This post is something new. I want to provide a list of MY favorite superfoods for people with arthritis. For these patients, pain is a major difficulty. Many of the pharmaceutical drugs that are used to treat pain are simultaneously anti-inflammatories and analgesics. The analgesics are the drugs that will work quickly to relieve your pain. The anti-inflammatories take longer to work because they change the prostaglandin environment, which takes time. There are natural analgesics out there that can work quickly, but these should be used under the supervision of a trained Naturopathic Physician. Remember, anything that works quickly is probably a strong substance. Even herbs can be strong and have side effects, so supervision by a Naturopathic Physician is warranted. However, there are SO MANY natural anti-inflammatories. I probably can’t even name them all, after thousands of hours of clinical training! But I can name a lot. These anti-inflammatories CAN reduce pain, but it is going to take time. Too many people give up on natural medicine because it doesn’t work in 30 minutes like an NSAID does. But remember, anti-inflammatories are not analgesics. Over time, natural anti-inflammatories will work to alter the prostaglandin environment which WILL reduce pain. But, it takes patience. I like to recommend safely overlapping natural anti-inflammatories with medications until the natural anti-inflammatories kick in. However, always check with your Medical Doctor or Naturopathic Physician before adding natural remedies to your prescription regimen.
In my opinion, one of the best ways to reduce inflammation long-term in the body and relieve pain over time is through an anti-inflammatory diet. Nothing works better than that. Drugs and supplements can target specific inflammatory molecules, but only the body itself knows how to keep everything balanced. A healthy diet gives the body the nutrients it needs to regulate inflammation on its own. This can take years but a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong goal for everyone. All we can do is try our best.
Here is my list of superfoods that people with arthritis should incorporate to reduce inflammation and pain, over time. Of course, eating these foods once is not going to reduce pain in a half hour. With persistence, though, nothing can take the place of a great anti-inflammatory diet.
Berries - Berries of any size, shape, color. I think everyone should be consuming at least 1 cup of berries daily. Frozen or fresh, whatever works for you. In a smoothie, on their own, cooked down into a sauce – however you like them. Berries pack a punch of antioxidant flavonoids. Flavonoids reduce TNF-alpha and IL-1 (shown to be elevated in RA) by inhibiting NFkB, and they are famously known to strengthen connective tissue in arthritis. Berries protect the heart, which is crucial for patients with RA since cardiovascular disease is a major co-morbidity. My favorite way to make: Smoothie with frozen raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, kale, protein powder.
Fish - I can’t talk enough about the healing powers of omega-3 fatty acids. They are one of nature’s most powerful anti-inflammatories. EPA and DHA are the types of omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish, and they promote anti-inflammatory subtypes of prostlandins (series 1 and 3 PGs, to be specific). Over time, the consumption of EPA/DHA will reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are also protective for heart disease, which again is crucial for RA patients. My favorite way to make: Salmon baked with lemon, garlic, rosemary, dill, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Leafy Greens - When I take into a bite of kale, I like to think that I am taking a superfood multivitamin complex. Leafy greens are jam packed with vitamins and minerals that are all too deficient in those with inflammatory diseases, like RA. They are also packed with phytochemicals that act as protective anti-oxidants. Some greens, like broccoli and kale, help the liver get rid of toxins that can induce autoimmunity. My favorite way to make: Lightly steamed then gently sauteed over low heat with a tsp of coconut oil and garlic. Factoid: Cauliflower counts in this category!!
Turmeric - I love turmeric for osteoarthritis, which in Chinese Medicine is considered more of a cold,damp condition. Turmeric is such a warming wonderful spice for this condition. In the recent past, osteoarthritis has been considered “non-inflammatory,” however the most recent Rheumatology textbooks provide massive evidence that inflammatory cytokines are playing a pivotal role in osteoarthritis. Therefore, the use of anti-inflammatories is indicated to slow down the degeneration of the cartilage. What better way to promote warmth in the circulation, stimulate circulation, and reduce inflammation in the body than the use of turmeric? My favorite way to use: Sprinkled into pretty much everything I cook. Best absorbed with some fat and black pepper, FYI.
Stevia – While the medicine powers of stevia itself are largely limited to glucose regulation, the benefits of stevia cannot be overlooked for inflammation. First, high glucose levels lead to glycosylation which leads to brittle and inflammed cartilage that has no flexibility. Second, sugary foods lead to obesity, and obesity is the leading cause of knee arthritis. By substituting sugar with stevia, you will regulate your blood sugar and reduce inflammation indirectly. Some people don’t like the taste of stevia because it might have an aftertaste, but the problem is that you don’t need to use a lot of stevia. Stevia is many, many times sweeter than table sugar. For example, if you normally put 1 packet of sugar in your coffee, you might be overwhelmed by the taste of 1 packet of stevia. Try a half packet of stevia. Also, stevia liquid drops are available which disperses the sweetness in a more even way. It is worth a try. Imagine being able to eat cookies and cakes without the guilt because there is no sugar in them. Imagine being able to drink a stevia-sweetened natural soda once in a while without the guilt of high fructose corn syrup or aspartame. There is no reason to give up the things you love, but rather, find healthy replacements. My favorite way to use: In coffee, on a grapefruit, in healthy pancake batter, in healthy cookie batter, etc.
I hope I have inspired you to add these foods to your diet each day!