Can anti-inflammatory foods help arthritis?

A number of studies show that certain foods might help reduce inflammation associated with arthritis and other chronic conditions.

Inflammation comes from the Latin word “inflammo,” meaning “I set alight, I ignite.” This is a localized physical condition in which the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot and often painful, especially when reacting to an injury or infection. Inflammation plays a role in many long-term health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or cardiovascular disease. These are considered chronic conditions which can last several months or even years. Inflammation, however, can be beneficial in some situations. When dealing with an acute condition such as a bad cut or broken bone, inflammation actually helps to improve blood flow to the affected area and provide immediate care and protection. 

Can a person’s diet affect inflammation and relieve arthritic conditions? According to the Arthritis Foundation, there have some studies that have looked at the direct impact of foods and specific diets and the effect they have on arthritis. “According to a 2011 review in Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America, people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who followed a Mediterranean diet reported a decrease in joint tenderness and an improvement in their sense of well-being.” The Mediterranean diet includes the following key components:

  • Consuming more fruits and vegetables
  • Eating healthy fats which include olive and canola oil
  • Eating more fish and less red meat
  • Consuming nuts in small portions

The Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine has also done studies on the positive effects of tart cherry juice with inflammation. This research shows that athletes who consumed Montmorency cherry juice, prior to a relay race, reported less pain than those who received a placebo. Montmorency (sour pie) cherries have high levels of an anti-inflammatory substance that is found in the peel of the fruit – the same enzyme found in over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen.

Other findings report that eating less processed and sugary foods and increasing the amount of whole grains with high fiber can help in lowering inflammation. It’s important to note that by eating a healthier diet a person is more likely to lose weight which in turn helps reduce pressure on the joints.

Some doctors, however, warn that even healthy foods can trigger arthritis symptoms in some people with arthritis. Michigan State University Extension recommends that you consult with your doctor before significantly changing your diet to address any inflammatory health issues.

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