Arthritis - A Crippling Condition
Arthritis, a crippling condition that causes pain, stiffness and inflammation in one or more joints is
the leading cause of disability in the United States. This debilitating disease affects more than 43
million people; by the year 2020 it is projected that nearly 60 million people will suffer from some
form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of the disease affecting nearly 21 million
people. Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is the result of natural “wear and
tear” on the body. The extensive pressure and physical damage to the joints and surrounding
tissues leads to inflammation, pain, swelling, and tenderness, creating more pain and limiting
movement. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the patient’s immune
system to attack and destroy their own joints. There are more than 2 million Americans suffering
from this disease, 75% of whom are women. While there is no cause or cure, certain lifestyle
changes, including dietary and nutritional tips, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy body
weight can contribute to reducing arthritic symptoms.
With 100 types of arthritis and related diseases it is impossible to devise a single “diet” program
as a “cure all.” BUT…following a diet based on variety, balance, and moderation and including the
best foods will help reduce arthritic symptoms and enhance your quality of life. A healthy diet
provides proper nutrients for overall health; offsets side effects of medications; provides
nourishment to strengthen muscles that support your joints; helps maintain bodyweight and
reduce joint stress; and contributes to a healthy, positive attitude.
HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO TO MANAGE YOUR HEALTH!
Eat a well-balanced diet based on variety and moderation.
DO NOT follow crash diets, fad diets, or anything that promotes fasting or starving yourself!
Maintain a healthy body weight. Excess bodyweight (20% or more over normal body weight)
intensifies pressure on weightbearing joints (knees, legs, feet, and spine), increasing pain and
reducing your ability to exercise. Reverting to sedentary behaviors sets you up for the vicious
weight gain cycle you are trying to avoid.
Exercise regularly. Research shows that exercise is one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis.
Try walking, riding a stationary bike, water exercise, or tai chi; focus on posture, balance, and
strength. Exercise not only contributes to reducing pain, but also promotes weight maintenance,
heart health, positive attitude, and overall physical fitness.
• Moderate intake of sugar, alcohol, fats, and sodium. These products provide empty calories and
contribute to excess weight gain. Alcohol is associated with interfering with arthritic medications
and depleting the body of essential vitamins and minerals.
INCREASE intake of:
Dietary calcium and vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D reduce the risk of bone loss and
osteoporosis. A study published in the January 2004 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism stated
that women consuming the most foods naturally rich in vitamin D were found to have a 27% lower
risk of rheumatoid arthritis and those consuming food fortified with vitamin D had a 34% lower
risk. Top food sources for calcium: low-fat dairy products, green leafy vegetables, sardines,
canned salmon with bones, broccoli, tofu, calcium fortified orange juice, calcium fortified breakfast
cereals Top food sources for vitamin D: salmon, tuna, shrimp, sunflower seeds, eggs, and
vitamin-D fortified milk products
Omega-3 fatty acids such as those found in cold water fish are converted to natural anti-
inflammatory substances called prostaglandins and leukotrienes that help decrease
inflammation and pain. Top food sources: salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, cod, halibut, flaxseed,
Fresh fruits and vegetables that contain vitamin C, vitamin E, and fiber; these nutrients contribute
to reducing inflammation in the body. Prepare fruits and vegetables raw, steamed, baked, boiled,
stir-fried, roasted, or grilled to preserve nutrients and keep calories and fat levels low. A few
special notes: Grapes contain resveratrol, a phyto-estrogen that may block cell inflammation.
Pineapple contains bromelaine, an enzyme that reduces inflammation. Top fruit sources:
grapefruit, oranges, peaches, watermelon, pineapple, grapes Top vegetable sources: broccoli,
asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes, avocados
Zinc for maintenance of healthy membranes and normal immune system. Top food sources:
beans and lentils, yeast, nuts, whole grain cereals, pumpkin seeds, calf liver, crimini mushrooms
o Selenium reactivates vitamin C and vitamin E when they become inactive. Top food sources:
Brazil nuts, cod, shrimp, salmon, snapper, yellow fin tuna, calf liver, grains, eggs, chicken and
Vitamin E eliminates free radicals and reduces the damage caused in rheumatoid arthritis. Top
food sources: green leafy vegetables, corn, nuts and seeds, olives and asparagus.
Vitamin C rids the body of free radicals and reduces the damage caused in rheumatoid arthritis.
Top food sources: green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, parsley, Brussels sprouts, cabbage,
spinach and other greens, sweet and white potatoes , citrus fruits and juices, strawberries,
papaya, kiwifruit, pineapple, watermelon, and cantaloupe.
Vitamin A promotes the growth and health of all body cells and tissues. Top food sources: Liver,
fish oil, eggs, milk fortified with vitamin A; red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as
sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, tomatoes, apricots.
Copper keep bones, blood vessels, and nerves healthy; it is also essential for the formation of
hemoglobin. Top food sources: Whole grain cereals, legumes, oysters, calf liver, cherries, dark
chocolate, prunes, leafy green vegetables, soybeans, tofu, shellfish, nuts.
Beta-cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin contain carotenoids that may reduce the risk of inflammatory
arthritis. Beta-cryptoxanthin is converted to an active form of vitamin A in the body and is important
for skin and bone health. Top food sources: yellow apples, apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruit, lemon,
mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, persimmons, pineapples, tangerines,
butternut squash, carrots, yellow peppers, pumpkin, summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes
Top sources of zeaxanthin: green leafy vegetables, corn, egg yolks, broccoli, green beans,
Brussels sprouts, kiwi, honeydew melon.
Yogurt with live, active cultures; the bacteria will protect the body against other toxin-producing
bacteria associated with arthritis.
Green tea. This product contains a type of polyphenol that may lower the body’s inflammatory
Extra virgin olive oil that contains a type of fat that the body uses to produce prostacyclin, a powerful
o Spices: turmeric, cloves and ginger.
DECREASE or monitor intake of:
Gluten products. Many patients with rheumatoid arthritis are allergic to gluten, a protein found in
such grains as wheat, oats, barley and rye that can increase the inflammation in the lining of the
intestines. This not only interferes with the absorption of essential nutrients but also leads to
inflammation of joints. Reducing the intake of these products and replacing them with rice, corn,
millet, quinoa, buckwheat, or spelt can significantly improve arthritic symptoms.
Red meat. High levels of meat protein increase the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestines,
thereby increasing intestinal inflammation. Increase intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
to encourage the growth of friendly bacteria and reduce arthritic symptoms.
Saturated fats (whole dairy products, animal products, snack foods, fast foods, etc.) that
encourage the production of inflammatory substances in the body. Substitute with low-fat diary
products, lean meats, omega-rich fish, and fresh fruits and vegetables for high-fat foods. Omega-
6 fatty acids (corn, safflower, sunflower, sesame, peanut, soybean, and cottonseed oil as well as
soft margarine, salad dressings and mayonnaise made with those oils)