What to Eat for Arthritis

The joint pain and inflammation associated with arthritis can be a challenge to deal with on a daily basis. The simplest tasks such as buttoning a sweater can become a major undertaking if you have joint inflammation in your fingers. Although arthritis is often used as a general term, the term can encompass a variety of conditions that cause joint pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility. Two of the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

What is arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory arthritis, while osteoarthritis, the more commonly diagnosed type, is a degenerative type of arthritis associated with breakdown of joint cartilage. One of the most common questions asked about this group of diseases is what to eat for arthritis symptoms. Although no foods have been definitively shown to relieve joint pain, there’s increasing evidence that diet does play an important role.

What causes the joint pain in arthritis?

In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most important factors contributing to the joint pain and discomfort is inflammation. This may also be true to a certain extent with osteoarthritis. For this reason, foods that decrease inflammation in the body should be the most helpful in relieving joint pain symptoms.

What should you eat for arthritis?

There’s some evidence that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils reduces the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. A meta-analysis of a variety of studies published in the medical journal Pain showed that omega-3’s are effective for treating joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, suggesting that fish oils may be important when considering what to eat for arthritis.

To get sufficient quantities of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, you would need to eat fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel several times a week or take a fish oil supplements of two grams per day. An alternative way to get the omega-3 fatty acids is through flaxseed. Grinding flaxseed and sprinkling one to two tablespoons on your cereal or salads is a good way to get omega-3’s if you don’t eat fish. Always check with your doctor before starting omega-3 supplements as they can prolong bleeding time and may not be safe if you’re on blood thinners or have certain other medical conditions.

Are there other important dietary factors?

When considering what to eat for arthritis, eating a diet low in saturated fat and calories is important for reducing weight if you’re obese. The more overweight you are the more stress is placed on the joints which can make the symptoms worse. Osteoarthritis also occurs in higher frequency in people who are overweight.

There’s also some evidence that eating a vegan diet has health benefits for arthritis. A vegan diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables is less likely to promote inflammation in the body which can make the joint pain of rheumatoid arthritis worse. Vegan and vegetarian diets may also be helpful in reducing excess weight, thus reducing joint overload.


What to eat for arthritis: the bottom line

When considering what to eat for arthritis, choose healthy plant based foods with limited meat with the exception of fatty fish for their omega-3 content. Try to limit calories and fat content if you’re overweight. Talk your doctor about starting a modest exercise program to help increase joint mobility. By taking these steps, you may find that your joint symptoms improve over time.