Arthritis is an inflammatory condition in the joints, which highlights the importance of reducing inflammation in the body to minimise pain, discomfort and progression thereof. There are several anti-inflammatory foods and spices that may provide significant relief of arthritis symptoms. On the flipside, there is a multitude of pro-inflammatory foods that can worsen arthritis. The diet can therefore either alleviate or aggravate arthritis, depending if the diet is more anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory.
- Olive oil contains an active compound (oleocanthal) that blocks pro-inflammatory pathways related to arthritis. Include two to three tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil per day, drizzled over salads/meals.
- Oily fish (salmon, sardines, pilchards and mackerel) contains rich amounts of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Walnuts, chia seeds and avocados are also good sources of omega-3s. I suggest a daily dose of two to three fish oil capsules, in addition to an anti-inflammatory diet, to reduce inflammation, lubricate the joints and promote ease of movement.
- Raw ginger, turmeric and cinnamon are powerful anti-inflammatory foods/spices. Raw ginger can be added to stir-fry, raw juices, marinades, dressings or herbal teas. Turmeric can be added to soups, stews, sauce and curries. However, make sure you add a pinch of black pepper to enhance its absorption. Cinnamon can be sprinkled over whole rolled oats, added to warm drinks or included in baked goods.
- Mix one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and raw honey with warm water to alkalise the body (excess acidity increases inflammation in the body).
- Antioxidants may significantly reduce pain and discomfort of arthritis. Foods rich in arthritis-fighting antioxidants include: Berries (especially blueberries and strawberries), cherries, red onions, red apples, grapes, onions, broccoli, carrots, mustard greens, spinach, lemons and kale. Green tea is also rich in antioxidants and is associated with slowing down joint cartilage destruction.
Pro-inflammatory foods to avoid
- Nightshade vegetables: eggplant, tomatoes, red bell peppers and potatoes.
- Table sugar
- Saturated fats: full-fat dairy, red meat and other fatty meats.
- Trans fats: processed foods, ready-made meals, fried foods, pastries and margarine.
- Refined starches: white bread, white pasta, pizza, pastries and breakfast cereals.
- Gluten (protein in wheat, barley and rye products) and casein (protein in cheese and other dairy products).
- Omega-6 is an essential fatty acid, but if it’s present in excessive amounts and out of balance with omega-3 it may act as a pro-inflammatory compound. Omega-6 is found in nuts, seeds, sunflower oil, corn oil, vegetable oils, etc. and is generally present in processed foods.
A sedentary lifestyle causes the fluid around joints to become thick, thereby reducing mobility and increasing discomfort. However, intense exercise may place excessive stress on the joints, increase inflammation and worsen arthritis. I suggest that you rather opt for gentle resistance exercise (Pilates, yoga, stretch band exercises, etc.), which has shown to strengthen and lubricate joints, as well as strengthening the muscles surrounding joints to allow greater mobility and ease of movement.
Joint cartilage consists of chondroitin, glucosamine and collagen. Nutrition supplements for joint health usually contain these components, so it may be useful to include a targeted supplement alongside an anti-inflammatory diet to support joint health and mobility.
For a soothing massage oil: Heat up two tablespoons of mustard oil and mix with a few drops of ginger oil, Eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil and wintergreen oil. Rub onto the sore joints to relieve pain, increase circulation and reduce inflammation.
Epsom salts are rich in magnesium, a mineral that regulates pH levels and provide comfort to stiff, aching joints. Add one to two cups to a warm bath and soak for at least 15 to 20 minutes to ensure maximum absorption.