Inflammatory joint pain from conditions such as polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) may be aggravated or suppressed by certain foods.1 Making the right food choices can help you reduce joint pain and curb serious medication-related side effects, such as osteoporosis.
It is important to note that dietary changes and supplements are not a quick-fix or stand-alone treatment for PMR. Talk with your doctor before trying a new diet, home remedy, or supplement to make sure it does not adversely interfere with your health or current medications.
Here are a few diet and supplement considerations for PMR.
- Anti-inflammatory foods. Anti-inflammatory foods contain certain chemical compounds that are known to reduce joint inflammation and pain.2 A Mediterranean diet1 and/or a DASH diet3 can help you benefit from consuming several anti-inflammatory foods. Foods with anti-inflammatory properties include nuts, fruits, leafy greens, cold water fish, tofu, whole grains, and green tea.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help reverse immune system responses to inflammation and protect against a recurrence of PMR.1,4 You can obtain these healthy fats from fish, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and leafy greens.
- Calcium and Vitamin D. When you are on steroid treatment for PMR, getting an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D are especially important due to the risk of osteoporosis, fractures, and bone damage.5 Spinach, broccoli, soybeans, chickpeas, almonds, calcium fortified juices, non-dairy milks (soy, almond, hemp, and rice), and sardines with bones are examples of foods rich in calcium. Vitamin D can be obtained from tuna, egg yolk, salmon, beef liver, non-dairy milks, and direct exposure to sunlight (preferably at noon). Alternately, you can also take calcium and vitamin D supplements.
Although dairy products are rich in calcium, full-fat dairy products and cheese may increase joint inflammation in some people.6-7 In such cases, consuming dairy sparingly or opting for low-fat dairy products may avoid inflammation triggers caused by dairy and related products.
- Boost your body’s own steroid production and regulation. Natural steroids can help fight inflammation, control the body’s metabolism, and also promote good sleep.8-9 Supplements of vitamins C10 and B611 are known to help the body produce and regulate steroid hormones.
Other foods, such as curcumin (turmeric) and devil’s claw, or supplements of methyl-sulfonyl-methane, Boswellia (frankincense), and willow bark have shown pain-relieving properties in arthritis and fibromyalgia12—conditions with joint pains similar to PMR. Although there is no direct evidence of the effects of these foods and supplements on PMR, they may be worth a try.
When you decide to follow a healthy diet, it is important to abstain from foods that may promote inflammation. A few examples of such foods are deep fried foods, red meat, and refined and/or processed foods including meats, oils, and grains. When shopping for processed foods, such as cereals, prepackaged meals, and condiments, read the food labels and avoid buying foods that contain refined sugar, corn syrup, refined flour, and/or corn oil.
- Sarris, J. & Wardle, J. Musculoskeletal system. In: Sarris, J. & Wardle, J. Clinical naturopathy : In Practice. Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier; 2017.
- Kohatsu W, Karpowicz S. Antiinflammatory diet. In: Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018: 869-877.
- DASH eating plan. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health Web site. Accessed November 16, 2018.