation worse.
- Omega-6 fatty acids: These are essential fatty acids that your body needs for normal growth and development. They are present in oils such as sunflower, corn, grapeseed, peanut, vegetable, and soy. They are also present in mayonnaise and many salad dressings. Diets high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids can worsen arthritis symptoms. The body needs a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Mono-sodium glutamate: This is a flavor enhancing food additive commonly found in prepared Asian food and soy sauce. It is also found in fast food, prepared soups, and soup mixes. It can exacerbate chronic inflammation and affect liver health.
Although there is no diet cure for arthritis, eating the right foods and avoiding certain items can ease disease symptoms and keep your body function in good working order. It is important that you should know that lifestyle factors like your activity level, body weight, and smoking status also play a vital role in managing arthritis. Keep in mind that you should seek your doctor or dietitian’s advice before making any changes in your diet.