The key to combating arthritis pain could lie in your refrigerator. Eating anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce arthritis pain and improve your overall health in the long run, so it’s important to know which foods may promote inflammation and which foods have the capacity to soothe aching joints.
Internal medicine physician and primary care specialist Samuel I. Fink, MD, wants patients with arthritis to know you can make diet and lifestyle changes right now that may improve your arthritis. Because May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, he shares this information about diet and arthritis.
There’s no one-size-fits-all anti-inflammatory diet, so it’s a good idea to consult with a health care provider and experiment with various foods to find the best anti-inflammatory diet for you.
While inflammation is a necessary part of your immune system, persistent inflammation in your joints is behind arthritis pain. Furthermore, as you get older, your metabolism changes and you become more prone to inflammation, even if you aren’t sick or injured.
Free radicals, oxidative stress, and antioxidants play a role in the inflammatory process. What that means is that certain foods may help or may worsen chronic inflammation.
Free radicals are negatively charged molecules that cause damage when they seek out other positively charged molecules to bond with (oxidation). The production of free radicals is a normal part of your body's metabolism, but an excess of free radicals is when trouble starts.
Your body naturally neutralizes and processes some free radicals, but too many of them can overwhelm your system and cause an imbalance. This imbalance is referred to as oxidative stress, and it’s linked to chronic inflammation.
Many experts believe that oxidative stress initiates a biochemical cascade that promotes inflammation and, in time, can lead to degenerative diseases like arthritis.
Natural compounds found in many foods, including most fruits and vegetables, have anti-inflammatory properties. Examples of anti-inflammatory foods are:
Many of these foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which research has shown can reduce symptoms in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Unlike pain medications, which often take effect quickly, an anti-inflammatory diet may take several weeks to improve symptoms. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet isn’t a temporary fix, but rather a long-term lifestyle change.
Because the effects may be subtle at first, it’s a good idea to keep a journal to track any improvements in your symptoms. Even if the effects aren’t immediately noticeable, an anti-inflammatory diet can provide long-term benefits by lowering the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.
Keeping it simple increases the likelihood that you’ll stick with it. Steer clear of ultra-processed foods — which are usually in a package, such as microwaveable dinners, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and dehydrated soups — as well as baked goods, sugary cereals, processed meats, biscuits, and sauces.
Aim to prepare more of your meals at home yourself using a foundation of lean protein, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, heart-healthy nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Doing so can go a long way in easing achy joints.
Patients who want to start an anti-inflammatory diet should work with a physician to set themselves up for success. For the best internal medicine in Tarzana, California, you can count on our team for the highest quality of care.
If you have arthritis, schedule a visit with Dr. Fink to discuss ways we can help you best manage your condition. Call our office or request an appointment online today.