Best and worst food for pain
What you eat is crucial for so many conditions—such as diabetes—that it would be great if the right food could also help ease chronic pain. Unfortunately, the link between food and pain is not as clear.
However, inflammation is a key cause of pain in many conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. And there is some evidence to suggest that certain foods might help ease inflammation. Medication is proven to help RA symptoms, but some people do feel that food affects how they feel and function.
Here are some foods that could be potentially harmful or helpful when it comes to pain; use trial and error to see if they work for you.
--By Amanda Gardner, Health.com
Salmon is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and these same compounds may also help reduce pain-promoting inflammation. That makes it a win-win for people with rheumatoid arthritis, who have greater risk of heart trouble than people without RA.
Studies have suggested that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may protect against developing rheumatoid arthritis and could mitigate the severity of the disease. "If you have rheumatoid arthritis, it would not hurt to consume these,” says Hyon Choi, MD, DrPH, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. Tuna, mackerel and sardines are also excellent sources of omega-3.
Olive oil works much the same way as omega-3s do—by potentially reducing painful joint inflammation, says Dr. Choi. It's also a staple of the famed Mediterranean diet, which was shown in a 2003 study not only to reduce inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis patients, but also to enhance physical function and vitality. A compound called oleocanthal, which gives olive oil its taste, may have the same effect in the body as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
Keep in mind, though, that olive oil has as many calories as other types of fat, so don't overdo it.
This spice, used liberally in India and other parts of Asia to add taste and also a creamy yellow color to foods, may also have some anti-inflammatory properties, although those effects are likely to be "very, very mild," says Eric L. Matteson, MD, chair of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The magic ingredient may be curcumin, the active compound in turmeric.
Best and worst
Some research suggests dairy products are good for rheumatoid arthritis, while others seem to indicate that they’re bad.
People who are allergic to the protein casein found in milk will develop joint swelling if they drink milk, says Dr. Matteson. This is true even if they don’t have rheumatoid arthritis.
On the other hand, a study of almost 30,000 women in Iowa found that those who consumed high levels of vitamin D via various milk products had a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin D may have anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
Onions contain tons of phytochemicals that may reduce inflammation. One study identified quercetin, a compound found in this vegetable, as a possible mediator for this effect. Onions have also shown some anti-cancer effects. And let's not forget they add taste, with virtually no calories.
A clove of garlic may be able to fight off not only vampires, but arthritis as well. Like onions, this flavorful little bulb may have properties that may keep your joints from aching.
"Garlic has phytochemicals that have been shown in mouse and rat studies as well as in test-tube studies to shut off the inflammatory pathways, similar to ibuprofen," says Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Best and worst
Several studies have shown that people who drink in moderation have a lower risk of being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis—and if they do have RA, moderate drinkers seem to have less severe symptoms, including pain, than non drinkers.
But beware of alcohol if you're taking medications for RA, cautions Sandon: "Drugs can interact with alcohol."
Raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries
These berries contain phytochemicals known as anthocyanins, which may offer a benefit. "Anthocyanins stop inflammatory compounds in their tracks," says Sandon.
In one study, animals treated with red-raspberry extract were less likely to develop arthritis and less likely to have severe arthritis if they did develop the condition. There was also a protective effect on cartilage. Anthocyanins are responsible for the vibrant blue, red and purple colors seen in a variety of berries.
Bacon, butter, and cream
The saturated fats in bacon and other animal products contain arachidonic acid, which may worsen inflammation and related pain and swelling. So skip the prime rib—a cut of meat that is particularly high in fat and calories—and select lean proteins instead, says Sandon.