Arthritis is something that affects a lot of people. In fact, it’s believed that approximately 350 million people worldwide have arthritis, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) estimates that more than 54 million in the U.S. alone suffer from arthritis symptoms. (1, 2)
Rheumatoid arthritis is really autoimmune in nature and actually starts in your gut, which is surprising to a lot of people. So I’m going to share with you the top natural arthritis treatments that are effective in terms of diet and supplements. I’ll also mention the things you want to stay away from when following the arthritis diet.
[Below is my transcript of my video about natural treatments for arthritis and the arthritis diet, along with supplemental information on the topic.]
The Arthritis Diet
A smart arthritis diet should be full of anti-inflammatory foods. Here are the top foods you should consume.
Numerous scientific studies demonstrate that dietary omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation in the body. (3) Wild-caught fish, including benefit-packed salmon, is your No. 1 food of choice. After that, grass-fed beef, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts are all excellent choices. You can eat a healthy snack like some walnuts and raisins, wild-caught salmon for dinner, and put some flaxseeds or chia seeds in a morning superfood shake, but just make sure you get those omega-3 fatty acids on a daily basis.
2. High-Sulfur Foods
The second thing you want to do diet-wise is consume foods that are high in sulfur. Sulfur naturally contains a form of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). As a 2017 scientific review points out, MSM has been shown to help reduce joint inflammation along with joint pain. (4) According to the Arthritis Foundation, MSM acts as an analgesic agent in the body by decreasing the nerve impulses that transmit pain. (5)
The top foods high in sulfur are onions, garlic, asparagus and cabbage. So you can eat sautéed cabbage with some garlic, some onions with your grass-fed burger, and of course, asparagus as a side dish or any sort of cabbage, coleslaw or sauerkraut. Those sulfur-rich foods can really help to reduce arthritis symptoms.
3. Bone Broth
The next thing you want to add to your arthritis diet is bone broth. The healing power of bone broth is remarkable. It’s loaded with a form of collagen that contains the amino acids proline and glycine, and both proline and glycine help rebuild tissues.
Nutrition researchers from the Weston A. Price Foundation explain that bone broth also contains chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, the compounds sold as pricey supplements to reduce inflammation, arthritis and joint pain. (6)
Bone broth is great for the body for so many reasons, but it can be especially helpful if you have any type of degeneration of the joints. Try my Homemade Chicken Bone Broth Recipe or Beef Bone Broth Recipe to get started.
4. Fruits and Vegetables
Last but not least, you should eat lots of fruits and veggies on the arthritis diet. Fruits and veggies are packed with digestive enzymes and anti-inflammatory compounds. Some of the best include papaya, which contains papain, and pineapple, which contains bromelain. Other raw fruits and vegetables are fantastic as well.
A 2011 study in published Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that inflammatory markers decreased when human test subjects were given papaya. (7) A more recent review of research published in 2015 points out that both in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that “papaya extracts and papaya-associated phytochemicals possess anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties.” (8)
Bromelain, which can be found in pineapple, was first reported as an anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving agent for use in both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritic patients all the way back in 1964. Today, bromelain is sometimes taken in supplement form by rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis sufferers. More recent studies are warranted, but to date, bromelain appears to possibly decrease joint swelling and improve joint mobility. (9)
So the bulk of your diet should consist of the following: organic and omega-3 rich protein; healthy vegetables; healthy fruits; and some high omega-3 nuts and seeds like flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
Arthritis Diet Foods TO AVOID
If you’re wondering which foods aggravate arthritis, here’s a list of what not to eat if you have arthritis:
- Excess sugar: Excess sugar in the diet has been linked to increased inflammation in a number of studies. (10) In fact, the Arthritis Foundation warns that research has shown us that processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines in the body. (11)
- Hydrogenated oils and trans fats: Definitely stay away from fried foods, fast foods, margarine, processed snacks, unhealthy coffee creamers, and conventional baked goods to avoid trans fats and hydrogenated oils. (12)
- High omega 6 oils: In addition to hydrogenated oils, you’ll also want to avoid inflammatory-increasing oils that are too high in omega 6’s rather than having a healthy balance of both omega 6 and omega 3. I’m talking about oils like soybean, cottonseed, corn and canola oil. These inflammatory oils should all be avoided. (13)
- Conventional grains: I recommend avoiding overly proceed and gluten-heavy conventional grains that may increase inflammation and make arthritis symptoms worse. Super refined white flour products like bagels and rolls are some of the offenders that should be cut out of your diet. (14)
- Artificial sweeteners: Avoid artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame. (15) I also recommend avoiding sucralose, acesulfame K, saccharin, and sorbitol.
- MSG: Another one of the worst ingredients that I recommend avoiding is MSG. The Arthritis Foundation also specifically instructs avoiding mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) if you have arthritis because “this chemical can trigger two important pathways of chronic inflammation, and affect liver health.” MSG can be commonly found in fast food, prepared soup and dressings as well as deli meats. (16)
If you’re following an arthritis diet, you want to stay completely away from these offending foods if you want to start improving your symptoms as soon as possible.
In addition, if you have sensitivities or you have a severe autoimmune disease, sometimes nightshade vegetables contribute to arthritis symptoms as well so you’ll want to remove those as well. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “This food group can aggravate the pain and inflammation of arthritis. It includes tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant, pepper, paprika and tobacco.” (17)
The Best Supplements for Arthritis
Now, here are the best supplements in the natural treatment of arthritis to add to your arthritis diet.
1. Fish Oil
No. 1 is a fish oil supplement. Fish oil benefits health in so many ways, including treating arthritis. An 18-month study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine evaluated how borage oil and fish oil fared against each other in treating patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It was discovered that all three groups (one taking fish oil, one taking borage seed and one taking a combination of the two) “exhibited significant reductions” in disease activity and no therapy outperformed the others! (18)
I recommend 1,000 milligrams a day of a high-quality fish oil.
Number two, turmeric benefits arthritis patients because it’s a very powerful anti-inflammatory herb. A study out of Japan evaluated its relationship with interleukin (IL)-6, the inflammatory cytokine known to be involved in the rheumatoid arthritis process, and discovered that turmeric “significantly reduced” these inflammatory markers. (19) This suggests that regular turmeric use could be a potent strategy to prevent the onset of arthritis from developing to begin with!
You can take turmeric and sprinkle that on your food (or cook with it), and that works great — but actually taking it as a supplement can be very effective in the natural treatment of arthritis. I recommend about 1,000 milligrams a day of turmeric.
3. Proteolytic Enzymes
The third superfood or super-supplement you should be using is proteolytic enzymes. Proteolytic enzymes like benefit-rich bromelain are supplements you take on an empty stomach, and along with fish oil, they are probably the most effective thing you can do to get immediate relief from arthritis.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, and comparator-controlled trial, an orally administered combination of proteolytic enzymes and bioflavonoid was as effective as an NSAID in managing chronic osteoarthritis of the knee when it was taken for 12 weeks. (20)
Glucosamine chondroitin, or glucosamine sulfate, is very effective at actually giving your body the sort of nutrients and things it needs for rebuilding healthy joints, which is way it’s a natural remedy for bone and join pain.
MSM is a form of sulfur you can take in supplement form that’s also effective, as stated earlier, which is why sulfur-rich foods are effective at treating arthritis.
If you suffer from arthritis, make sure to follow the arthritis diet and supplement recommendations. If you’ve enjoyed this video and article, make sure you subscribe here to my Dr. Axe YouTube channel.