An anti-inflammatory diet may reduce chronic pain caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as other types of inflammatory arthritis, such as psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.1,2
One example of an anti-inflammatory diet is the popular Mediterranean diet. No matter what it is labeled, an anti-inflammatory diet discourages eating processed foods and encourages eating vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon and anchovies canned in oil.
In addition to potentially reducing chronic arthritis pain, anti-inflammatory diets tend to promote long-term health.
How Could Certain Foods Suppress Arthritis Inflammation?
While inflammation is essential to the human immune system, it is also at the root of most types of arthritis pain. In addition, as people age their metabolisms change, and they are more prone to inflammation, even when they are not sick or injured.3 Certain foods may facilitate or exacerbate this unnecessary inflammation.
In order to understand how foods might suppress arthritis inflammation—or, alternatively, lead to inflammation—it is essential to understand free radicals, oxidative stress, and antioxidants.
Free radicals. Free radicals (sometimes referred to as reactive oxygen species) are negatively charged atoms or molecules. By their very nature, free radicals search for other atoms or positively charged molecules to bond with (oxidation). The creation of free radicals is part of the body’s normal metabolism, but too many free radicals may be promoted by certain behavioral factors, including smoking or consuming certain foods.
Oxidative stress. The body naturally neutralizes and processes some free radicals, but too many free radicals can overwhelm the body’s system and create an imbalance. This imbalance is called oxidative stress.
Inflammation. Oxidative stress is associated with chronic inflammation. Many experts suspect that oxidative stress begins a bio-chemical cascade that promotes inflammation and over time can lead to related degenerative diseases, such as arthritis.
Antioxidants. Free radicals can be trapped and neutralized by antioxidants. Antioxidants can come from within the body or are consumed in the form of food or anti-inflammatory medications.
An anti-inflammatory diet cuts down or eliminates foods suspected of causing oxidative stress and encourages the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants.