Centuries ago, Hippocrates wrote, “Let food be thy medicine”—advice that’s particularly wise if you suffer from arthritis.
Several studies show that certain foods help relieve tender joints, reduce morning stiffness, and may even help arthritis sufferers reduce the amount of medication they need. Conversely, other foods can actually worsen pain and inflammation.
While there’s no cure for arthritis, eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help quell the symptoms—and may also lower your risk for other chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease.
Osteoarthritis (OA), which affects 27 million Americans, used to be blamed on gradual deterioration of cartilage in overused joints. Recently, investigators at Stanford School of Medicine revolutionized medical thinking about OA by showing that the disease is actually driven, for the most part, by chronic, low-grade inflammation.
“It’s a paradigm change,” said William Robinson, MD, PhD, the study’s senior author, in a report on the Stanford website. “People in the field predominantly view osteoarthritis as a matter of simple wear and tear, like tires gradually wearing out on a car.”
Actually, the joints of people with OA harbor an abnormally high number of inflammatory cells. The study, which was published in Nature, found that early in the disease, initial damage to the joint sparks a molecular chain reaction that escalates into an immune system attack.
Inflammation has long been known to be a key player in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that triggers inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. It’s like being shot by friendly fire, since the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue as if it were an enemy invader.
RA can start at any age, but is more common in the middle-aged. It’s three times more common in women than men, and typically affects joints on both sides of the body, sparking pain, swelling, redness, stiffness (particularly in the morning), and fatigue. Over time, joints may lose their range of motion and become deformed.
The disease can also affect other organs, leading to such symptoms as chest pain, dry eyes and mouth, itchiness and burning of the eyes, and numbness or tingling in the feet, according to the National Institutes of Health.
If you take medication, consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist before making major changes in your diet, since some foods can have harmful interactions with certain drugs.
Research suggests that these anti-inflammatory foods may be particularly beneficial for arthritis sufferers:
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