Can an anti-inflammatory diet ease aches and pains?

Q. “My physical therapist suggested I go on an anti-inflammatory diet to help with joint pain. From what I can find on the Internet, this is a diet that limits saturated fat and simple carbohydrates (white flour, sugars) and concentrates on fruits, veggies, fish, olive oil and whole grains. Is there evidence that an anti-inflammatory diet can help with pain?”

A. The type of diet you’re describing is a way to reduce systemic inflammation–chronic, low-level inflammation that has been linked to increased risks of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, and many other common degenerative diseases. One of the things that makes systemic inflammation so insidious is that it often has no symptoms–which is why it is sometimes called “silent” inflammation.

One of the things that makes systemic inflammation so insidious is that it often has no symptoms. Click To Tweet

Other types of inflammation announce themselves much more plainly, in the form of pain, redness, and/or swelling. But this type of inflammation is usually the result of injury, infection, or structural damage. Because an anti-inflammatory diet will not replace worn cartilage or repair torn ligaments, it’s unlikely to completely eradicate joint pain caused by arthritis or over-training. But it could help reduce pain and stiffness, much the way taking an anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen would. (In fact, some anti-inflammatory spices such as ginger and turmeric work through the same biochemical pathways as NSAIDs.)

And, yes, there is research to support dietary changes as a way to reduce pain and inflammation–both at the level of individual foods and nutrients as well as overall dietary patterns.

Research supports dietary changes to reduce pain and inflammation. Click To Tweet

Finally, even if it’s not the entire solution for your joint pain, an anti-inflammatory diet offers so many other benefits (such as reduced risk of all those diseases) and so few risks, I think it’s definitely worth considering.

What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

When researching anti-inflammatory diets online, you’ll probably come across a lot of conflicting information about which foods you should and shouldn’t eat.  This happens to be a subject that I have researched and taught extensively, and about which I get a lot of questions. I recently offered an online class on diets and inflammation which is available here, if you’re interested.

4 thoughts on “Can an anti-inflammatory diet ease aches and pains?

  1. Good Article… Very informative too… I think taking high fiber food, Fish three times in a week and too much oil in food may create chances of inflammation. Try to avoid Nuts, Non-veg food in the night time.

  2. Good info, Monica.
    Mt two cents Re the comments above:
    Actually, nutritionist Rachel Beller (author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win) – and consultant to Biggest Loser- is a proponent of nuts for their healthy qualities – in moderation, of course ( usually a small handful). She actually shows pictures and cites quantities for what makes up an ounce of about 10 or more different kinds of nuts – from common ones like walnuts, almonds, and peanuts to more unusual ones like macadamia and Brazil nuts. The KEY is moderation – pre measure. I.e. Pack in small cups in your lunch so you don’t just continue to snack on them mindlessly. Susan

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