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An Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Arthritis

Anti-Inflammatory Foods Central to an Anti-inflammatory Diet

Chemical compounds found naturally in many foods, including most fruits and vegetables, seem to have anti-inflammatory properties. Certain anti-inflammatory foods, like the ones listed below, are highly recommended.

  • Cold water fish, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, bass, and anchovies
  • Fresh and (additive-free) frozen fruits, including apples, apricots, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, grapes, kiwi fruit, oranges, papaya, pineapple, and avocados
  • Certain oils, including flaxseed and olive oils
  • Nuts, including almonds, walnuts, and macadamia 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
  • Certain spices, including ginger and turmeric
  • Green tea and water, particularly mineral water
  • Whole grains, including wheat, rice, barley, buckwheat, bulgur wheat, millet, oats, quinoa, and spelt
  • Flaxseeds, chia seeds, and tofu

3 Controversial Foods in an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Some foods that are normally considered part of a healthy diet may cause inflammation in some people. Common examples of these foods are nightshade plants, dairy products, and wheat gluten.

  • Nightshade plants

Eggplant, pepper, white potatoes, and tomatoes are collectively called “nightshade” plants. These plants contain a chemical called solanine, which some people believe promotes arthritis inflammation.

  • Dairy products

Over the years researchers have found that dairy products are associated with many benefits, such as reducing the risk of gout in men and slowing down the progression of osteoarthritis in women. Low-fat yogurt, cheese and milk can be particularly beneficial. However, in certain people, dairy products may produce inflammation that affects the joints.

  • Wheat gluten

Like dairy products, whole-wheat products can be part of a healthy diet. However, a protein found in wheat, called gluten, is associated with inflammation and joint pain in certain individuals.

Sticking with It to See Results

Unlike pain medications, which may take just minutes to work, an anti-inflammatory diet may not produce its full effects for several weeks or even several months.

The effects may be difficult to notice because they are gradual, so people are advised to keep a journal to track changes in symptoms. Even if the effects are not noticeable in the first month or two, an anti-inflammatory diet can reap long-term benefits by reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

People who want to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet may want to plan and pick a start time that helps ensure success. They may want to begin their new diet after a vacation or holiday, when they will be faced with less heavy foods and desserts. Once the new eating habits are firmly in place it will be easier to resist temptations.

Exercise and anti-inflammatory diet combined approach

Arthritis pain relief can be maximized when an anti-inflammatory diet is combined with routine exercise.

One large study compared pain and inflammation levels in arthritis patients who were assigned to follow diet, exercise, or diet and exercise regimens. Researchers found people assigned to combined diet and  exercise benefited more than people assigned to just diet or just exercise:

  • Average pain levels were reduced the most for people who were assigned to both diet and exercise.
  • Average pain levels were reduced about the same amount for people assigned to only exercise or only a healthy diet.
  • Inflammation levels (which were measured using blood samples) were the lowest for people who were assigned to either diet or combined diet and exercise.

Adapted from: Arthritis-Health.com, Vijay Vad, MD, Updated 8/10/2015

Counterstrain and the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Another link to an anti-inflammatory diet promoted by the Arthritis Foundation.  They talk about C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6, which are the inflammatory substances we aim to get rid of with fascial counterstrain.  Adopting a “Mediterranean style” diet, high in fish, fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and low sodium, can help make the work your physical therapist does more helpful and lasting.

You might be thinking, “well I don’t have arthritis”.  Well maybe you have been diagnosed with tendonitis, or bursitis, or plantar fasciitis.  All these things have something in common.  Each one of them is inflammation surrounding a type of tissue, the tendon, the bursa, the fascia.  Arthritis is inflammation of the joint.  If our diet includes many inflammatory substances, we are practically just bathing our tissues in extra inflammation.  Changing your diet is tough, but so are you.  Seriously consider what you are putting in your body and make a plan to do better.

Here are a few links to places to find healthy recipes.  Do a quick check first though.  Does it meet all of your dietary requirements?  Is there something you could eliminate or substitute for your needs?

https://www.eatingwell.com/gallery/12952/anti-inflammatory-recipes/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322897#lunch

https://www.healthline.com/health/rheumatoid-arthritis/seven-day-meal-plan

Do you have tried and true anti-inflammatory recipes to share?  Leave a link in the comments.

Jesse Dunn DPT CSCS

Jesse Dunn DPT CSCS

Jesse graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2017 with her Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Prior to graduate school, she graduated North Dakota State University with a degree in both Exercise Science and Psychology. Jesse has been a certified personal trainer since 2007 and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach with the National Strength and Conditioning Association since 2010. She enjoys working with all types of patients, especially helping athletes of all ages return to optimal performance. She uses a combined approach of manual therapy and exercise to help patients return to the activities they love. When she’s not working, Jesse enjoys biking, gardening, and exploring the outdoors. “I have been an injured athlete, trying to stretch, exercise, and tape myself out of an injury without success. That’s where manual therapy comes into play. I have been practicing fascial counterstrain for over a year now and notice more benefits with this technique than any other. Some things you can’t do yourself, and that’s when coming in for manual therapy can help you.”

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