Easing Arthritis Pain with Food – What Works and What Doesn’t

foods that help soothe arthritis pain

Last updated on May 26th, 2024 at 02:11 pm

Oh, arthritis pain. As someone who has battled joint issues for over a decade, I feel your agony, my friend. There are some days when getting out of bed feels like walking barefoot on hot coals, nevermind trying to tie your shoes or chop veggies for dinner. Ouch, ouch, and triple ouch!

But don’t despair – Food can make a difference when it comes to soothing arthritis discomfort. And I should know! As a health writer and arthritis warrior, I’ve tried all kinds of dietary approaches over the years. Some things made my joints ache more. But others offered sweet, sweet relief from the pain.

In this post, I’ll share what has (and hasn’t) worked for me when it comes to eating to ease arthritis. I’ll also include expert insights from registered dieticians and doctors. Let’s start healing those joints, my friends!

Foods That Help Soothe Arthritis Pain

beans and lentils

When joints are cranky and inflamed, what we eat can either turn up the heat or help put out the fire. Through trial and error, I discovered some go-to arthritis foods that fall into the soothing category.

Fatty Fish

Fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and trout contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids. Research indicates that omega-3s have powerful anti-inflammatory effects that can help calm joint discomfort. I aim for at least two servings of fatty fish per week – either fresh fillets or canned oil-packed varieties like tuna and salmon.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Like fish, olive oil also provides anti-inflammatory compounds. I use premium extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) as my main cooking oil and also drizzle it over salads, veggies, beans, and whole grains like quinoa. The fresher and higher quality the EVOO, the more inflammation-fighting nutrients it contains.

Tart Cherries

These crimson stone fruits contain compounds that may have arthritis-busting abilities. Studies suggest tart cherry juice can reduce markers of inflammation. I drink tart cherry juice almost every morning – either straight or blended into a smoothie. I also keep bags of frozen tart cherries to toss into yogurt bowls and oatmeal.

Cruciferous Veggies

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, arugula, bok choy, cauliflower, and their cruciferous veggie cousins are loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals that exhibit anti-inflammatory effects. I aim for 1-2 cups of these health-boosting foods daily – either raw in salads, roasted as snacks, or sautéed as savory sides.

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Beans and Lentils

As versatile, fiber-rich protein sources, beans and lentils also offer arthritis relief. Studies associate increased bean/lentil consumption with reduced systemic inflammation. I incorporate these anti-inflammatory legumes into soups, stews, salads, veggie burgers, or Indian dals several times per week.

Foods that Exacerbate Arthritis Pain

fried foods

Just as some foods can ease joint discomfort, others may worsen inflammation and pain. Over the years, I’ve learned to limit or avoid these unhelpful eats:

Fried Foods

Trans fats found in many fried, processed foods promote bodily inflammation, including in joints. Greasy fried eats also tend to fall into the nutrient-poor, calorie-dense category — a losing combo for arthritis. I steer clear of most fast food and limit other fried fare.

Refined Carbs

Like fats, refined carbs can drive up inflammation. Too many starchy snacks, sugary cereals, fluffy white breads, or sweet treats like cookies and candy leave me with achy, irritated joints. When arthritis flares, I stick with whole, fiber-rich complex carbs.

Excess Alcohol

I love a nice glass of red wine after a long day. But too much alcohol promotes widespread inflammation and may worsen arthritis pain over time. Moderation is key – I cap it at 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men.

Salt and Preservatives

Table salt and salty processed foods may contribute to arthritis pain by causing fluid retention around inflamed joints. I season food with anti-inflammatory herbs, spices, garlic and lemon instead of salt. And I limit bacon, cold cuts, pizza and other processed eats.

The Takeaway: Let Food Be Your Medicine

What you eat – and what you don’t – can powerfully impact arthritis pain and inflammation. After much self-experimentation, I’ve discovered go-to staples that usually soothe my cranky joints, as well as pro-inflammatory picks that tend to aggravate discomfort.

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Arthritis relief often starts right on your plate. So be sure it’s filled with plenty of nourishing whole foods – fatty fish, tart cherries, veggies, beans, high quality olive oil – and limits fried fare, refined carbs/sugars, excess alcohol and salt. Make food your ally, not your enemy! Your joints will thank you.

What helps your arthritis pain? Share your food finds and struggles in the comments! Let’s support each other in living and eating well with joint issues. This arthritis life ain’t always easy – but we can do hard things together, my friends!

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