Strong, pain-free joints can keep you mobile and active for life. You may already know that getting regular exercise and controlling your weight can go a long way in helping you maintain healthy, functional joints as you age. But did you know that your dietary choices also have the power to help or hurt your joints?
Your food choices are especially important if, like millions of adults in the United States, you have chronic joint pain and stiffness caused by arthritis-related inflammation. While improving your diet can’t cure the disease, it can help you manage disruptive symptoms more effectively.
As a board-certified provider who offers PRP injection therapy at RVA Regenerative Wellness, Jennylle Zanzi, FNP-C, and our team know that joint-calming interventions like PRP are more successful with joint-healthy habits and an anti-inflammatory diet.
Here, we explore the link between diet and achy joints and explain what you should and shouldn’t eat to gain the upper hand over arthritis-related joint inflammation and pain.
Inflammation drives joint pain
Arthritis is an umbrella medical term that covers over 100 distinct conditions that all have one thing in common. They all cause inflammation, pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in one or more joints and their supporting tissues.
In the U.S., about one in four adults (almost 59 million people) have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. The most frequent diagnosis is osteoarthritis (OA), or degenerative joint disease. Other common types include rheumatoid arthritis (RA), gout, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia.
Arthritis pain and stiffness can range in severity from mild, intermittent, and annoying to severe, unrelenting, and disabling. Among adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, nearly half report having persistent pain, and one in four say they experience severe joint pain and stiffness that limits their mobility and daily activities.
Eating for inflammation control
You can take a major step toward easing joint inflammation with your dietary patterns. Just as you can eat foods that worsen inflammation, you can choose foods that soothe and reduce it, giving you a real inroad to attaining lasting relief from persistent joint pain.
As you might suspect, unhealthy eating patterns promote joint pain, while healthy choices have the power to keep joint pain at bay. Let’s take a closer look at both sides of the equation:
Anti-inflammatory eases joint pain
Chronic inflammation is a primary catalyst of arthritis-related joint pain. Anti-inflammatory dietary patterns help flip the switch on this inflammatory response, effectively alleviating the pain and stiffness that comes with it.
The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet are two prime examples of eating patterns with strong anti-inflammatory effects. Both emphasize a hearty mix of nutrient-dense whole foods — from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to lean proteins and heart-healthy fats.
While there is no one-size-fits-all anti-inflammatory diet, you can’t go wrong by:
- Getting plenty of dietary fiber (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains)
- Choosing lean protein sources (poultry, eggs, white fish, legumes, tofu)
- Sticking with heart-healthy fats (olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocado, salmon)
- Being mindful of your calcium intake (low-fat dairy products, plain yogurt)
Omega-3 fatty acids, which you can get from walnuts, flaxseeds, leafy green vegetables (i.e., spinach, kale), and fatty fish (i.e., salmon, tuna) are known for their powerful anti-inflammatory effects, as are the polyphenols (plant chemicals) found in all types of berries.
Pro-inflammatory leads to joint pain
Unhealthy eating patterns, on the other hand, are pro-inflammatory, meaning they promote joint inflammation and pain. Specifically, a diet that’s centered on ultra-processed, highly refined food products has strong pro-inflammatory effects, meaning it sustains and intensifies inflammation throughout your body.
Besides being pro-inflammatory catalysts of joint pain, the foods on our “avoid-or-limit” list tend to be high in health-undermining saturated fats, added sugars, sodium, and/or calories — and low in essential nutrients, too.
A joint-friendly, anti-inflammatory diet should eliminate or restrict:
- Sweets (i.e., pre-packaged baked goods, ice cream)
- Snack foods (i.e., potato chips, microwave popcorn)
- Refined grain products (white bread, pasta, and rice)
- Fried foods (i.e., fried chicken, French fries, donuts)
- Processed meats (i.e., bacon, pepperoni, hot dogs)
- Processed cheeses (i.e., American cheese, nacho dip)
- Sugary drinks (i.e., soda, sports drinks, energy drinks)
Cutting pro-inflammatory foods out of your diet generally means avoiding food products that come in a box or a bag, or anything that’s made from a laundry list of ingredients especially if it contains unrecognizable ingredients or lots of sugar, salt, or processed oils.
Expert care for chronic joint pain
Ready to gain the upper hand over chronic joint pain? We can help. Call 786-224-6878 today, or use our online booking feature to schedule an appointment at RVA Regenerative Wellness in Midlothian, Virginia, any time.