An Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Arthritis

You heard that right – an anti-inflammatory diet may help to decrease chronic pains related to arthritis such as

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • osteoarthritis
  • juvenile arthritis

as well as other types of inflammatory arthritis such as psoariasis or ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

Example of anti-inflammatory diet

One example of the anti-inflammatory diet is the Mediterranean Diet, which

  • avoids / discourages processed foods (think anything canned, powdered, instant)
  • encourages vegetables, beans, fruits, whole grains and omega 3 rich foods such as found in wild salmon

One thing you may experience when you combine eating anti-inflammatory foods together with drinking plain water and starting an exercise routine is the decrease of everyday chronic pain.

The other thing that people seem to not realize is that a nice “bonus” is that you may also improve your general health and live longer too.

Meh, is it true that specific foods can suppress arthritic inflammation and pain?

Inflammation isn’t a bad thing – it’s actually a very important function to a natural healthy body.

It’s a problem only when it’s very strong or it’s there for very long, causing pain. As we age our metabolisms change and we become more prone to inflammation, sometimes even when we’re not even sick or injured!

That’s a pain!

Some foods may cause unnecessary extra inflammation and some may decrease inflammation in the body. To understand how some foods may suppress inflammation caused by arthritis, you will need to understand 

  • free radicals
  • antioxidants

Free radicals

So free radicles are molecules that freely travel around the body to search for atoms that they can bond with.

These wandering molecules can cause damage if there’s too many of them and outnumber the cell’s ability to repair them, but interestingly, at the same time, free radicals are also a natural part of our system and metabolism.

Smoking or eating specific foods may create more free radicals than we need, so you’d need to know how they can affect us.

So back to the free radicals – they’re naturally occurring yes, but when there’s too much in the body, that can overwhelm our system and will lead to this condition called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress will promote an inflammatory response in our body, kinda like “background inflammation” which will slowly cause other issues in our body, like causing or exarcebating arthritis.


Antioxidants are the natural defense against free radicals.

Free radicals can be removed (eliminated) with antioxidants in our diet or with anti-inflammatory supplements or medications that we can take daily. It will help with preventing

  • premature ageing
  • heart disease
  • asthma
  • athritis / arthritis pains
  • etc

An anti-inflammatory diet aims to decrease or remove entirely foods that cause inflammation or oxidative stress (1) and focuses on increasing consumption of high antioxidant foods (2).

What types of inflammatory foods you need to avoid

Experts are saying these types of food may promote inflammation and should be avoided whenever possible:

  • Processed foods such as prepacked meals and baked stuff
  • Red meat (beef, lamb)
  • Refined grain products, such as biscuits, white bread and white pasta
  • Refined sugar and refined sugar products, such as candy and soda
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Sugary drinks (canned, packet, bottled – best is still water)
  • Types of oils including corn, safflower, soy, and peanut oils
  • Dry roasted nuts and beer nuts

There is just too dang many stuff to avoid unfortunately

Read food labels and avoid stuff that has refined sugar, flour, corn syrup etc.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods: The center of the anti-inflammatory diet

There are some foods that contain anti-inflammatory properties such as:

  • Cold and deep water fishes (think tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, bass, and anchovies)
  • Fresh (or even frozen) fruits such as apples, apricots, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit, oranges, papaya, pineapple, and avocados
  • Specific oils such as flaxseed oils and olive oils
  • Tree nuts, including almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts (avoiding ground nuts)
  • Deep green vegetables such as spinach, kale, swiss chard, collards, and broccoli
  • Other vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, onions, and sweet potatoes
  • Specific spices such as ginger and turmeric
  • Unsweetened teas or coffee (best is water)
  • Whole grains, including wheat, rice, barley, buckwheat, bulgur wheat, millet, oats, quinoa, and spelt
  • Flaxseeds, chia seeds, and tofu

Evidence shows that a diet including omega-3 rich fatty acids such as fish, tree nuts and chia seeds can lead to a modest reduction of symptoms for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Just a note: even if a food is not on the above list does not mean it cannot be part of an anti-inflammatory diet! There are many varieties of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts beans and lean fish so people can take advantage to enjoy eating delicious foods that offer variety. Sometimes its a trial-and-error approach too

3 controversial foods in anti-inflammatory diet

There are 3 types of foods that people may think is “safe” but can cause inflammation:

  • Dairy: dairy products have been touted and associated with health benefits such as preventing osteoarthritis and growth, but it can cause inflammation in some. If you dont get nasty side effects of cheese and milk, enjoy their taste and health benefits
  • Wheat Gluten: whole wheat can be okay, but some proteins in wheat can cause inflammation and joint pains in some individuals. So if you have allergy/sensitivity to gluten, please avoid wheat, barley, oats, bulgur.
  • Nightshade Plants: eggplants, white potatoes, tomatoes and pepper can be toxic as they contain a chemical substance that can cause inflammation.

The general approach to anti-inflammation diet

  • Trial-and-error: You must know that what foods causes inflammation to one person may differ from another, so yes, we can have references to general anti-inflammation foods to eat and inflammation foods to avoid, but there are hundreds if not thousands of food that isn’t tested yet…so this means that often it’s a trial and error. Try a little, and see how your body responds to it. Eat more of what doesnt cause inflammation, and eat less of what does.
  • Lifestyle / Long term, not short term: it may help in the short term, but this approach truly shines in the long term. Also, sometimes you may fudge a little, but go back to the same proven diet that works and avoid what doesnt.
  • Regular exercise and water intake can enhance the positive effect of the anti-inflammatory diet on arthritic pain.

Where To Next?

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