Everyone talks about how painful arthritis is. And no wonder, arthritis pain can be downright debilitating. But you hardly ever hear anything about how demoralizing and exhausting the disease can be too.
Arthritis forces you to opt out of doing many of the things you love. And when you decide to push through the pain anyway, the effort leaves you feeling worn out and desperate for some pain relief.
It can feel like you’re stuck in an endless loop. Pain, pills, creams, prescription meds, injections, rinse and repeat. Talk about frustrating.
But there’s one thing you may not have tried yet. A long term solution that could help dial back the arthritis pain so you start enjoying life again. And that’s tweaking your diet to help battle the disease.
Calm inflammation and reverse arthritis pain
Certain foods can put a big dent in the inflammation, pain and joint damage that are the result of arthritis. Which means they could also help you finally break out of that exhausting loop.
Following are seven of the best, science-backed foods to eat if you suffer with arthritis pain.
1. Broccoli, to slow the progression:
Arthritis continues to get worse over time, causing lasting damage to your joints. Which is why it’s so important to slow down its progression. And that’s where cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, can help.
Two early studies out of South Korea found compounds in broccoli, especially one called sulforaphane, may help put the brakes on arthritis. The compounds significantly slashed signs of inflammation, effectively reducing the impact of the disease and arthritis pain.
Not a big broccoli fan? Or just need a break from those delicious green stalks? Try some of these other sulforaphane containing veggies…
- collard Greens
- Brussels sprouts
- mustard greens
- bok choy
Eating a variety of these cruciferous veggies could help protect you against further damage to your cartilage, slowing arthritis progression down to a crawl.
2. Cherries, to break up uric acid:
Gout, one of the most painful and debilitating forms of arthritis, occurs when uric acid builds up and crystalizes within a joint. Many folks who develop gout in their big toe (a common spot) say it feels like you’re walking on broken glass.
You can help break up those uric acid crystals and prevent more from forming with cherries. Powerful flavonoids in the cherries, called anthocyanins, fight inflammation while they help dissolve the painful crystals.
In a study at Boston University Medical Center researchers found that when gout sufferers ate 10 to 20 cherries a day it helped protect them from future attacks. It slashed their chances of a flare by 50 percent over a 48 hour period.
In a British study scientists showed that tart cherry juice significantly reduced gout-triggering uric acid levels in the blood. And tart cherry extracts taken twice a day for four months slashed gout flares by 50 percent according to research presented at an annual meeting of the European League Against Rheumatism. (You’ll find it in health food stores and online.)
Tart cherries have the highest anthocyanin levels of any fruit. But you can mix things up by eating more raspberries and blueberries too, which contain the plant pigment as well.
3. Fatty fish, to soothe the inflammation:
Omega-3 fatty acids are good at fighting arthritis for the same reason they’re good at fighting heart disease. They’re natural inflammation fighters.
A Finnish study on heart disease confirmed eating plenty of omega-3-packed fatty fish could slash inflammation.
Researchers divided volunteers into three groups; one received lean fish four days a week, one received fatty fish for four days and the control group ate beef, pork and chicken. After eight weeks, signs of inflammation had plummeted in the fatty fish eaters.
In another study, when researchers crunched the numbers for a meta-analysis they found that fish oil helped reduce joint tenderness and stiffness in folks suffering with rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, in some cases the results were so dramatic that volunteers cut back on, or even eliminated, NSAID drugs.
4. Garlic, to protect against cartilage damage:
Studies show that foods in the allium family, such as garlic, could help protect you against arthritis pain and cartilage damage.
Folks who eat a lot of garlic, and other allium veggies such as on onions and leeks, show fewer signs of arthritis to begin with. The pungent spice contains diallyl disulphine, a natural anti-inflammatory. Scientists say the sulfur compound could combat the enzymes responsible for damaging your cartilage and causing you pain.
Skip the pastes and bottled garlic. To make sure you’re getting the most benefits from this delicious spice choose fresh instead.
5. Green tea, for the joint protecting antioxidants:
Black, white and green teas all contain anti-inflammatory polyphenols. Which means they’re all good choices for soothing your inflamed joints and reducing arthritis pain. But green tea, which contains the potent polyphenol epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG), is a real standout when it comes to fighting arthritis symptoms.
EGCG’s antioxidant activity is practically off the charts. In fact, scientists say it can be up to 100 times more powerful than other antioxidant superstars such as vitamin C and E. And all that antioxidant power helps interrupt the production of the molecules damaging your joints.
6. & 7. Olive oil and walnut oil, to fight inflammation, too:
Although fish oil is brimming with omega-3s, it’s not the only source of these inflammation fighting fatty acids. Both olive oil and walnut oil are good sources of omega-3s as well. Adding both to your diet could help reduce the inflammation and pain caused by arthritis.
When researchers from Albany Medical College gave fish oil and olive oil supplements to a group of volunteers the folks taking the fish oil had their signs of inflammation plummet, as expected. But the olive oil group saw significant benefits too. Signs of inflammation in the olive oil group dropped nearly 40 percent.
But omega-3s aren’t the only thing olive oil has going for it. The oil is also rich in oleocanthal. Oleocanthal is an anti-inflammatory compound that, similar to NSAID drugs, inhibits the COX-2 enzymes which cause inflammation and pain.
For the most benefits always use organic, unrefined and cold-pressed oils when possible. Use olive oil raw in salads or add a dash to nearly any dish, from chicken to asparagus. It also hold up for low heat cooking. Walnut oil should always be used raw to top foods or in dressings.
Arthritis isn’t just painful; it’s demoralizing and exhausting too. But making some minor changes to your diet could help. Soothe inflammation, put the brakes on joint damage and slash arthritis pain by eating more of these seven science-backed foods.