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How do Food Ingredients Affect Arthritis?

We know that arthritis causes great pain, for this reason we bring you some dietary recommendations that will help you improve this ailment. No one can deny that living with arthritis is one of the most uncomfortable situations that exist. Although other conditions can cause greater problems, arthritis is extremely painful. Therefore, seeking control with a specialist is vital to ensure you enjoy a quality life. One of the keys in this search is the food you choose to consume.

“Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory, chronic, autoimmune disease leading to systemic inflammation and joint damage, making the patient compromised and dependent.1 Prolonged pharmacological treatments often maintain patients in remission, reducing pain and joint damage; however, continuous use of these drugs causes various side effects, including intestinal disorders, reduced calorie intake, and increased nutrient deficiency, altering the nutritional profile of patients due to changes in ingestion, digestion, absorption, and excretion of food. Such changes to a patient’s nutritional profile are also observed during the natural course of RA; therefore, it is important to supplement patients with nutrients and other dietary components to protect them from disease worsening.”1

“As a complement to modern pharmacological treatment, lifestyle intervention should be evaluated as a treatment option. Scientific evidence exists for anti-inflammatory effects by single foods on RA, but no study exists where these foods have been combined to obtain maximum effect and thus offer a substantial improvement in patient life quality.”2

“Overweight people are at considerably increased risk for the development of Osteoarthritis (OA) in their knees. They may also be more susceptible to both hip and hand joints involvement irrespective of the mechanisms. Weight reduction in a person through dietary or other means may reduce a risk for the development or progression of the OA. Obese osteoarthritis patients were benefited from the weight loss and foods that supply the nutrients such as vitamin D, folacin, vitamin B6, zinc, and pantothenic acid in which they are deficient. An intensive weight loss intervention incorporating deficit diet and exercise training improves physical function in older obese OA knee adults, greater improvements in function being directly proportional to the greater weight loss.”3

You will discover that there are foods that improve the body’s response to arthritis and you’ll also notice that by consuming certain foods you can avoid or reduce the discomfort for a longer time. Although limiting your diet can be annoying, it will bring you great long-term benefits.

Below are a few examples of beneficial anti-arthritis foods:

Fatty Fish

The first of the foods that influences arthritis are fatty fish. These are high in omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory effects. Several studies have shown their effectiveness in reducing the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis.

“The consumption of LC omega-3s derived from fish oil, either in fish (wild and farmed) or as encapsulated fish oil has been shown to help maintain health, especially cardiovascular health. Benefits have been shown in ameliorating inflammatory disorders such as asthma, eczema, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease. But perhaps the most important effects in the future will be in neurological development and mental health, including cognitive function. With the important function of EPA and DHA as a component of brain and nervous tissue, and in particular in the development of these organs, dietary LC omega-3 inclusion has an important role to play in the last trimester of pregnancy and in infant nutrition. There are already numerous studies showing positive benefits in these areas, but there are not yet sufficient dietary intervention studies to convince the authorities such that health claims can be made.”4

The following fish contain high levels of omega-3: tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel, salmon and shrimp. As you can see, this list allows you to play a lot with the flavors and meals to avoid ending up bored by eating the same thing.


Another food that helps in the control of arthritis is garlic. There are studies that demonstrate the effectiveness in reducing markers related to inflammation. High amounts of these markers can accelerate the onset of arthritis and worsen its effects.

“Garlic is reported to be one of the best natural medicines for arthritis. The pungency of garlic is due to its various sulfur compounds. Studies have been carried out in determining the effect of these sulfur compounds as antiinflammatory compounds and their role in the signaling pathways of arthritis. Also, there is a scope for advanced level research such as incorporation of nanotechnology and biotechnology for exploiting the potential of this wonder drug garlic for the treatment of arthritis.”5

“Garlic and other allium vegetables contain a number of bioactive compounds. When garlic is crushed, damaged or chopped, an enzyme alliinase is activated and acts upon alliin to form allicin. Allicin is unstable and further decomposes to yield sulphides, ajoene and dithiins. Several of these compounds have shown biological activities with diallyl sulphides most extensively investigated – particularly diallyl disulphide (DADS)”6

To obtain the benefits, we recommend adding at least one garlic to your daily diet. If you are not particularly fond of garlic’s pungent flavor and aroma, use a smaller amount to flavor your sauces or soups. This way you will not go overboard and your dishes will still have enhanced flavors.


A perfect, tasty ingredient that will help in dealing with arthritis is ginger. Studies show that some patients who consumed ginger had reported a reduction in pain and discomfort.

“Pharmacologically, ginger, similar to other plants, is a very complex mixture of compounds. Zingiber officinale contains several hundred known constituents, among them gingeroles, beta‐carotene, capsaicin, caffeic acid, and curcumin. In addition, salicylate has been found in ginger in amounts of 4.5 mg/100 gm fresh root. This would correspond to <1 mg salicylate in 1 capsule of the presently tested ginger extract. The actions and especially the interactions of these ingredients have not been (and probably cannot be easily) evaluated. Various powders, formulations, and extracts have, however, been commercially used and tested, both in vitro and in vivo, in animal models. In these models, ginger has been shown to act as a dual inhibitor of both cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipooxygenase, to inhibit leukotriene synthesis, and to reduce caregeenan‐induced rat‐paw edema, an animal model of inflammation.”7

For this reason, we recommend consuming a small piece of ginger a day. A good option may be to add it to your morning smoothies or your vegetable soups.

Here are some foods that can exacerbate symptoms of arthritis:


Sugar is the most difficult ingredient to avoid in the control of arthritis because it can be found almost everywhere, whether in foods or drinks. Even though it is an unhealthy element for the body in general, it is consumed in absurd amounts by the general population every day. Sometimes, we do not even know it’s there. In the case of arthritis, sugar has a negative impact due to the cytokines it contains, which are known to induce pain if found in high levels. “The incidence of abnormal glucose metabolism in patients with rheumatoid arthritis was considerably higher than the general population. The persistent systemic inflammatory state in rheumatoid arthritis might be associated with the glucose metabolism dysfunction. In this context, insulin resistance, islet β cell apoptosis, inflammatory cytokines, and other aspects which were linked with abnormal glucose metabolism in rheumatoid arthritis were reviewed.”8

Saturated fats

These should be completely removed from your diet because they increase general inflammation and can cause serious cardiac issues. “Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic connective tissue disease which develops in the course of an autoimmune inflammatory process triggered by environmental factors in a genetically predisposed person. One of the environmental factors is the diet. RA patients’ adherence to a healthy diet remains low, despite plentiful data confirming positive effects of some foods, e.g. fish rich in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), as well as the negative influence of unhealthy eating patterns, such as high consumption of fats and sugars, on RA incidence, activity and treatment response.”9

“There is much interest in the putative role of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) to reduce inflammation and alleviate the symptoms of RA. Dietary n-6 and n-3 PUFA are modulators of the lipid content of membrane phospholipids, where they are able to affect cell function, and precursors for eicosanoid production. Eicosanoids mediate inflammation, cytokine synthesis and cell communication. Metabolism of n-6 PUFA produces arachidonic acid (AA), leading to the production of leukotrienes, prostaglandins and thromboxanes of the two and four series, whereas metabolism of n-3 PUFA produces docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which form the respective eicosanoids of the three and five series. The major sources of n-6 and n-3 PUFA are linoleic and a-linolenic acid (ALNA), respectively. These fatty acids are elongated and desaturated by the same enzymes leading to a competition between these fatty acid groups. In recent years there has been a marked increase in the consumption of n-6 PUFA-rich vegetable oils, such as sunflower oils and spreads, and the ratio of n-6 to n-3 has increased dramatically This has shifted the balance of eicosanoids synthesized to favour those from the AA precursor that have more pro-inflammatory biological actions, over those synthesized from DHA and EPA. DHA and EPA, which are found in fish oil, are able to decrease the production of AA-derived eicosanoids and decrease the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-a, IL-1b and IL-6, decrease lymphocyte proliferation and reactive oxygen species. The exact mechanisms through which n-3 PUFA act are still being debated, but it is clear that these oils do demonstrate some anti-inflammatory properties.”10

“Most cellular mechanisms of the body and particularly those involving the use of ionized minerals such as the secretory glands, nerve function processes and muscle contraction, etc. proceed best in a mildly alkaline state. For this reason a diet consisting of high alkaline foods should be consumed, combined with the avoidance of acid-forming foods. Acid-forming foods are those which are high in one or more of three elements: phosphorus, sulfur, and chlorine; alkaline diets are those high in potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium. The diet used to treat and prevent development of Rheumatoid Diseases should definitely avoid as much as possible the following foods. All processed and most canned foods should be avoided along with caffeine, sugar in all it’s forms, as well as the simple carbohydrate foods that quickly upon digestion turn into sugar, like white flour foods, crackers, many cereals, macaroni (pasta foods) white rice and corn products. Ideally nicotine and alcohol should be avoided, along with any sweets, candy, soft drinks, pastries and desserts. The “nightshade plants” (foods containing solanines) such as white potatoes, tomatoes, egg plant and garden peppers should be avoided.

As a rule, most protein foods tend to be acid forming since they contain phosphorus and sulfur. Animal sources of protein — lean meat (beef, lamb, veal) poultry, fish and eggs — are definitely in this category. With the exception of shrimp, most sea food is extremely acid forming. These foods must not be avoided in the diet, however, as they provide the building blocks for all bodily functions and processes. Therefore one of these proteins should be eaten with each meal. Pork meats should be limited however. Just try not to eat an entire meal consisting of protein foods, but balance these foods with alkaline forming foods. Ideally your breakfast should always consist of some high protein foods, balanced with whole milk, fruit juices, etc. Also remember to cook protein foods at low temperatures, as enzymes and trace minerals are reduced with excessive heat and no foods should be eaten that have been deep fried.

Avoid processed and hydrogenated, or ‘hardened’ oils and fats. Most margarines, peanut butters, restaurant prepared French fries and potato or corn chips are prepared with hardened oils. Sweet cream butter is best and use “cold pressed” vegetable oils. [Possibly coconut oil and virgin olive oil are the very best cooking oils, using slow cooking heat. Ed.]. Also watch those high calorie salad dressings. Most fats and fatty foods (butter, oils, sausages, bacon, etc.) are neutral in their acid-alkaline content but they greatly contribute to excessive weight gain which severely complicates arthritis. Therefore, it would be wise to limit all oily, greasy, fried, fatty foods if one tends to be overweight.”11

The best way to avoid cardiac diseases is by cooking your own meals, this allows you better control of the ingredients that will go into your dish. You must make sure you avoid frying or cooking with too much fat. If you can, choose steamed, baked or broth-based preparations.

Make the above adjustments and reap the benefits. After all, a healthy diet is the key to a better quality of life.



(1) Khanna, S., Jaiswal, K. S., & Gupta, B. (2018). Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Diets: The New Treatment Modalities for Rheumatoid Arthritis. RHEUMATOLOGY. Available online at

(2) Winkvist, A., Bärebring, L., Gjertsson, I., Ellegård, L., & Lindqvist, H. M. (2018). A randomized controlled cross-over trial investigating the effect of anti-inflammatory diet on disease activity and quality of life in rheumatoid arthritis: The Anti-inflammatory Diet In Rheumatoid Arthritis (ADIRA) study protocol. Nutrition journal, 17(1), 44. Available online at

(3) Sanghi, D., Avasthi, S., Srivastava, R. N., & Singh, A. (2009). Nutritional Factors and Osteoarthritis: A review article. Internet Journal of Medical Update, 4(1). Available online at

(4) Pike, I. H., & Jackson, A. (2010). Fish oil: production and use now and in the future. Lipid Technology, 22(3), 59-61. Available online at

(5) Pareek, S., Dixit, M., Govil, S., Jadhav, I., Shrivastava, D., Vahedi, M., & Bisen, P. S. (2019). Garlic and Its Role in Arthritis Management. In Bioactive Food as Dietary Interventions for Arthritis and Related Inflammatory Diseases (pp. 245-252). Academic Press. Available online at

(6) Williams, F. M., Skinner, J., Spector, T. D., Cassidy, A., Clark, I. M., Davidson, R. M., & MacGregor, A. J. (2010). Dietary garlic and hip osteoarthritis: evidence of a protective effect and putative mechanism of action. BMC musculoskeletal disorders, 11(1), 280. Available online at

(7) Altman, R. D., & Marcussen, K. C. (2001). Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 44(11), 2531-2538. Available online at;2-J

(8) Pi, H., Zhou, H., Jin, H., Ning, Y., & Wang, Y. (2017). Abnormal glucose metabolism in rheumatoid arthritis. BioMed research international, 2017. Available online at

(9) Skoczyńska, M., & Świerkot, J. (2018). The role of diet in rheumatoid arthritis. Reumatologia, 56(4), 259. Available online at

(10) Rennie, K. L., Hughes, J., Lang, R., & Jebb, S. A. (2003). Nutritional management of rheumatoid arthritis: a review of the evidence. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 16(2), 97-109. Available online at

(11) Appleton, N., Bingham, R., Cathcart, R. F., Gaby, A., Rex, E., Newnham, D. O., … & Carl, J. R. (1994). Proper Nutrition for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Available online at


Robert Velasquez
13 October, 2018

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Hello everyone, my name is Robert Velazquez. I am a content marketer currently focused on the medical supply industry. I studied Medicine for 5 years. I have interacted with many patients and learned a more:

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