arthritis inflammation

Free Yourself of Joint Pain with the Right Foods

Arthritis comes in many forms and can affect anyone at any age. The pain associated with arthritis can be troublesome or completely debilitating. My arthritis causes pain and discomfort in my hands and feet, but I am grateful to be fully active. I rely on eating well as one method of managing my inflammation. One of the critical reasons arthritis hurts is because of inflammation. Inflammation is an inappropriate response by our own bodies caused by an overactive immune system.

For many, the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis are life-limiting. In fact, the American Arthritis Association states that arthritis is the “leading cause of work disability.” Not only may people living with arthritis lose out on employment opportunities, they often miss out on enjoyable life activities like gardening, hiking or simply enjoying a walk. However, there are many actions that those of us with arthritis can take to ensure our lives are full, rich and as pain-free as possible.

Of course, staying physically active is vital, as is avoiding movements that will aggravate joints. But nutrition can also play a massive role in managing your arthritis; reducing inflammation is possible through focused food.

Anti-inflammatory Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet, or a diet that minimizes the harm from arthritis, is essential for many reasons. An anti-inflammatory diet also reduces the risk of heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease and obesity. Consider this statement from Harvard University:

An anti-inflammatory diet is a healthful eating plan that helps reduce chronic low levels of inflammation that otherwise might increase the risk of various chronic diseases.

One of my favorite anti-inflammatory lifestyles to embrace is the Mediterranean Diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts and lentils. This diet allows for countless delicious and health-conscious meals. Consider avoiding a diet with heavily processed foods or one that relies on convenience and fast foods; your body will thank you for avoiding these unhealthy options.

Optimizing Gut Health

Gut inflammation, such as ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease, is problematic for many reasons; we all need a healthy gut for optimal physical performance and health. Gut inflammation can also be painful and negatively impact your day-to-day life. The Arthritis Foundation advises:

There are several ways to optimize gut health. Diet plays a critical role. A varied, plant-based diet that includes prebiotic and probiotic foods is a great start. But many healthy lifestyle habits that are good for arthritis are also beneficial for your gut. These include exercise, good sleep habits, stress management and smoking cessation.

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Foods to Avoid

Did you know that many foods worsen inflammation? Inflammatory foods, including sugars, saturated fats, trans fats, refined carbohydrates and alcohol, can all increase the inflammation in your arthritic joints, leading to more pain and discomfort.

Not all fatty acids are created equal, so understanding how the various fatty acids impact health and well-being is essential. Mount Sinai Hospital states, "a healthy diet balances omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and some omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation.”

Foods to Help with Inflammation

Raspberries contain polyphenols, so these yummy little berries may protect your joint's cartilage, reduce inflammation and reduce pain. Blueberries and raspberries are lovely additions to your diet. Toss them in Greek yogurt for a dessert or into a smoothie for a healthy breakfast! Raspberries and blueberries are beneficial for many reasons and are easy to enjoy, fresh or frozen.

The Arthritis Foundation recommends salmon and other fatty fish as essential dietary items as they are rich in omega three fatty acids, which are natural anti-inflammatory fighters. Salmon is an easy addition to your meal plans; try fresh, frozen or canned salmon in many recipes. In addition, marine omega-3s, such as those found in salmon, reduce the painful stiffing and swelling associated with arthritis.

I love cooking with olive oil because of its delicious flavor, but it may also help to ease your arthritis pain. This is because “extra virgin olive oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats as well as oleocanthal, which has properties similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).” So try adding a spoonful of olive oil to your next stir fry or pasta dish for a healthful and tasty addition to your arthritis diet. Olive oil can also form the base for delicious and light salad dressings. Be sure to use extra virgin olive oil, and avoid cooking it at super high temperatures for maximum benefits.

Treatment Options

Rinvoq is one of many prescription drugs your physician may prescribe to relieve your arthritis symptoms. Like all prescription drugs, it may or may not be suitable for you, so inquire about how medications may help you to live life to the fullest. Xelijanz, used to treat severe rheumatoid arthritis, is another medication you should discuss with your healthcare team. Similarly, Humira is used to treat many forms of arthritis as well as Crohn’s disease. Using medicine to treat arthritic inflammation is one tool in your toolbox, along with activity, excellent nutrition and other key lifestyle measures.