The most common cause of chronic joint pain in the United States is arthritis, which affects more than 54 million people.
For one third of those people, the severe joint pain can greatly decrease the ability to move freely. If you are one of these people, there are ways to manage the pain in your aching joints.
Can your diet help?
“A specific joint health/anti-inflammatory diet does not exist at the moment,” says Jennifer Lam, a registered dietitian and nutrition expert with the University of Miami Health System.
Some foods such as red cabbage, blueberries, and beets, which are high in anthocyanins, and teas, cocoa, legumes, and various berries that are high in flavanols, may have an anti-inflammatory effect, according to a study published in 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Another paper published in 2017 outlined some diets that may decrease symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Their conclusion was that some foods, including spices like turmeric and ginger, and probiotic yogurt, may aid in reducing the signs and symptoms of the disease including joint pain.
One of these diets is the Mediterranean diet. It uses an eating pattern that focuses on nutrient-dense whole foods, increased fiber intake, and showcases healthy fats. It’s generally lower in calories, sodium, added sugars, and saturated fats.
“Some studies have suggested that the Mediterranean diet can be beneficial to individuals suffering from inflammation and joint pain, however, more research is still needed in this category,” she says.
The real diet to beat joint pain
There's a link between excess weight and joint pain, according to numerous studies in the last 10 to 15 years. One study of overweight/obese individuals published in 2005 in the Arthritis and Rheumatism Journal found that one physical pound of weight loss equates to a reduction of four pounds of pressure exerted on a person's knee (per step taken).
People who want to lose weight for joint health can follow some simple steps:
- Eat at least three times a day.
- Drink plenty of calorie-free beverages to eliminate extra calories from sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Choose lean cuts of meats and low-fat/non-fat dairy products.
- Make sure adequate fiber intake from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Listen to your body. When you feel satisfied with the amount eaten, stop eating to refrain from over-eating; you can always have more if you’re truly hungry.
- Plan meals ahead. This is helpful for individuals with busy lifestyles. Instead of buying something quick, try bringing healthy nutrient-dense snacks or homecooked meals to school/work.
Joint pain sufferers may find better outcomes with help from a medical professional.
“Every client has different needs and goals, speaking directly to a dietitian can turn general recommendations to individualized ones that can better lessen symptoms and improve overall health,” Lam says.
Natasha Bright is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News. Her writing has also been featured on the Huffington Post and Scary Mommy websites.