Arthritis affects more than 1 in 5 people, or 52.5 million U.S adults. The word arthritis means joint inflammation, and can be associated with over 100 million rheumatic diseases (1). The diseases can vary in severity and can affect many joints, organs, and a person’s immune system. Someone can develop arthritis at any age, and some arthritis types are more common in women, the elderly, and people with a family history. A few common signs and symptoms of arthritis are painful joints, swelling and stiffness, and fatigue.
There has been research to determine whether or not diet and lifestyle can improve arthritis pain and flare-ups. Diets have been researched that eliminate dairy, red meat, sugar, caffeine, fats, nightshade plants (tomatoes, eggplant), and salt, with positive results. Another research study shows a vegan diet, with polyunsaturated, and omega-3 supplements have a mild benefit to people with arthritis (2).
“Pain-Safe Foods” are known to rarely contribute to arthritis. These foods include brown rice, cooked green, yellow or orange vegetables, water, and cooked or dried fruits (except for citrus fruits). People have different trigger foods, and slowly eliminating different types of foods can help you determine which is encouraging the inflammation. Some common trigger foods include dairy, corn, meats, eggs, citrus, potatoes, tomatoes, coffee, nuts, and wheat, oats, and rye (2).
The Arthritis Foundation recommends regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight to lessen inflammation in a person with arthritis (4). Today, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Studies show that weight loss relieves pressure on a person’s knees, lessens body pain, and lowers inflammation levels in the body (3). The CDC recommends people under the age of 65 to have 150 minutes or moderate intensity activity and muscle strength training at least 2 days a week. For people over the age of 65, the same recommendations are listed, but with the addition of balance activities at least 3 days a week (5).
Arthritis can be a painful and debilitating disease. With lifestyle and diet modifications, pain can be lessened and daily activities can be enjoyable again. Begin with regular exercise, a healthy diet, and follow a Doctor’s medication recommendations, and you are more likely to live a life with less pain!
Author(s): Jennifer Even, OSU Extension Educator, FCS/EFNEP, Hamilton County; Tia Jackson, Dietetic Intern, University of Cincinnati.
Reviewer: Marilyn Rabe, OSU Extension, Family and Consumer Science Educator, Franklin County, firstname.lastname@example.org