Chronic joint pain can seriously affect our quality of life. It can limit our mobility, the activities we take on, and even negatively impact our outlook.
A common cause of joint pain is arthritis but it can also be caused by other factors like an injury, tendonitis, lupus, and gout among others. When such conditions occur, we experience pain in our joints due to inflammation.
Inflammation is our bodies’ way of protecting us from bodily threats like injuries and infections. The body’s response to perceived threats is to release white blood cells and chemicals that are meant to shield us.
However, when we experience chronic joint pain, it’s usually an indication of an impaired immune system. Instead of protecting us, our bodies release chemicals that cause swelling, muscle and tissue loss, increased joint fluid, and damage to our cartilage and bones. This affects our nerves and results in pain.
Before we take a look at specific foods that can reduce inflammation, let’s have a quick review of tendons and joints.
Tendons and Joints – Introduction
The human body has 206 bones that are all joined to one another with the exception of the hyoid bone in the neck. The connection between one bone to the other is called a joint.
Most joints facilitate easy movement between our bones, however, in instances where they do not, our bones are joined to each other with the help of connective tissues.
A type of connective tissue is called a tendon. Tendons are attached to muscles that control the movement of the joint. They have the highest tensile strength among connective tissues and are remarkably strong. Tendons can withstand extreme pressure and stress generated by muscular contraction without coming apart.
Tendons can be found in our Achilles heel, in our shoulders, arms, hips, and legs.
While chronic joint pain can be tricky and hard to completely eradicate, having a healthy diet of anti-inflammatory food can help us manage and minimize joint pain.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Your Tendons and Joints
No matter how active and healthy we are, our joints and tendons become stiffer and lose flexibility as we age. A great way to address this natural deterioration is by avoiding food that may cause swelling and consume more food that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Here are the types of foods you should consider stocking up on:
Dark, Leafy Greens
Greens like spinach, kale, bok choy, and Swiss chard are rich in nutrients that are linked to joint health. They contain antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene. Some dark, leafy greens like collard greens, spinach, and kale are also excellent sources of calcium, a mineral that keeps bones strong.
Dark leafy greens are also known to fight free radicals that cause cellular damage and exacerbate the inflammation associated with arthritis.
Leafy greens are versatile cooking ingredients. You can add spinach or kale to your banana smoothie, add greens to your salad, stir-fry, or saute them with butter and dill weed.
A splash of color in your diet can go a long way. Colorful citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit are rich in Vitamin C and a good source of inflammation-fighting antioxidants. They support the health of your cartilage and have healing properties for wounds.
Smaller fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are packed with powerful antioxidant compounds like ellagic acid and proanthocyanidins that fight inflammation and cell damage.
Incorporating them in your diet can help battle joint pain issues while maintaining optimal health. Cutting fruit into small pieces to snack on or making fresh juice in the morning are wonderful and easy ways to make them part of your daily routine.
Ginger and Turmeric
We use ginger to add flavor to our dishes and turmeric to add color to an otherwise dull-colored dish. But did you know that they can do so much more than add flavor and color?
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties similar to anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen. Turmeric, on the other hand, has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
If you dislike turmeric or are averse to its strong color and flavor, you can always opt for a curcumin supplement, a chemical compound that gives turmeric its anti-inflammatory properties.
Add them to your smoothie, soup, or eggs to pack a powerful anti-inflammatory punch to your everyday diet. Make sure not to consume them in high doses, however, as they can potentially thin the blood and cause kidney stones.
Nuts like walnuts and almonds help reduce inflammation and prevent heart disease. They contain healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids, high levels of calcium, magnesium, zinc, and fiber. They also contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is known to boost the immune system.
Munch on raw nuts, add them to your smoothie bowl or grind them into a fine powder to be used as a topping for your desserts or as a beneficial ingredient to your protein shakes. Remember, walnuts are high in calories so don’t consume more than a handful per day.
Green tea, one of the most consumed beverages, contains high levels of polyphenols. It is power-packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Green tea has an abundance of catechins that are renowned for interrupting the process of inflammation and slowing cartilage destruction that is associated with arthritis. It has also been shown to be an effective complement to nutritional therapy.
However, it’s important to note that, while research encourages incorporating green tea in your routine for arthritis pain, the results are based on small-scale testing.
Chia Seeds and Flaxseeds
Chia seeds and flaxseeds contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly ALA. They serve as a great source of protein, ranging from 4 – 9 grams per 1 ounce serving. They boost heart health by lowering cholesterol and are a great anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic food source.
Chia seeds and flaxseeds are a great addition to almost all desserts, cereals, smoothies, and baked goods. Just add a tablespoon of the seeds to any dish or beverage to reap their benefits.
The Takeaway: Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Pain-Free Joints
Weightlifting, exercising, and other activities can strain your body. To combat this inevitable wear and tear, make sure to consume a healthy amount of anti-inflammatory food.
You can also consider adopting a ketogenic diet. Low in carbohydrates and high in fat, studies have shown that the keto diet can minimize joint pain caused by inflammation. If you love eating out, you’ll find keto diet options even in fast food chains.
By incorporating anti-inflammatory food items into your diet, you’ll be protecting your joints and reducing inflammation which will help you achieve a healthy and pain-free body. Just remember to consult your doctor before making any radical changes to your diet, especially if you have existing medical conditions.