According to WebMD, joint pain affects nearly one-third of all adults. The most common areas of joint pain include knees, hips, lower back, shoulders and neck. Treatment depends on the severity of the pain and can range from an occasional anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen or, for chronic cases, a prescription for a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
A more natural approach to dealing with and preventing chronic pain is something as simple as a diet change. Processed foods, trans-fats, added sugars and artificial colors and flavorings can cause severe inflammation to the body. For some people, foods containing gluten and dairy also trigger inflammation. Switching to an anti-inflammatory diet (healthy proteins, complex carbohydrates and monounsaturated fats) and eating foods that reduce inflammation and swelling will work wonders in decreasing joint pain.
Here are some foods that have been shown to fight inflammation and ease joint pain:
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the best foods to combat inflammation in the body are those high in fatty acids like fish, grass-fed beef, chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin 6, two inflammatory proteins in the body (Source: Arthritis Foundation). Try to eat salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, sardines and other cold-water fish 2 or 3 times a week. If you aren’t a fish eater, ask your healthcare provider about an omega-3 supplement.
- Nuts. Almonds, walnuts and pistachios are excellent sources of monounsaturated fats, which decrease inflammation, as well as protein and fiber. Aim for a handful a day.
- Oils. Extra virgin olive, avocado, walnut and safflower oils are all good sources of mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, known to have an anti-inflammatory effect. But it’s important to consider the smoke point when cooking with these oils: extra virgin olive oil should not be used in cooking. Instead, choose avocado oil, which has a high smoke point and contains fatty alcohols that are anti-inflammatory in nature” (Source: The Conscious Life).
- Cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale are all members of the cruciferous family and have a compound called sulforaphane that is believed to slow cartilage damage in joints. They are also antioxidants and reduce the risk of inflammation.
- Colorful fruits & vegetables. In addition to the crucifers, eat the rainbow for antioxidants that support the immune system and fight inflammation. Especially beneficial are blueberries, blackberries, goji berries, tart cherries, spinach, raspberries and strawberries. Also, the fiber in fruits and veggies reduces CRP and helps lower body weight.
- Edamame. While people with inflammation should generally avoid dairy, soy protein products like tofu and tempeh have been found to reduce pain in joints according to a study from Oklahoma State University. An easy way to add soy to your diet is using soy protein powder.
- Spices. Turmeric, an essential spice in curry, is known for its anti-inflammatory properties in the form of curcumin and its ability to protect against joint pain. Sprinkle turmeric on soups, salads, vegetables and cooked grains (Source: Prevention).
- Teas. Black, green, oolong and white teas contain polyphenols, plant-derived compounds that active the immune system, protecting against certain diseases, including arthritis (Source: Arthritis Foundation). They may also block interleukin-1 from damaging cartilage. For polyphenol-rich tea, steep the tea bag for 5 minutes.
If you're feeling the effects of inflammation in your joints, then cut out the processed foods and cut back on the sugar and salt. Instead, fill half your plate with vegetables, and load up on these anti-inflammatory foods. See if you don't notice a change soon.