Joint pain is the unfortunate consequence of disease or injury, and it’s a hard condition to treat. The major medications used to treat arthritis are corticosteroids, which calm joint pain but carry a host of unpleasant side effects. Besides the medicines, people who have joint pain can ease inflammation, which is an immune system response that causes pain, through their eating habits. Some foods induce inflammation into the body, while other foods ramp up inflammation, and the redness and swelling that accompany it. Here are some diet choices that will relieve joint pain.
Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely healthy substances for humans to ingest. They quiet inflammation, lift mild depression, and increase memory retention. Plants and some animal food sources contain omega-3 fatty acids; flaxseed is an excellent plant source. In flaxseed, the omega-3 is alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), comprising 57% of the oil content. The lignans in flaxseed hulls are cancer-fighting phytonutrients. Flaxseed has been used for its anti-inflammatory properties since 500 BC.
Cold water fish are another rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Sardines, salmon, mackerel, and anchovies contain big doses; three ounce of sardines in a can contain 1.4 grams of omega-3 fats. This serving size also has a full shot of vitamin D, an antioxidant that aids the body in metabolizing calcium to keep its bones healthy; this is an important function for arthritis patients on corticosteroids, drugs that leach calcium from bones.
A staple of diets worldwide (but not so much in the west), matcha is green tea leaves that have been dried and powdered. It’s sold as a loose powder that can be added to shakes and other drinks, or as capsules. Green tea contains many antioxidants, including polyphenols and catechins; these plant chemicals decrease inflammation in the body and slow the disintegration of cartilage. Look for this superfood in health food stores or tea shops.
The dense cruciferous vegetable broccoli has sulforaphane, a plant compound that prevents inflammation and joint preservation—it stops the enzymes that start the destruction of joints and tissues. Broccoli contains vitamin K, an antioxidant that delays the inception of osteoarthritis. Cauliflower is another cruciferous vegetable source of sulforaphane.
5. Olive oil
One of the elements in olive oil is oleocanthal, a substance that prevents two inflammatory enzymes (COX-1 and COX-2) from being produced—this is exactly what ibuprofen does. The greatest levels of oleocanthal are found in virgin oils from Tuscany; the higher the oleocanthal levels, the greater their impact on both chronic and acute inflammation (read: long term and transient pain levels). To keep the nutrients in the oil, don’t heat it higher than 400 degrees Farenheit, and store olive oil in a dark bottle, away from direct sunlight and florescent lights.
Berries are fine sources of antioxidants—plant polyphenols that calm inflammation and fight off free radicals—and they’re hydrating, made mostly of water. Berries stop the inflammation messages released by the enzymes cytokine and COX-2. Blueberries aid the immune system; strawberries have more vitamin C dose for dose than a cup of orange juice.
The major anti-inflammatory antioxidant in onions is flavonoids, which are also present in red wine; flavonoids relieve joint pain. Most effective of the flavonoids is quercetin, which quells prostaglandins, leukotrienes that bring on inflammation. Scientists at the University of Berne in Switzerland found that onions contain a bone-preserving agent, gamma-L-glutamyl-trans-S-1-propenyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide (GPCS), which works in the same way as Fosamax, a main osteoarthritis drug.
Another place to get your omega-3 fatty acids is soybeans. This plant food is made into tofu or eaten raw as edamame (a staple in Japan). Low in fat and high in protein and fiber, soybeans are a great choice for people looking to eat healthy without a lot of cooking prep time. Marinating tofu overnight (in honey and mustard, for instance), then rolling it in flour before grilling is a good way to go, or sprinkle sea salt on edamame and bring them to work for an afternoon snack.
9. Vitamin D
As mentioned before, corticosteroids are the primary drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and they cause bones to lose their density. Women who have rheumatoid arthritis are at greater risk of getting osteoporosis. For this reason, the antioxidants vitamin D and calcium are crucial for people who have joint pain and take the prescribed drugs. Leafy greens and fortified milk contain vitamin D, as do supplements. Another option: spend fifteen minutes outside in the direct sunlight—the body makes vitamin D when it’s out in the sun.
Carotenoids are a class of antioxidants in plants. The two main carotenoids are beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, found in warm colored produce—oranges, corn, apricots, pumpkins, persimmons, summer squash, red peppers, tangerines. Research has found that a diet rich in beta-cryptoxanthin prevents the onset of inflammatory arthritis by nearly fifty percent.