1. Pomegranate Juice
Knees ache? What about your hands or hips? Try some of this sour Persian fruit, which has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers. It could actually protect your cartilage.
When researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland put a pomegranate extract on tissue samples of cartilage damaged by osteoarthritis, something good happened: The juice lowered levels of an inflammatory chemical linked with overproduction of a certain enzyme. In normal amounts, this enzyme is essential for cartilage replacement, but when too much is produced — as in osteoarthritis — cartilage wears away.
2. Foods High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
For years, researchers have noticed that people with arthritis who eat plenty of oily fish seem to have less inflammation and pain than those who don’t eat as much fish. Now they have an explanation: It seems that like aspirin, the omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish boost production of a recently discovered class of anti-inflammatory fats called resolvins.
In one study, both omega-3s and aspirin boosted the production of resolvins, which in turn inhibit the activity of inflammatory cells. This is good news for people with osteoarthritis and particularly for those with RA, which can inflame organs as well as joints.
3. Foods Rich in Antioxidants
Researchers have suspected for some time that free radicals, those unstable molecules that attack healthy cells, play a role in causing arthritis. Now it’s becoming clear how they wreak their havoc on joints. According to a recent Japanese study, free radicals sabotage cartilage’s ability to maintain and repair itself.
People with arthritis tend to have more than their fair share of free radicals and therefore should make an extra effort to get more antioxidants, especially vitamin C and beta-carotene, from foods.
Vitamin C in citrus fruits like oranges and kiwifruit, and zeaxanthin, an antioxidant found in green leafy vegetables, lowered the risk, too. Those leafy greens (like spinach and turnip greens) also pack a fair amount of vitamin E, and some studies have shown that large doses of this vitamin from supplements may also relieve osteoarthritis pain, especially in combination with vitamin C (250 to 500 milligrams a day).
Bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme in this tropical fruit, is surprisingly good at bringing down inflammation. It may be as effective for reducing osteoarthritis pain as some anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, at least when it’s taken in supplement form. Some studies of bromelain supplements suggest it may help reduce the pain of RA as well.
Eat your pineapple between meals, not with them, or the enzymes will be used up digesting your food, and choose fresh or frozen pineapple, not canned pineapple or pineapple juice.
5. Anti-Inflammatory Spices
Researchers have discovered that many spices fight inflammation. Ginger and turmeric — a yellow spice that lends its color and taste to curries — contain a powerful compound called curcumin, which inhibits enzymes and proteins that promote inflammation. Several studies have found that ginger and turmeric specifically reduce pain and swelling in people with arthritis.
Cloves contain an anti-inflammatory chemical called eugenol. In recent animal studies, eugenol inhibited COX-2, a protein that spurs inflammation — the same protein that COX-2 inhibitor drugs like celecoxib (Celebrex) quash. Cloves, turmeric, and ginger also contain antioxidants, important in slowing the cartilage and bone damage caused by arthritis.
6. Green Tea and Citrus Fruits
This motley crew is drawn together by one thing: quercetin. Laboratory and animal studies indicate that this chemical compound acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Early studies in animals suggest green tea may help prevent or ease symptoms of RA. And according to the Iowa Women’s Health Study, women who drank more than three cups of tea a day were 60 percent less likely to develop RA than women who didn’t drink any.