Although there are many different factors that can positively or negatively affect arthritis, the anti-inflammatory properties of food seem to be a juicy topic among medical professionals. While there is some evidence for broad classes of foods, studies of many specific foods are still in the early phase so the jury is still out on their effects on inflammation.
Controversy surrounds “nightshades” – the category that includes tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and peppers. In New England, most football fans know that Tom Brady does not eat tomatoes due to his belief that they increase inflammation and arthritis symptoms. All the evidence, however, for this is anecdotal – and some health professionals say tomatoes are a good source of vitamins C and A which both combat inflammation.
Foods that are known to have anti-inflammatory properties along with their key compounds are:
- Fish – omega-3 fatty acids
- Nuts & seeds (1.5 oz/day) – Alpha linoleic acids, magnesium, l-arginine and vitamin E
- Fruits – Citrus fruits – vitamin C
- Cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries all contain anthocyanins
- Veggies – Broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kale and cabbage all are high in vitamin K and antioxidants
- Olive Oil (2-3 tablespoons/day) – contains oleocanthal which has properties similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Beans and Whole Grains – Phytonutrients and antioxidants
The overall recommendation by specialists is for people who have arthritis to keep a food & symptom diary. If you find that you consistently have increased pain associated with eating a certain food, take that food away for a week and then re-introduce it to see if there is a connection. Beware though – there are other factors that could be contributing to increased arthritic symptoms such as physical activity, variations in fatigue levels, infections, starting or stopping medications and hormonal changes.
Regardless of specific food choices, medical professionals agree that maintaining proper bodyweight through a healthy, balanced diet is always beneficial. This unloads the weightbearing joints such as the spine, hips and knees. For every pound of weight that you lose, you take 4 pounds of stress off your knees.
At Family Physical Therapy we are neither dieticians nor do we specialize in nutrition; however, we have trusted health professionals that we work with who do so if you’d like more detailed information please contact us and let us know!
Jenn Millen, PTA, ATC