According to the CDC, about a quarter of Americans have arthritis, which means well over 50 million adults are dealing with symptoms of joint discomfort and debility every day of their lives. Medication and physical therapy can help relieve symptoms to a large extent. And believe it or not, so can your diet.
As a leading orthopedic specialist in Houston and Sugar Land, Texas, J. Michael Bennett, MD, PA, helps men and women manage their arthritis symptoms with a custom-tailored combination of medical care and lifestyle treatments for greater mobility and improved quality of life. If you have arthritis, here’s how your eating habits could be affecting your symptoms — and what you can do about it.
Diet and arthritis: A complex link
We all know how important it is to maintain a healthy diet. But what’s not always so clear is how our diet could be affecting our health. With arthritis, what you eat could affect your symptoms in several ways.
Weight gain is perhaps the most obvious link between diet and arthritis symptoms. Even a few extra pounds can have a tremendous impact on your joint health, especially when it comes to your knees, hips, ankles, and even your spine.
Those extra pounds create a lot of pressure on your legs’ joints, and most importantly on the protective cartilage that lines them. In healthy joints, this cartilage layer helps your joints bend and flex smoothly, keeping friction to a minimum.
Excess weight increases the strain on your cartilage, causing the protective layer to break down over time. That means more friction inside your joints, leading to pain and inflammation. In turn, the increase in inflammation leads to more arthritic damage, which leads to more pain — and so on, in an ongoing cycle.
Not surprisingly, losing weight can have the opposite effect, decreasing the stress and strain inside your joints to help preserve cartilage and improve joint function.
Some foods — even “healthy” ones — can trigger an inflammatory response in certain men and women, increasing joint inflammation and pain risk. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, those foods could be affecting the number of joint symptoms you experience. Some possible culprits include:
- Vegetables in the nightshade family, like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers
- Red meat
- Processed foods and food additives
- Saturated and other “unhealthy” fats
If your diet includes foods known to cause sensitivities, you could try eliminating those foods from your diet, one by one, to see if your symptoms improve.
While unhealthy eating habits can hurt your arthritis symptoms, following a healthy eating plan can support better joint health. Many foods have been shown to help decrease inflammation, including:
- Omega 3-rich foods like mackerel, tuna, salmon, nuts, and plant oils
- Bright orange or yellow vegetables, like carrots and peppers
- Fruits high in antioxidants, like grapes, red raspberries, and tart cherries
- Green tea
- Foods rich in vitamin D
- Some spices, like ginger and turmeric
Incorporating more whole grains and more vegetables can also help by supporting overall and maintaining a healthy weight.
Find relief for your arthritis symptoms
Don’t let arthritis pain and stiffness interfere with your life. With a custom treatment plan from Dr. Bennett, you can learn effective ways to manage your symptoms and prevent future joint damage, so you can get back to the activities you love. To find out how, call the office or use our online form to schedule an appointment today.