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.