What To Eat When You Suffer From Arthritis Pain
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 23% of all adults in the United States have some form of arthritis. That’s 54 million people. Of that group, 24 million have been forced to limit their activities due to arthritis-related joint pain. Arthritis is classified as a swelling and tenderness of the joints resulting in pain and stiffness, which usually gets worse as you get older.
Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common forms of the disease, but they are distinct in how they manifest and what’s happening inside your body in each case. With Osteoarthritis, the cartilage that forms your joints begins to break down. It’s typically the “wear and tear” form of arthritis, which just occurs over time in some people due to age or injury.
Rheumatoid arthritis is completely different. This is when your immune system actually starts to mistakenly attack your own body tissue. The lining of your joints gets worn away, which results in painful swelling and, in some cases, bone erosion and joint deformity.
Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.
Arthritis vs. Soreness
The first question, of course, is how do you tell normal, post-activity soreness from something potentially much more damaging like arthritis?
“Soreness is likely to be present after physical activity, whereas arthritis pain may be present even in the absence of any type of movement,” explains Mascha Davis, Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, and author of Eat Your Vitamins. “With arthritis, the aching body part may feel stiff, tender and sensitive to changes in temperature.”
There are a few other things to take note of when trying to determine the state of your physical wellbeing. If you can’t determine the source of the pain or soreness, it might be a sign of a bigger issue. For example, having sore thighs immediately after squatting is probably just soreness that can be helped with a analgesic. If it’s more of a general, dull ache in joints that haven’t been pressed too hard, you may want to see a doctor.
Similarly, post-exercise soreness generally doesn’t result in severe limitations to your range of motion. Your shoulder may be sore, but you can still lift your arm over your head. If you find yourself unable to move freely, this could be another indication that something bigger is wrong.
Go All In On Veggies
As we’ve seen, the types of foods you eat can have a huge impact on your level of muscle soreness post-activity. While it’s impossible to say that any one kind of food is a proven treatment for arthritis (especially when there are over 100 different variations of the disease), there are some changes to your diet that can help, and help supplement the pain relief provided by Flexpower Warm or Flexpower Soothe .
Step one: Step up the vegetables. “When it comes to veggies, the more you eat the better!” says Davis. “Eating a variety of different colored vegetables will provide an abundance of antioxidants, which helps reduce inflammation, and therefore symptoms of arthritis.” She recommends broccoli because it is rich with a compound called sulforaphane “which may reduce inflammation present in the body due to arthritis,” as well as dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and cabbage which are high in Vitamin K, which helps keep bones and cartilage healthy.
As with all vegetables, Davis is quick to remind people that the less you can cook them, the higher their nutrient content will be. So if you can go raw, go for it. It can only help.
Don’t Forget the Fruit
As with vegetables, you really can’t go wrong with any fruit due to their anti-inflammatory properties (although Davis advises against fruit juice, as the added sugar can actually have the opposite effect). “Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes and kiwi are high in vitamin C, which helps with production of collagen in the body. This is important for maintaining healthy joints,” says Davis.
Berries and grapes are also ideally suited for helping relieve the pressure of swollen joints. “Berries are rich in quercetin and rutin, two nutrients with anti-inflammatory properties, and grapes contain resveratrol, which is an important antioxidant that has been shown to have potential to fight rheumatoid arthritis development.”
While it’s advisable to increase your vegetable intake if you suffer from arthritis, there is no need to adopt a completely vegetarian or vegan diet. “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” says Davis. “Start by adding at least five servings of fruits and veggies to your diet, and if you want to consume animal protein, choose leaner options like poultry and fish.”
Davis recommends increasing fatty fish consumption, due to its high omega-3 content, which has been linked to better control of arthritis symptoms.
There are no cure-alls or magic elixirs, adopting a diet rich in leafy greens, fresh fruit, and fatty fish can help relieve chronic pain or prevent symptoms from getting worse.
Mascha Davis, registered dietitian, nutritionist, and author
Sulforaphane inhibits IL-1β-induced proliferation of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts and the production of MMPs, COX-2, and PGE2
Inhibitory effect of resveratrol on the proliferation of synoviocytes in rheumatoid arthritis and its mechanism in vitro
What is the evidence for a role for diet and nutrition in osteoarthritis?
Relationship Between Fish Consumption and Disease Activity in Rheumatoid Arthritis