For a long time, it was assumed that osteoarthritis was strictly a “wear and tear” disease, meaning the stress and strain we put on our hips, knees and other joints cause this disorder.
But in recent years, researchers have chipped away at that presumption. Now, more evidence is surfacing that the food we eat and the lifestyle choices we make trigger osteoarthritis symptoms.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, osteoarthritis is the most common chronic condition affecting the joints. It happens when the cartilage, or cushion, between joints breaks down, leading to pain, stiffness and swelling, the foundation says.
Around the world, 18 percent of women and nearly 10 percent of men age 60 and over have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, according to England’s University of Surrey. There’s no effective treatment for the disease, the university says, and no known cure. Most sufferers take painkillers to relieve the symptoms.
Although treatment options are limited, there are dietary and lifestyle alternatives that can relieve the symptoms and perhaps even prevent osteoarthritis altogether.
Here are eight of the approaches you can experiment with to ease the pain or ward off osteoarthritis entirely.
1. Take fish oil.
A study by researchers at the University of Surrey found that consuming 1 gram of fish oil each day — 1½ typical capsules — could help reduce osteoarthritis pain. The study was published in 2018 in the journal Rheumatology.†
The researchers say the essential fatty acids in fish oil decrease inflammation in joints, thereby alleviating discomfort.†
If you find fish oil distasteful, then you might try eating fatty fish such as salmon, Chilean sea bass and mackerel, which contain inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Lose weight.
Researchers at the University of Surrey also discovered that weight loss among overweight and obese people with osteoarthritis could lessen the strain on their joints and diminish inflammation. The researchers recommended coupling a calorie-restricted diet with exercise that incorporates strength, flexibility and aerobic activities.
3. Bump up the vitamin K.
In yet another revelation, the University of Surrey experts stress that eating vitamin-K-rich foods like kale, spinach and parsley can benefit osteoarthritis sufferers. Vitamin-K-dependent proteins are found in bone and cartilage.
4. Add fiber to your diet.
A study by researchers at Boston University, Tufts University and the University of Manchester makes a positive connection between a fiber-rich diet and a lower risk of the type of osteoarthritis that punishes the knees. The study was published in 2017 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
5. Trim the fat.
Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology and Southern Queensland University, both in Australia, determined that saturated fat is a big factor in causing osteoarthritis. Why? Their study, published in 2017 in the journal Scientific Reports, shows saturated fat changes the composition of our cartilage, especially in the knees and hips.
The researchers reported that a diet containing simple carbs along with 20 percent saturated fats found in things like butter, coconut oil, palm oil and animal fat generated osteoarthritis-type changes in the knee, according to a Queensland University of Technology news release.
“Our findings suggest that it’s not wear and tear but diet that has a lot to do with the onset of osteoarthritis,” Yin Xiao, a professor of bone and tissue engineering at the tech university, says in the news release.
6. Eliminate inflammatory foods.
Experts say one of the best ways to attack osteoarthritis is to ditch inflammation-causing foods.
Toward that end, Craig Curtis, author of “Scientific Advances in Natural Pain Relief,” recommends permanently eliminating sugar, artificial sweeteners and caffeine from your diet. Other inflammation promoters that should go by the wayside include saturated fats, refined carbs (like white-flour bread and white rice), gluten and alcohol.
7. Adopt the Mediterranean diet.
If you’re hunting for a nutritional plan that adheres closely to the principles of anti-inflammatory eating, Harvard Medical School suggests looking into the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and healthy oils.
A study published in 2017 in the journal Clinical Nutrition shows following the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower prevalence of knee osteoarthritis. Meanwhile, a 2018 study appearing in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging indicates that osteoarthritis suffers who stick to a Mediterranean-style diet can minimize inflammation of the joints and cartilage.
8. Embrace anti-inflammatory enhancements.
Holistic nutritionist Miriam Amselem highlights lemon, mustard, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, chili peppers, onions, dill and oregano as some of the top inflammation combatants among flavor boosters.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.