If you have arthritis, you are well aware of how debilitating it can be.
Arthritis refers to a group of diseases that cause joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. People of all ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds can be affected.
Arthritis comes in a variety of forms. One type is osteoarthritis, which occurs when joints are overworked. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your joints, is another type.
Many foods, fortunately, can help reduce inflammation and relieve some of the joint pain associated with arthritis.
In fact, according to one survey, 24% of people with rheumatoid arthritis said their diet influenced the severity of their symptoms.
Healthiest Foods to Eat If You Have Arthritis
1. Fatty Fish
Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout, have been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory effects.
33 people were fed either fatty fish, lean fish, or lean meat four times a week in a small study. After eight weeks, the fatty fish group had lower levels of inflammation-related compounds.
In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements reduced joint pain intensity, morning stiffness, the number of painful joints, and the use of pain relievers, according to a review of 17 studies.
In a similar study, omega-3 fatty acids were found to reduce several inflammatory markers linked to osteoarthritis in test tubes.
Vitamin D deficiency can be avoided by eating fish, which is a good source of vitamins. Rheumatoid arthritis has been linked to low vitamin D levels in multiple studies, which could contribute to symptoms.
To reap the benefits of fatty fish's anti-inflammatory properties, the American Heart Association recommends including at least two servings per week in your diet.
Summary: Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D are abundant in fatty fish, which may help to reduce inflammation and the severity of arthritis symptoms.
Garlic is chock-full of health benefits.
Garlic and its components have been shown to have cancer-fighting properties in some test-tube studies. They also have compounds that may help prevent heart disease and dementia.
Garlic has also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect, which may aid in the reduction of arthritis symptoms.
Garlic has been shown to strengthen the immune system by improving the function of specific immune cells.
Researchers looked at the diets of 1,082 twins in one study. They discovered that people who ate more garlic had a lower risk of hip osteoarthritis, which they attribute to garlic's potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Another test-tube study found that a specific component of garlic could reduce inflammatory markers linked to arthritis.
Garlic in your diet may help with arthritis symptoms as well as overall health.
Summary: Garlic may have anti-inflammatory properties, according to human and test-tube studies, and eating it may be linked to a lower risk of osteoarthritis.
Ginger, in addition to adding flavor to teas, soups, and desserts, may also help relieve arthritis symptoms.
In a 2001 study, 261 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were given ginger extract to see how it affected them. Six weeks later, 63 percent of participants reported less pain in their knees.
In a test-tube study, ginger and its components also inhibited the production of inflammatory substances in the body.
In another study, rats given ginger extract had lower levels of a specific inflammatory marker linked to arthritis.
Ginger, whether fresh, powdered, or dried, can help to reduce inflammation and relieve arthritis symptoms.
Summary: Ginger has been shown to help with arthritis symptoms. It has also been found to reduce inflammation in test tubes and animals, but more research in humans is needed.
Broccoli is one of the healthiest foods available. In fact, it may be linked to a reduction in inflammation.
In one study of 1,005 women's diets, eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli was linked to lower levels of inflammatory markers.
Broccoli also contains important components that may help alleviate arthritis symptoms.
Sulforaphane, for instance, is a compound found in broccoli. It has been shown in test tubes to prevent the formation of a type of cell involved in the development of rheumatoid arthritis.
In an animal study, sulforaphane was found to reduce the production of inflammatory markers linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
While more human research is needed, the results of these test-tube and animal studies suggest that broccoli compounds may help alleviate arthritis symptoms.
Summary: Broccoli has been linked to a reduction in inflammation. According to test-tube studies, it also contains sulforaphane, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
More research into broccoli's effects on humans is needed.
Walnuts are nutrient-dense and high in compounds that may help to reduce inflammation in joint disease.
Walnut consumption was linked to lower levels of inflammation markers in a meta-analysis of 13 studies.
Walnuts are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to alleviate arthritis symptoms.
In one study, 90 rheumatoid arthritis patients were given omega-3 fatty acid or olive oil supplements.
Those who received omega-3 fatty acids had less pain and were able to reduce their use of arthritis medications when compared to those who received olive oil.
The majority of existing research, on the other hand, focuses on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on arthritis in general. More research is needed to learn more about the effects of walnuts in particular.
Summary: Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help with arthritis and inflammation symptoms.
Each serving of berries is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, which may account for their unique ability to reduce inflammation.
In one study of 38,176 women, those who ate at least two servings of strawberries per week had a 14% lower risk of having high levels of inflammatory markers in their blood.
In addition, berries are high in quercetin and rutin, two plant compounds with a long list of health benefits.
Quercetin was found to block some of the inflammatory processes linked to arthritis in a test-tube study.
Another study gave rats supplements of quercetin and rutin, which both reduced arthritis-related inflammation.
Fortunately, there is a wide variety of berries to choose from if you want to take advantage of these impressive health benefits. Strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries are just a few examples of sweet fruits that also happen to be high in anti-inflammatory nutrients.
Summary: Berries contain antioxidants that have been shown in animal and test-tube studies to reduce inflammatory markers linked to arthritis.
Leafy greens like spinach are high in nutrients, and some of their components may be able to help reduce arthritis inflammation.
A higher intake of fruits and vegetables has been linked to lower levels of inflammation in several studies.
Spinach, in particular, is high in antioxidants and plant compounds that can reduce inflammation and aid in disease prevention.
Spinach is particularly high in kaempferol, an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the effects of inflammatory agents linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
In a 2017 test-tube study, kaempferol was given to arthritic cartilage cells and found to reduce inflammation and slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
More research into the effects of spinach and its components on humans with arthritis is needed.
Summary: Antioxidants, such as kaempferol, are abundant in spinach. Kaempferol has been shown in test tubes to reduce inflammation and slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
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Grapes are high in antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties, and are nutrient-dense.
24 men were given either a concentrated grape powder equivalent to about 1.5 cups (252 grams) of fresh grapes or a placebo daily for three weeks in one study. Inflammatory markers in the blood were effectively reduced by the grape powder.
Grapes also contain a number of compounds that have been shown to aid in the treatment of arthritis. Resveratrol, for example, is an antioxidant found in the skin of grapes.
Resveratrol showed promise in a test-tube study for preventing the thickening of joints associated with arthritis by inhibiting the formation of rheumatoid arthritis cells.
Grapes also contain a plant compound known as proanthocyanidin, which has been shown to have anti-arthritic properties. One test-tube study, for example, found that grape seed proanthocyanidin extracts reduced disease-related inflammation.
Keep in mind that these are test-tube studies with much higher concentrations of antioxidants than you'd find in a typical serving.
More research is needed to see how these findings might apply to humans.
Summary: Grapes contain compounds that may help reduce inflammation and have anti-inflammatory properties. However, more research in humans is required.
9. Olive Oil
Olive oil, which is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties, may help alleviate arthritis symptoms.
Mice were fed extra-virgin olive oil for six weeks in one study. This aided in the prevention of arthritis, the reduction of joint swelling, the slowing of cartilage destruction, and the reduction of inflammation.
In a separate study, 49 rheumatoid arthritis patients took either fish oil or olive oil capsules every day for 24 weeks.
The levels of a specific inflammatory marker in both groups had decreased by the end of the study — by 38.5 percent in the olive oil group and between 40 and 55 percent in the fish oil group.
Another study looked at the diets of 333 people with and without rheumatoid arthritis and discovered that eating olive oil was linked to a lower risk of the disease.
Although more research on the effects of olive oil on arthritis is needed, including olive oil and other healthy fats in your diet can improve your health and possibly reduce arthritis symptoms.
Summary: Olive oil has been linked to a lower risk of arthritis and has been shown to reduce inflammation. According to one animal study, it may help to slow the progression of arthritis and alleviate symptoms.
10. Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice, made from the fruit of the Prunus cerasus tree, is becoming increasingly popular.
This nutritious juice has a long list of nutrients and health benefits, and it may even help with arthritis symptoms.
For six weeks, 58 people were randomly assigned to receive two 8-ounce (237-ml) bottles of tart cherry juice or a placebo.
Tart cherry juice significantly reduced osteoarthritis symptoms and inflammation when compared to a placebo.
In another study, 20 women with osteoarthritis who drank tart cherry juice for three weeks saw their inflammatory markers drop.
To avoid consuming too much added sugar, look for a tart cherry juice that hasn't been sweetened.
A serving of unsweetened tart cherry juice per day, when combined with a healthy diet and other arthritis-fighting foods, may help alleviate some of the symptoms of arthritis.
Summary: Tart cherry juice has been shown in studies to reduce inflammation and relieve some of the symptoms of arthritis.
The Bottom Line
It's clear that diet has a significant impact on the severity and symptoms of arthritis.
Fortunately, a variety of foods rich in anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic compounds may help relieve inflammation and arthritis while also improving overall health.
In addition to conventional treatments, a healthy diet rich in healthy fats, a few servings of fatty fish, and plenty of fruits and vegetables may help alleviate some of the symptoms of arthritis.