What are easily available foods to reduce pain in my joints?

Dr. Anjali Bhatt
Kedar Angirus, MD
April 19, 2022

Dear Anooka, I heard from some friends that pain and swelling in my joints can be reduced by modifications to my diet. Can you please tell me how?

Inflammation is the body’s natural defence against dangers like bacteria, viruses, irritants, toxins, and physical trauma. External signs of inflammation usually presents as pain, swelling, redness, and warm to the touch. Chronic inflammation, defined as inflammation lasting several months to years, can interfere with function of the immune system and may lead to a variety of chronic diseases and chronic pain.

For management of inflammation, lifestyle therapy proves to be beneficial along with physiotherapy and regular medications. This includes quitting smoking, improving nutrition, maintaining a healthy body weight, regular physical activity, good sleep and stress management.

Anti-inflammatory diets help to reduce pain and stiffness caused by several painful conditions such as musculoskeletal pain and arthritis. Plant based diets are rich in nutrients and phytochemicals (naturally occurring chemicals produced by plants) that are anti-inflammatory. Dietary changes can be made in following ways to manage inflammation and pain:

1. Foods containing Flavonoids

Flavonoids are various health promoting compounds that are commonly found in fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids work by inhibiting enzymes that promote inflammation.Foods containing flavonoids include:

  • Berries
  • Onions
  • Cocoa
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Apple
  • Citrus fruits
  • Red cabbage
  • Leafy vegetables.

2. Foods containing Carotenoids

Carotenoids are red, orange and yellow pigments in foods. Carotenoids are known to have anti-inflammatory properties and also inhibit the production of inflammation causing substances. Common foods that are high in carotenoids include:

  • Carrot
  • Squash
  • Tomato
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Peaches

3. Foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce stiffness and swelling of joints. They may also help to reduce the dose of pain medications in people living with Arthritis. Foods high on Omega-3 Fatty Acids include:

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Cod liver oil
  • Herring
  • Oysters
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Caviar

Vegetarians need not fret as nuts and seeds like walnut, flax seeds, chia seeds are ripe with them.

4. Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices have excellent amounts of antioxidants that prevent as well as reduce inflammation. Add these spices in daily meals, soups and smoothies. Commonly available herbs and spices include:

  • Saffron
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Garlic
  • Cinnamon
  • Black pepper
  • Cloves

5. Probiotics

Recent studies have shown that Probiotics have a positive influence on the immune system function, especially in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Probiotic supplements containing L. casei and foods like yogurt and kombucha can be helpful.

6. Whole grains and Lentils

They are good sources of fibre and antioxidants.  Adding a variety of fibre rich foods and salads in your diet can help promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria that synthesize probiotics. Fibre rich foods also help in healthy weight maintenance which can help reduce stress on the joints.

Key Takeaways

  • What you eat can have beneficial effects in reducing inflammation and pain.
  • Inclusion of a wide variety of fresh foods, plant-based ingredients and colourful foods is the key to healthy diet in the management of most health conditions including pain and inflammation.
  • Incorporate them in your diet to make foods fun, flavourful and healthy.

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Here are references we used to put together this article ;-)

1. Saghafi-Asl M, Mirmajidi S, Asghari Jafarabadi M et al. The association of dietary patterns with dietary inflammatory index, systemic inflammation, and insulin resistance, in apparently healthy individuals with obesity. Sci Rep 2021; 11:7515.

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Proposed Anti-Inflammatory Diet Reduces Inflammation in Compliant, Weight-Stable Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis in a Randomized Controlled Crossover Trial

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Probiotics in Autoimmune and Inflammatory Disorders

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Efficacy of Spice Supplementation in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Systematic Literature Review

5. Ferro Margarida, Charneca Sofia, Dourado Eduardo, Guerreiro Catarina Sousa, Fonseca João Eurico; Probiotic Supplementation for Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Promising Adjuvant Therapy in the Gut Microbiome Era, Frontiers in Pharmacology, 2021, vol 12