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Nutrition

Fight Arthritis with Food and Supplements

By Dr. Leo Galland, M.D.

CBN.com Arthritis—inflammation of the joints—is the most common cause of disability in the U.S., affecting 43 million people and limiting physical activity in almost 19 million every year. (1).

Arthritis medications are among the most highly prescribed drugs in the world. The most commonly used over the counter drugs for arthritis, called NSAIDs, examples of which include Advil, Motrin, Aleve and aspirin, also have serious side effects.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), NSAID’s account for an estimated 7,600 deaths and 76,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. every year. (2)

Here’s a look at some alternative natural remedies for inflammatory arthritis. 

Foods that help arthritis and supplements are under-utilized weapons in the battle against this painful inflammatory condition.

First, there are anti-inflammatory supplements like fish oil and borage oil that have been shown to allow reduction of NSAID use in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most crippling types of arthritis.  Fish oil works even better in combination with extra-virgin olive oil to reduce inflammation, as I explain below.

Second, there are supplements like colostrum and glutamine (an amino acid) that have been shown in research studies to help decrease the risk of stomach damage in people taking NSAIDs. Detailed research on how these supplements may help protect against NSAID side effects can be found at Pill Advised (www.pilladvised.com), a free web application that I’ve created to bring important research findings to a wider audience.

Nutrition is another vital tool in fighting inflammatory arthritis. Because I’ve found these natural anti-inflammatory principles extremely beneficial for my patients with arthritis, I’m providing a summary here.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods That Help Arthritis

1.  Eat at least eight servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Choose those with bright or deep colors like cherries and berries and sweet potatoes that contain natural anti-inflammatory nutrition. NOTE: Food allergies can trigger arthritis for some people, and if there is a food that makes your joints hurt or swell, you should avoid it, no matter how healthy it would be for someone who’s not sensitive to it. Tomatoes, incidentally, seem to have more of anti-inflammatory effect when they’re cooked or juiced, but most other vegetables and fruits are better if they’re fresh.

2. Choose your oils wisely.
Extra-virgin olive oil has natural anti-inflammatory benefits, whether raw or cooked. Recent research has identified the antioxidant called oleocanthal, which is only found in extra-virgin olive oil. Oleocanthal is a natural anti-inflammatory with potency strikingly similar to that of the drug ibuprofen in inhibiting an enzyme that causes pain and inflammation. Studies have shown that people with inflammatory arthritis experience a decrease in pain and stiffness of their joints when treated with fish oil. Even better pain management results have been observed when, in addition to fish oil, extra-virgin olive oil is part of the natural anti-inflammatory diet.

Flaxseed oil and flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed), also have significant anti-inflammatory effects, but should not be cooked, because cooking destroys some of the beneficial omega-3 fats. 

But other vegetable oils, like corn, safflower or sunflower oils, can increase inflammation and counteract the benefits of anti-inflammatory nutrients in your diet.

3. Eat fish three times a week.
Especially wild salmon, if it’s available and affordable, but don’t fry your fish; frying interferes with the benefits. Supplement your diet with the natural anti-inflammatory, fish oil. The amount of fish oil you need is not fixed; it varies from about a teaspoon (4000 milligrams) to a tablespoon (12,000 milligrams) each day, depending upon what else is in your diet. The more meat, poultry, egg yolk or dairy fat you eat, the greater your need for fish oil, because these foods contain arachidonic acid, a pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acid. The more you use vegetable oils other than extra virgin olive oil, the more fish oil you need.

4. Avoid sugar and foods with added sugar and refined carbohydrates
Reduce inflammation by cutting out white flour products, white rice and white potatoes. Several studies have shown that consuming foods of this type aggravates inflammation. Instead eat high fiber foods like whole grains and legumes. Studies have shown that high fiber diets are anti-inflammatory. Don’t worry about carrots. All the publicity given to the Glycemic Index of foods (the tendency for a food to raise blood sugar) has given carrots a bad rep. The carotenoids in carrots, anti-oxidants that create the orange color, and the fiber, make carrots an anti-inflammatory food. Carrots, like tomatoes, are also more nutritious cooked than raw.

5. Drink tea, black or green.
Green tea and black tea can help with fighting inflammation. You need at least three cups a day to get the benefit.

6. Use anti-inflammatory spices in preparing your food.
Ginger and turmeric have excellent anti-inflammatory effects, although human clinical trials with these spices are much more limited than for the other principles listed.

My book The Fat Resistance Diet contains a natural anti-inflammatory program that features these foods that can help arthritis.

1) US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

2) Robyn Tamblyn, PhD; Laeora Berkson, MD, MHPE, FRCPC; W. Dale Jauphinee, MD, FRCPC; David Gayton, MD, PhD, FRCPC; Roland Grad, MD, MSc; Allen Huang, MD, FRCPC; Lisa Isaac, PhD; Peter McLeod, MD, FRCPC; and Linda Snell, MD, MHPE, FRCPC, "Unnecessary Prescribing of NSAIDs and the Management of NSAID-Related Gastropathy in Medical Practice," Annals of Internal Medicine (Washington, DC: American College of Physicians, 1997), September 15, 1997, 127:429-438.


Dr. Leo Galland is a board-certified internist, author and internationally recognized leader in integrated medicine. Dr. Galland is the founder of Pill Advised, a web application for learning about medications, supplements and food.  Sign up for free to discover how your medications and vitamins interact. Watch his videos on "YouTube" and join the Pill Advised Facebook  page.

Jonathan Galland, co-creator of The Fat Resistance Diet, is a health writer who contributes regularly to CBN.com. He writes a weekly column for a New York City newspaper, Carib News, and is frequently interviewed on national radio shows including Martha Stewart Living. His and Dr. Galland’s book has been translated and published in Italy as La Dieta Galland.

This article is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice or counseling, the practice of medicine or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, the creation of a physician-patient relationship, or an endorsement, recommendation, or sponsorship of any third party product or service by the sender or the sender's affiliates, agents, employees, or service providers. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your doctor promptly.

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