If you have joint pain, rather than reaching for the over-the-counter pain meds for those aching joints, consider adding the following foods for your joints to your diet:
- Apples-Well known for their anti-inflammatory properties, apples reduce inflammatory enzymes and can reduce pain and improve joint function. You can read my blog on how apples reduce inflammation here.
- Berries-Berries are high in several types of polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants, having anti-inflammatory properties. Cherries contain anthocyanins and are particularly known to help with arthritis pain and gout. Blueberries are also very high in anthocyanins and can help to turn off inflammation. In a study of knee osteoarthritis (OA), strawberries were shown to significantly reduce inflammation and knee pain. [i] While strawberries, blueberries, and others have been shown in clinical studies to be effective in both prevention and progression of arthritis, more studies are needed to see which are most effective or how to use as nutraceutical formulations.[ii]
- Citrus fruit-These provide quercetin as well as vitamin C, which can help with collagen formation and healthy bones.
- Healthy food oils-Ditch the vegetable oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil which can contribute to inflammation. Substitute healthy food oils. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO} is both anti-inflammatory. Also think avocado, coconut, or walnut oil. Use avocado oil or coconut oil when you need an oil with a higher flash point than EVOO or an oil with less taste.
- Leafy greens– Mustard greens, arugula, kale and purple cabbage are in the brassica family and known to block an enzyme that causes joint swelling. Cauliflower and Brussel sprouts also can help.
- Mushrooms-Rich in vitamin D, mushrooms is important for healthy joints. Some mushrooms such as chaga and reishi are powerful anti-inflammatory agents.
- Nuts & Seeds-Contain both healthy fats and antioxidants. They are good source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and are healthful in small portions. The best nuts and seeds to reduce arthritis pain can be found here.
- Oily fish-salmon, mackerel, sardines are good fatty fish to help reduce inflammation. A meta-analysis of studies of supplemental marine oils, showed moderate effects on pain for people with RA but was not significant for people with osteoarthritis (OA).[iii]
- Onions-Contain quercetin which can be helpful in reducing arthritis pain.
- Pineapple-Contains bromelain which can reduce joint pain. Nutraceutical formulations have been studied using bromelain to reduce arthritis inflammation and pain.[iv],[v]
- Red peppers-These are high in vitamin C and contain capsaicin, which is a pain reliever. When extracted from red chili peppers, capsaicin can be incorporated into creams or gels. It acts by blocking a neurotransmitter that communicates pain signals to the brain.
- Tomatoes-They contain lycopene, a red carotenoid with powerful antioxidant properties.
Here are some foods which may increase joint inflammation in some individuals:
- Dairy-Contains casein, a protein that can cause inflammation of the joints and pain.
- Eggs-Egg yoks contain arachidonic acid which can increase joint inflammation.
- Fried foods-These are high in saturated fats and low in omega 3 fatty acids.
- Gluten-Gluten is highly inflammatory for many individuals. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity has been shown to lead to non-intestinal symptoms such as joint pain.[vi]
- High fructose corn syrup-including sodas and desserts with high fructose content.
- Processed meats-Meats such as bacon, hot dogs, corned beef, and sausage contain nitrites and purines which can cause inflammation and joint pain.
- Solanine-containing foods including nightshades such as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant may potentially increase risk of RA as solanine increases gut permeability, potentially causing a leaky gut which could lead to risk of autoimmune RA. However, there is controversy as to whether nightshades should be avoided and this should be based on individual tolerance and sensitivity.
In general, quercetin-containing foods such as cherries, apples, grapes, berries, and onions are good foods for your joints. Quercetin supplementation may help reduce inflammation and arthritis pain.[vii]. Quercetin is a plant pigment found in flavonoids and function as antioxidants. In a survey of patients with arthritis, foods that most improved RA symptoms included blueberries and spinach, while foods such as soda with high fructose sugar and desserts increased symptoms.[viii]
According to the Arthritis Foundation, certain diets like the Mediterranean diet and dietary foods such as those listed above can help reduce arthritis symptoms and can be good foods for your joints. A 2020 review of the effect of diet and dietary supplements indicated the importance of food and nutrients in reducing the prevalence and clinical manifestations of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).[ix] Learn more about anti-inflammatory diets here.
As foods can cause inflammation or help to prevent or address it, it is important to know what foods may be provoking your joint pain. This can be addressed with functional lab tests such as food sensitivity testing and testing for gut pathogens and inflammatory markers. Finding the right diet for your body metabolism, eliminating inflammatory foods, and eating foods that reduce inflammation can help to reduce joint inflammation and pain. Find out the 3 steps I use to help my clients in this free guide. You can also learn more in a free discovery call.
[i] Schell J, Scofield RH, Barrett JR, et al. Strawberries Improve Pain and Inflammation in Obese Adults with Radiographic Evidence of Knee Osteoarthritis. Nutrients. 2017;9(9):949. Published 2017 Aug 28. doi:10.3390/nu9090949
[ii] Basu A , Schell J , Scofield RH . Dietary fruits and arthritis. Food Funct. 2018;9(1):70-77. doi:10.1039/c7fo01435j
[iii] Senftleber NK, Nielsen SM, Andersen JR, et al. Marine Oil Supplements for Arthritis Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials. Nutrients. 2017;9(1):42. Published 2017 Jan 6. doi:10.3390/nu9010042
[iv] Italiano G, Raimondo M, Giannetti G, Gargiulo A. Benefits of a Food Supplement Containing Boswellia serrata and Bromelain for Improving the Quality of Life in Patients with Osteoarthritis: A Pilot Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2020;26(2):123-129. doi:10.1089/acm.2019.0258
[v] Jayachandran S, Khobre P. Efficacy of Bromelain along with Trypsin, Rutoside Trihydrate Enzymes and Diclofenac Sodium Combination Therapy for the treatment of TMJ Osteoarthritis – A Randomised Clinical Trial. J Clin Diagn Res. 2017;11(6):ZC09-ZC11. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2017/25771.9964
[vi] Losurdo G, Principi M, Iannone A, et al. Extra-intestinal manifestations of non-celiac gluten sensitivity: An expanding paradigm. World J Gastroenterol. 2018;24(14):1521-1530. doi:10.3748/wjg.v24.i14.1521
[vii] Javadi F, Ahmadzadeh A, Eghtesadi S, et al. The Effect of Quercetin on Inflammatory Factors and Clinical Symptoms in Women with Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Double-Blind, Randomized Controlled Trial. J Am Coll Nutr. 2017;36(1):9-15. doi:10.1080/07315724.2016.1140093
[viii] Tedeschi SK, Frits M, Cui J, et al. Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms: Survey Results From a Rheumatoid Arthritis Registry. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2017;69(12):1920-1925. doi:10.1002/acr.23225
[ix] Gioia C, Lucchino B, Tarsitano MG, Iannuccelli C, Di Franco M. Dietary Habits and Nutrition in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Can Diet Influence Disease Development and Clinical Manifestations?. Nutrients. 2020;12(5):1456. Published 2020 May 18. doi:10.3390/nu12051456