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Tips on a Healthy Diet and Arthritis

Tip #4

Good nutrition can help prevent the symptoms of arthritis, and other conditions people with arthritis have, such as weak bones. This section provides some thoughts on arthritis-specific nutritional choices.  Always consult your healthcare professional before beginning any diet or taking supplements (herbs or vitamins).
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements and osteoarthritis pain: Taking glucosamine sulfate (1,200-1,500 mg daily, as one dose of 1,500 mg, or three doses of 500 mg) may lower your joint pain a little.  Be cautious with these supplements if you have diabetes. 
Diets which may help reduce inflammation (swelling):
The Mediterranean Diet consists of vegetables, grains and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. salmon), uses healthy fats, such as olive oil, and replaces salt with herbs and spices. 
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) consists of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy food.   There is little research on this diet for people with arthritis, however, it has been shown to lower inflammation of the cardiovascular (heart) system.
Herbal supplements that may reduce inflammation: Although there are no strong studies, some herbs and spices may reduce swelling: Ginger, Turmeric, Cat’s Claw, Devil’s Claw, Green Tea, Capsaicin.  You can cook and bake with these herbs, but find out how much of each herb (fresh, dried, extract, or supplement) is safe. Taking too much can be harmful.  For example, ginger has a daily limit of 4 grams for adults.
Fish oil may reduce inflammation for people with rheumatoid arthritis: Fish oil supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial.  Work with your health care professional to pick the right amount. Or eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids: flaxseed, walnuts, salmon, soybeans, and sardines.
Grilled food may increase pain for people with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis: Cooking food at high temperatures, especially frying or grilling, can increase Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) that may lead to inflammation. Though most research on grilling or frying foods looked at inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis, people with osteoarthritis can have greater joint pain and stiffness if they have inflammation.  Check your pain before and after grilled food.
Important vitamins and minerals
For people with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA):
          Vitamin A & B3 May reduce inflammation
Vitamin B6      RA often leads to low levels of B6, which decreases as inflammation increases
Vitamin B12    May reduce fractures in older adults
Vitamin D        May reduce fracture risk caused by low levels of Vitamin D due to medications
Vitamin K         May help destroy inflammatory cells
Folate              May counteract side-effects of methotrexate commonly used to treat RA
For people with Osteoarthritis:                     
Vitamin B3      (niacinamide) May improve symptoms and suppress inflammation
Vitamin B12    May reduce fractures in older adults
Vitamin D        May reduce fracture risk caused by low levels of Vitamin D due to medications
These supplements may help improve arthritis symptoms, but can have harmful side-effects when taken with medications, and make other health conditions (ex. diabetes) worse.  Talk with your healthcare professional before taking them.
The gluten-free diet: This diet is not good for everyone. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities diagnosed by a doctor must not eat food with gluten. Others should check to see if staying away from gluten help their arthritis symptoms. 
Nightshade vegetables: Includes many edible (non-poisonous) vegetables and herbs, the most common are tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, paprika, and cayenne. They can cause increased pain in some people with arthritis, so check pain symptoms before and after eating them. 
What to eat and not eat for people with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis:
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with fruits (1.5-2 cups), vegetables (2-3 cups), whole grains (1/3 cup), low-fat dairy (3 cups), and lean protein (3/4 cup).
  • Limit packaged or processed foods as they often contain high amounts of fats, sodium, and sugar.
    • Eat few saturated fats and trans fats as they are linked to higher levels of cholesterol.
    • Limit salt to 1 teaspoon per day.
    • Limit sugars (especially refined sugars) to 8 teaspoons per day.
 Probiotics and reducing symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis: We do not know, but some patients have less pain and improved function with probiotic food. Whether or not they improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, foods with probiotics, such as Greek yogurt, are a great way to support bone health and help the gastrointestinal tract (stomach).

* These tips are provided for informational purposes only. The tips are intended to offer only a general basis for individuals to discuss their medical condition with their healthcare professional. Always consult your healthcare professional before undertaking a new healthcare regimen.
Adapted from information provided by Amanda Bright, CMD, University of Pittsburgh (Revised 9/9/15, 8/9/17)

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