Diet for arthritis

Your diet forms an important part of your arthritis treatment. Making a few changes to your diet will not cure your arthritis but what it will do is to ease the symptoms and improve your overall health.

Linked to this is the issue of controlling your weight. We all understand the importance of maintaining a healthy weight but this is even more important for arthritis sufferers.

Diet is discussed in the following way within this section:

  • The importance of a healthy weight
  • Healthy diet
  • Food supplements
  • Foods which aggravate arthritis
  • Healthy diet and arthritis drugs

The important of a healthy weight

If you are overweight or obese then this excess weight not only puts a strain on many areas of your body but worsens the symptoms of your arthritis as well. Plus there is the fact that carrying too much body fat puts pressure on the joints which increases their risk of developing arthritis.

If you stop to think about this: your joints are designed to be weight bearing but within reason. They are strong and durable and capable of handling a great deal of pressure.

But excessive weight puts too much strain upon the joints which causes damage, e.g. wearing down of cartilage which predisposes that joint to arthritis. This is even worse for an arthritic joint as this strain increases pain, stiffness and inflammation.

Healthy diet

The answer is to follow a healthy diet. This means eating foods which are low in fat, particularly saturated fat, reduce sugar intake and increase your consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Choose complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread, pasta etc and increase your protein intake. This means chicken, lean red meat and fish. Choose oily fish as these are high in Omega 3 fatty acids which appear to ease arthritis inflammation.

Other tips include:

  • Choose wholegrains, nuts and seeds
  • Switch to low fat spreads, milk and other dairy products
  • Reduce your consumption of biscuits, cakes, sweets, chocolate and pastries.
  • Use olive oil instead of sunflower oil (but only a small amount)
  • Choose healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, handful of nuts and seeds, carrot or celery sticks. Popcorn is a healthy snack as long as you consume this in its natural state and do not cover it in toffee or any other sugary substance.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are especially important as they contain vitamins and minerals and more importantly, antioxidants.

Vegetarian diets appear to help as do vegan. Undertaking a period of fasting can relieve the symptoms of arthritis but only on a temporary basis.


Antioxidants are a group of substances which appear to protect the body against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are the by product of food when it has been broken down and can cause a range of damage to the body.

But what antioxidants do is to reduce the risk of condition such as rheumatoid arthritis. This is particularly the case with people who consume plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, especially those with high levels of Vitamin C.

Antioxidants also ease several arthritis symptoms such as inflammation and act as a form of protection for the joints. So it is worth including a range of fruit and vegetables in your diet to obtain these benefits.

Pick brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. Ensure that you have a ‘rainbow’ collection of these as this means that you will get the full range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Food supplements

Many people take food supplements such as glucosamine as these claim to reduce the risk of conditions such as osteoarthritis and improve the overall health of the joints.

But the findings are mixed. Some people find them to be effective but others report that there is no difference in their symptoms. It may be a good idea to undergo a trial period with this supplement, for example take them for a period of 3 months to start with.

If there is an improvement then you can continue taking them but if not then consider an alternative.

Supplements such as glucosamine cause an increase in blood sugar levels which is a problem for diabetics. They also disrupt the effects of drugs such as Warfarin which are used to thin the blood and prevent the risk of a blood clot.

Consult your GP before taking supplements such as these. Do this if you have an existing condition such as diabetes or are taking medication for this condition as well as arthritis.

Foods which aggravate arthritis

Whilst there are foods which are beneficial in regard to easing the symptoms of arthritis, there are some which act in the opposite way. These foods trigger the symptoms of arthritis or increase their severity.

This is especially the case with conditions such as gout.

Some arthritis sufferers argue that citrus fruits, chillies, peppers, potatoes, aubergines and tomatoes aggravate their symptoms. This includes foods which are considered to be acidic or highly spiced. But there is little evidence to support this.

If you enjoy these foods but find that they make your symptoms worse then leave them out of your diet for the time being. But many of these foods contain antioxidants so you may be undoing their good affects.

Healthy diet and arthritis drugs

A good, healthy diet not only helps with weight control and easing the symptoms of arthritis but also boosts the effects of arthritis medication.

The main benefit is that of reducing side effects which are a common feature of many arthritis drugs. One example of this is the popular corticosteroid drug prednisolone which increases the risk of osteoporosis. But including more calcium in your diet will help to strengthen your bones and reduce this risk.

A healthy diet works best when combined with regular exercise. The benefits of exercise are discussed in more detail in a separate section.

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