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 quick-fixes or stand-alone treatments 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 Foods with anti-inflammatory properties include nuts, fruits, leafy greens, cold water fish, tofu, whole grains, and green tea. The Mediterranean diet1 and DASH diet3 are two examples of diets that encourage consuming several anti-inflammatory foods.
- 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, you are at an increased risk of osteoporosis, fractures, and bone damage.5 Getting an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D are especially important.
- 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.
Spinach, broccoli, soybeans, chickpeas, almonds, calcium-fortified juices, sardines with bones, and several types of non-dairy milk (including soy, almond, hemp, and rice) are examples of foods rich in calcium. Vitamin D can be obtained from tuna, egg yolk, salmon, beef liver, non-dairy milk, and direct exposure to sunlight (preferably at noon). Alternatively, you can also take calcium and vitamin D supplements.
Although dairy products are rich in calcium, full-fat dairy products and cheeses may increase joint inflammation in some people.6,7 In such cases, avoiding dairy foods, consuming dairy sparingly, or opting for low-fat dairy products may help you avoid triggering inflammation.
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. Avoid buying foods that contain refined sugar, corn syrup, refined flour, and/or corn oil.