The Link Between Your Diet and Arthritis

The Link Between Your Diet and Arthritis

Arthritis is an umbrella term that covers more than 150 different conditions affecting the muscles, bones, and joints (musculoskeletal conditions). There’s no single food or groups of foods that can cure these conditions, but what you eat can contribute toward making the problem worse or better.

At Pinnacle Pain and Spine, interventional pain specialists Dr. Matthew Crooks and Dr. Stuart Rammell understand that diet and arthritis are inextricably intertwined, which is why we advise our patients to adopt a healthy, well-balanced diet to help alleviate their arthritis symptoms.

The link between your diet and arthritis

With the exception of gout, which we’ll discuss shortly, the major link between diet and arthritis is inflammation. Certain foods and drinks can increase your overall inflammation load, contributing to arthritis symptoms, while other types can decrease the load, giving you relief. 

There are three aspects of this process you need to understand.

Free radicals

Free radicals (also called reactive oxygen species) are negatively charged atoms or molecules that search for positively charged atoms or molecules to bond with (oxidation). 

The production of free radicals is a normal part of the body’s metabolism, but having too many free radicals isn’t a good thing.

Oxidative stress

The body neutralizes or processes some free radicals with antioxidants, but too many can overwhelm its capacity and create an imbalance known as oxidative stress.


Oxidative stress is associated with chronic inflammation. Researchers believe that oxidative stress starts a biochemical cascade that promotes inflammation. Over time, this can lead to related degenerative diseases, such as arthritis.

An anti-inflammatory diet decreases or eliminates foods suspected of causing oxidative stress and supports foods rich in antioxidants.

A good place to start is the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, and beans, but low in processed foods and saturated fat. Not only does it promote overall health, but it can also help manage disease activity.

Studies confirm that the Mediterranean diet can help:

Foods high in omega-3 fats can also reduce the inflammation associated with some inflammatory forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. The effects are modest compared with medication, but they don’t produce side effects and have additional health benefits, such as a decreased risk for heart disease and stroke.

The link between your diet and gout

Gout is a form of arthritis once called the “disease of kings,” because those affected were men who could afford the rich meats and alcohol that led to symptoms, including repeated attacks of extreme joint pain, swelling, and redness.

While most types of arthritis develop slowly, a gout attack usually happens quite suddenly, often overnight. Most cases start in the big toe then spread to other joints.

Gout occurs when a normal waste product, uric acid, builds up in the bloodstream and deposits urate crystals within a joint.

Uric acid is a breakdown product of purines, a substance found in foods like organ meats, shellfish, yeasted products including beer, and alcohol. It normally dissolves in your blood, is processed by your kidneys, and is excreted within the urine.

If your body makes too much uric acid or if your kidneys can’t process enough of it, the level builds up in your blood, a condition called hyperuricemia. Crystals form and deposit in the joint space.

You can manage gout by modifying your diet to decrease or eliminate high-purine foods and by taking medication to lower uric acid levels.

Do you want to know more about how your diet affects your arthritis? Pinnacle Pain and Spine has the answers. To get started, call us at any of our Arizona locations — Scottsdale, Chandler, or Fountain Hills — or send us a message online.

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