Controlling Inflammation with the Right Diet

In this article you will learn how you can reduce inflammation of joints with food. There are approximately 4 million people in Australia and New Zealand alone suffering from some form of arthritis. This disease of the musculoskeletal system presents itself in a wide range of form, with over 100 different classifications.

In general, arthritis symptoms include joint inflammation, stiffness, pain, and impaired function. There are a wide range of joints and surrounding tissues that can be affected, eventually leading to joint instability, deformation, and lack of mobility if not properly managed.

Unfortunately, at this stage there is no 100% cure for any type of arthritis, including the prevalent osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Nevertheless, there has been significant research into combination therapies that are making living with arthritis more manageable. In addition to medications, occupational therapy, and natural supplements, more people are subscribing to an arthritis diet consciously eating certain foods in order to reduce inflammation.

How Important Is Diet For Inflammation & Arthritis?

Like many diseases, our diet affects our body’s ability to deal with inflammation & arthritis. There are some foods which exasperate symptoms, while others can help to alleviate symptoms.  By paying attention to the types of foods consumed, it’s possible to better manage arthritis.

There are several key dietary recommendations for people with arthritis:

  • Maintain a well-balanced diet to support general health. A poor diet will not only negatively affect arthritis symptoms, it may also accelerate the progression of the disease and make the body more susceptible to other health problems.
  • Avoid fasting or crash diets that place added strain on the body
  • Increase calcium intake to minimise the risk of developing osteoporosis
  • Maintain healthy fluid intake, drinking plenty of water.
  • Keep bodyweight within a healthy range. Too much weight places extra stress on the joints, especially the hips and knees.


While these are good general guidelines, any arthritis diet should also reduce inflammation, strengthen bones and cartilage, and reduce oxidative stress by elevating antioxidant intake.

The Problem With Inflammation

One of the key considerations in any arthritis diet plan is to avoid foods that promote inflammation. This especially applies to people already diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, lupus, or ankylosing spondylitis.

OVERVIEW: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Gout, Psoriatic Arthritis, Lupus and Ankylosing Spondylitis

Rheumatoid Arthritis

After osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the UK, affecting approximately 400, 000 people. Symptoms of this disease usually start to present themselves when the patient is aged between 40 and 50, although adults of any age can be affected. Rheumatoid arthritis affects more women than men1.

Although the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not fully understood, it’s known that the immune system has an abnormal response that promotes joint inflammation, attacking cartilage and other tissues around the joint. This progressively damages the joint and causes stiffness and discomfort, ultimately impeding function and movement


This form of inflammatory arthritis develops in response to an abnormal build-up of uric acid. The body is unable to effectively expel this substance, leading to crystallisation and deposition within the joints. Gout is typically associated with the big toe; however the ankles, insteps, fingers, knees, wrists, heels, and elbows may also be affected.

Psoriatic Arthritis

People that have the skin condition psoriasis are at risk of developing psoriatic arthritis. Although there are variations in symptoms, inflammation is very common and can cause significant pain and discomfort.


There are several classifications of lupus, although they all related to tissue swelling associated with an abnormal auto-immune response. Systemic lupus erythematosus is especially detrimental to joint health.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Predominately associated with the spine, ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory arthritis characterised by back stiffness and pain. Over time it can lead to ankylosis. Often other parts of the body are also affected by inflammation including the hip, shoulders, ribs, and hand and feet joints.

reduce inflammation with arthritis friendly foodsWhat Causes Inflammation?

One of the underlying causes of these arthritic diseases is inflammation. When joints become inflamed they attract more inflammatory agents and white blood cells that cause further irritation. This causes the synovium (joint lining) to swell and leak into the surrounding tissues.

MEDICAL VIDEOS: Inflammation Explained

Medical videos

This is an excellent video explaining the body’s general inflammatory response:

And this is a technical video explaining in great detail specifically the pathology of joint inflammation:

This swelling causes the joints to become stiff, restricting movement and causing pain and discomfort. As a result the cartilage and bone can start to breakdown and thin, further aggravating the joints and leading to disease progression.

By gaining greater control over inflammation, it’s possible to reduce swelling. This will naturally reduce pain and discomfort, improving mobility and slowing joint degradation.

Controlling COX-1 & COX-2 with NSAIDs

One of the major underlying causes of joint inflammation are the enzymes cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). These enzymes trigger the release of prostaglandins, key hormones that elevate inflammation.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed to block COX-2, acting as inhibitors to inflammation. However, long-term use of these drugs has detrimental side effects.

There is now a large shift towards natural compounds that can help reduce inflammation in combination therapies to treat arthritis.

Preventing Inflammation With An Arthritis Diet

The relationship between diet and arthritis inflammation is a very important consideration in any patient’s diet plan. Food contains different nutrients and other compounds that can impact inflammation both positively and negatively.

Some substances will aggravate inflammation, while others can help to minimise inflammation. Understanding which foods to avoid and which foods to include in your diet for arthritis can make a significant difference.

Top Foods and Nutrients That Reduce Inflammation

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids

One key nutrient that is proving to be effective in reducing inflammation in sufferers of arthritis is omega-3 fatty acids.

Many studies have confirmed that supplementation with this nutrient can help to ease inflammation of the joints without negative side effects2 3 4 5.

Fatty fish are the best sources of omega-3s. However, there are also vegetarian sources, especially nuts and seeds.


Omega-3-Rich Foods
• Flaxseeds • Walnuts • Sardines • Salmon • Beef • Soybeans • Tofu • Shrimps • Brussels Sprouts • Cauliflower

Foods high in fibre


Foods rich in fibre help to fight inflammation by reducing the concentration of c-reactive protein. This protein is a marker of acute inflammation.

High levels of c-reactive protein are associated with patients suffering from arthritis.

In addition, studies also show that this protein is an important predictive marker for diabetes and cardiovascular disease6.

For these reasons alone, it’s highly recommended to have a high fibre diet7.

This will help to elevate arthritis symptoms, and it will also help to protect the body against other health problems.



Fibre-Rich Foods
• Whole grains • Apples • Bananas • Oranges • Strawberries • Pear • Beans • Pulses • Almonds • Broccoli

Foods high in vitamin B6

Vitamin B6

There has been a lot of research into the relationship between arthritis and B6, and how consuming more B6 can help reduce inflammation. Also known and pyridoxine, this is one of eight B vitamins.

The body is unable to store B vitamins because they are water soluble.

Some studies have shown that people with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher requirement for B6 because inflammation reduces availablity8.

Supplementation with vitamin B6 has been found to significantly reduce the levels of pro-inflammatory compounds tumor necrosis factor –alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-6 (IL-6)9.


Vitamin B6-Rich Foods
• Pork • Beef • Fish • Turkey • Sunflower Seeds • Pistachio Nuts • Prunes • Bananas • Avocadoes • Spinach

Sourcing the Nutrients

There are essentially two ways to source the above nutrients: from high quality, whole foods or from food supplements.

On the one hand, sourcing the nutrients from whole food will guarantee that you will eat a more balanced and complete diet on the whole. On the other hand, however, it is both cost and time-intensive to ensure that all nutrients are supplied every day in sufficient dosages.

Fresh, unprocessed high quality foods need to be purchased from markets to minimize occurrence of preservatives and toxins and help to reduce inflammation. Of course, these pollutants in cheap food can themselves aggravate inflammation.

Food supplements are more efficient and effective at supplying the nutrients. Of course, patients should do their utmost to follow a healthy arthritis-friendly diet in any case.


Video & List: What Foods Should You Avoid With An Arthritis Diet?

Everybody will react differently to various foods and there is no “perfect” arthritis diet. However, many people with arthritis should eat foods that are known to reduce inflammation.

VIDEO & LIST: Top Arthritis foods to avoid

Arthritis Diet Foods To Avoid
• Sugar • Refined Carbohydrates • Alcohol • Saturated & Trans Fats • Gluten • Nightshades

Watch this short video for the 5 worse foods for arthritis


A large number of arthritis-friendly foods have been identified and these should help to reduce inflammation. At the same time it is advisable to consume so-called combination joint supplements to ensure that the micro nutrients are available to the body in effective dosages.



  1. “Crowson, C. (2011). The lifetime risk of adult-onset rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory autoimmune rheumatic diseases. Arthritis and Rheumatology, Volume 63, Issue 3, (pp. 633-9).”
  2. “Artemis, P. and Simopoulos, M. (2002). Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Volume 21, Issue 6.”
  3. “Geusens, P. (2005). Long-term effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in active rheumatoid arthritis. Volume 37, Issue 6, (pp. 824-9).”
  4. “Yan, Y. (2013). Omega-3 fatty acids prevent inflammation and metabolic disorder through inhibition of NLRP3 inflammasome activation. Immunity, Volume 38, Issue 6, (pp. 1154-63).”
  5. “Calder, P. (2013). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory processes: nutrition or pharmacology? British Journal of Clinical Phamacology. Volume 75, Issue 3, (pp. 645-62).”
  6. “Yunsheng, M. (2006). Association between dietary fiber and serum C-reactive protein. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Volume 83, Issue 4, (pp. 760-6).”
  7. “Ajani, U. (2004). Dietary fiber and C-reactive protein: findings for national health and nutrition examination survey data. Volume 134, Issue 5, (pp. 1181-5).”
  8. “Friso, S. Low circulating vitamin B(6) is associated with elevation of the inflammation marker C-reactive protein independently of plasma homocysteine levels. Circulation. Volume 103, Issue 23, (pp. 2788-91).”
  9. “Huang, (2010). Vitamin B6 supplementation improves pro-inflammatory responses in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 64, (pp. 1007-13).”