The US Arthritis Foundation lists over 60 types of arthritis (2). The most common types are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease which often affects the hands, feet and weight bearing joints, causing joint pain, tenderness, and a reduced range of joint motion (1). Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects about 1% of the adult population (3). RA also affects the joints with painful inflammation, which is often more prevalent in the morning, and can impair joint mobility leading to muscle wasting. In RA there are usually signs of systemic inflammation indicated by cytokines (Interleukin-6, IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP), and rheumatoid factors (3). Other types of arthritis are gout, lupus, fibromyalgia, juvenile arthritis, Kawasaki disease to name a few. Most of the advice is in relation to RA, as there are greater nutritional interventions that apply, whereas with OA the most important nutrition strategy is maintaining a healthy weight.
The main foods to avoid due to possible increases in cytokine production and general inflammation in the body are processed foods (such as crisps, cookies, cakes and takeaways), as these typically use vegetables fats or are high in trans fats. Processed foods also have added salt and sugars, which have been shown to increase inflammatory markers. Avoid added salt and sugar with foods and drinks, and reduce the consumption of omega-6 oils (such as sunflower, corn, grapeseed, soy, peanut oils), and alcohol; which are all pro-inflammatory foods.
There are many wholesome unprocessed foods that have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
Top supplements to use if your diet has been determined as inadequate:
Aim to maintain a healthy weight for your adult life, as there are links both with obesity and arthritis development, and arthritis and obesity development, due to pain and lack of mobility, reduced energy expenditure or arthritis medications which may increase hunger. In the US from 2013 – 2015, adults 18 years or older who were overweight or obese reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis more often than adults with a lower body mass index (BMI) (9). Around 16% of under or normal weight US adults reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis, compared to almost 23% of overweight and 31% of obese adults (9). Healthy eating and exercise will help you to maintain a healthy weight. Talk to a physiotherapist or a specialist in joint care for advice on specific types of exercises that you can do to relieve symptoms, and possibly delay the progression of arthritis. And consult a Dietitian or nutritionist to review your food intake.
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1. Stanner, S. (2007). Nutrition and Arthritis. Nutrition Bulletin, 32(1), 91-93.
3. Calder, P. C. (2008). Session 3: Joint Nutrition Society and Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute Symposium on ‘Nutrition and autoimmune disease’ PUFA, inflammatory processes and rheumatoid arthritis: Symposium on ‘The challenge of translating nutrition research into public health nutrition’. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 67(4), 409-418.
4. Berbert, A. A., Kondo, C. R. M., Almendra, C. L., Matsuo, T., & Dichi, I. (2005). Supplementation of fish oil and olive oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Nutrition, 21(2), 131-136.
5. Kremer, J. M. (2000). n− 3 Fatty acid supplements in rheumatoid arthritis. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 71(1), 349s-351s
6. Funk, J. L., Oyarzo, J. N., Frye, J. B., Chen, G., Lantz, R. C., Jolad, S. D., ... & Timmermann, B. N. (2006). Turmeric extracts containing curcuminoids prevent experimental rheumatoid arthritis. Journal of natural products, 69(3), 351-355.
7. Warady, B. D., Lindsley, C. B., Robinson, F. G., & Lukert, B. P. (1994). Effects of nutritional supplementation on bone mineral status of children with rheumatic diseases receiving corticosteroid therapy. The Journal of rheumatology, 21(3), 530-535.
8. Ortiz, Z., Shea, B., Suarez-Almazor, M. E., Moher, D., Wells, G. A., & Tugwell, P. (1998). The efficacy of folic acid and folinic acid in reducing methotrexate gastrointestinal toxicity in rheumatoid arthritis. A metaanalysis of randomized controlled trials.
9. Barbour KE, Helmick CG, Boring MA, Brady TJ. Vital signs: prevalence of doctor-diagnosed arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation — United States, 2013—2015. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66:246–253. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6609e1.