Joint Inflammation: Five Foods for Fighting Pain

Joint Inflammation: 5 Foods for Fighting Pain

Most nutritional experts agree that the most important way to combat joint inflammation, whether from arthritis or another condition, is to maintain a well-balanced diet that includes omega 3s, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Here five foods you should investigate and consider adding to your diet.

Tart Cherries

Although more research still needs to be done, studies have shown that the phytochemical anthocyanin offers anti-inflammatory properties similar to those found in non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen. High levels of anthocyanin give cherries their red color and anthocyanins are found in grapes, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries as well.

In a study conducted by Oregon Health and Science University, researchers found that by drinking tart cherry juice two times per day for three weeks, women ages 40-70 with osteoarthritis experienced a considerable reduction in inflammation markers. For the millions of Americans who suffer from arthritis and the myriad side effects of arthritis medications, the benefits of tart cherries offer promising potential. Whether you get them dried, frozen or in juice form, tart cherries should be on your grocery list if you suffer from joint pain or if you suffer from muscle soreness. The anti-oxidant compounds in anthocyanin have shown to improve post-exercise pain as well.


There’s not a lot that this yellow-colored spice can’t do. Curcumin, the key ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to ease inflammation from osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, is often used as a digestive aid, is used to flavor curry dishes, can be applied topically to the skin for pain or acne, and can be used to dye foods or cosmetics.

Although more research is needed, one of the biggest potential benefits of turmeric is a treatment for inflammatory conditions. Several small, recent studies found that turmeric was not only more effective at preventing joint inflammation than reducing joint inflammation, it also provided long-term improvement in pain and functionality in patients with osteoarthritis of the knees. It also was found to reduce pain and swelling in patients with rheumatoid arthritis more than a common NSAID.

Consider adding tumeric to your dishes. Turmeric is not known to cause any harmful side effects, but some people do report stomach upset.

Chili Peppers

The active chemical compound in chili peppers, known as capsaicin, can be applied as a topical cream and helps to deplete the neurotransmitters that send pain to your brain. Many studies have found that capsaicin can effectively reduce pain caused by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia.

As more research is published, we know that using whole foods instead of pharmaceutical drugs or dietary supplements is more beneficial to your overall health. If you can, try adding chili peppers to your diet on a regular basis. Experts also claim that capsaicin is an effective remedy for pain because it can cause an endorphin rush to the brain. Another bonus of chili peppers are their carotenoids and flavonoids, which help fight the free radicals known to cause cancer.

Dark Leafy Greens

According to, vitamin K helps with blood clotting, building, and strengthening bones and prevents calcium buildup in arteries. Research suggests that vitamin K can destroy inflammatory cells that contribute to rheumatoid arthritis. In contrast, some research suggests that those with low levels of vitamin K are at an increased risk of hand and knee osteoarthritis.

Your best bet for vitamin K intake is to add dark, leafy vegetables to your diet such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, brussels sprouts, and broccoli.

It’s worth your while to maximize the multitude of health benefits that a diet rich in fiber and vitamin K can offer. A few studies have found that vitamin K rich foods and supplements can reduce the risk of bone fractures. Additionally, eating a high-fiber diet (such as one with a lot of leafy vegetables) can help to lower inflammation markers in the blood (also known as C-reactive proteins), lower your body weight and lower levels of inflammation throughout the entire body.


It’s no secret that omega-3 fatty acids are a key ingredient in reducing joint inflammation. Many studies have shown that fish oil can be an effective way to help relieve joint pain and stiffness. Fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, and herring (all cold-water) are recommended most.

If you don’t want to include fish in your diet, you can replace it with fish-oil supplements. According to, people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis can often take a higher level of fish oil than is recommended to the general public. But be mindful of how it could potentially interact with other drugs, such as those for high blood pressure.
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Rebecca Artz

Rebecca Artz lives in Chicago, is currently a digital product manager for a publishing company based in Boston, and is a freelance contributor to Health Food Radar. She spends her free time cooking, reading, kickboxing and is endlessly entertained by her Siamese kitten, Luna.

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