Inflammation and pain in the joints are often treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which cause long-term damage to the body. Nutritionist Maxine Smith from the Cleveland Clinic in the USA explains how six foods can significantly reduce the use of such medications, relieve joint pain and improve quality of life at the same time.
Diet can neither reverse osteoarthritis nor completely eliminate pain associated with osteoarthritis, emphasizes the expert. However, a combination of treatment approaches including medication, exercise, physical therapy and lifestyle changes can help relieve symptoms.
Impact of diet on inflammation
A carefully tailored diet aimed at reducing inflammation can reduce pain in a similar way to over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, Smith reports. In addition, a healthy diet can completely prevent the occurrence of joint pain.
What is inflammation used for?
When the immune system is overstimulated, inflammation can occur, although inflammation is also an important part of the wound healing process and a natural reaction to an injury or infection.
When inflammation becomes chronic, it begins to negatively affect healthy parts of the body, explains Smith. A joint disease such as arthritis is not only the result of wear and tear with age, but also of inflammation.
However, it is not about completely eliminating inflammation, as it serves an important purpose. They should only be reduced so that they can be better controlled, reports the expert.
According to Smith, the following six foods with anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving properties could contribute to exactly this:
- cruciferous vegetables (vegetables),
- and green tea.
Smith explains how these foods help relieve joint pain.
Fish has high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties. Ideally, when consuming fish, care should be taken to ensure that it is both high in omega-3 and low in mercury, says Smith. For example, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are suitable for this.
Taking a fish oil preparation can also be considered, but you should seek medical advice beforehand. However, important nutrients that are otherwise contained in fish can be lost, adds Smith. Therefore, the expert recommends eating frozen or canned fish instead of dietary supplements if fresh fish is in short supply.
In addition to other vegetables, make sure to eat a variety of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or kale.
“These are all nutritional powerhouses, chock-full of phytochemicals like sulforaphane, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties,” explains Smith in a press release.
In addition, dark green leafy vegetables and orange vegetables should not be missing from the diet. The above-mentioned vegetables can often be combined well in salads, soups and stir-fries, adds the expert.
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years to relieve painful, swollen joints, with the effect being attributed to the curcumin it contains. However, the body cannot utilize curcumin well, although black pepper, healthy fats and heating improve absorption, says Smith.
Turmeric or curcumin can also be taken through dietary supplements, although this must be clarified by a doctor beforehand, explains Smith.
According to the expert, good intestinal health plays an important role in the fight against inflammation and regular consumption of fermented foods (e.g. yogurt) helps to form healthy intestinal flora.
When buying yoghurt, however, Smith says you should make sure that it has live and active yoghurt cultures, which can be seen from the nutritional information.
In general, the expert recommends consuming unsweetened natural yoghurts because they are the healthiest. Different fruits can refine the taste and at the same time increase the anti-inflammatory properties of the yogurt, says Smith.
Ginger also helps with inflamed joints because it has antioxidant properties and reduces inflammatory enzymes, which is at least partly due to the gingerol it contains, explains the expert.
Ginger helps with a variety of inflammatory diseases, from osteoarthritis to lupus. However, when it comes to ginger, it is important to pay attention to the correct preparation. When ginger is heated, the gingerol present converts into shogaols, which, according to Smith, have stronger anti-inflammatory potential.
Green tea contains many polyphenolic compounds, which help reduce inflammation in all areas, not just in the joints, explains the expert. When it comes to green tea, Smith recommends buying loose tea, which should be rinsed with water before preparation. This reduces the risk of pesticides and herbicides being absorbed.
Mediterranean diet reduces joint pain
The Mediterranean diet is not only beneficial for heart health, but also great for fighting inflammation. By following a Mediterranean diet, it is possible that people no longer need non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs after a short period of time, reports the nutritionist.
A Mediterranean diet includes fruits and vegetables, plant-based unsaturated fats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fish, seafood, herbs and spices. However, processed foods, red meat, alcohol, refined grains, sugar and dairy products should be avoided if possible, as they could potentially promote inflammation.
These foods are better avoided
“Sugar and refined grains, including white rice, pasta, and white bread, are among the worst offenders when it comes to inflammation,” explains Smith. Avoiding these foods can also relieve joint pain and stiffness.
Care should also be taken to limit consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, which are often found in processed foods. Even if these fatty acids are actually healthy, people tend to consume much more of them than they actually need, which can have adverse effects.
Fat from certain dairy products, fatty meats and chicken skin can also contribute to joint pain and swelling, according to Smith.
Need to see a doctor?
If there is no improvement in joint inflammation and pain despite a change in diet, you should definitely see a doctor, adds the Cleveland Clinic nutritionist. (as)