Diet and arthritis
Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet is important when you have arthritis. As well as providing you with all the nutrients you need, this will help you maintain a healthy weight. It can also protect you against some long-term side effects of drugs.
In general, a healthy diet is one that is:
- high in complex carbohydrates
(like whole grains and pulses)
- high in fruit and vegetables
- high in starch and fibre
- some protein
- low in fatty foods and salt
- low in added sugars
That is a diet based on starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta with fruit and vegetables, some meat, fish and lentils, dairy products but low in fat, salt and sugar.
Managing your weight with arthritis
Adopting a healthy diet can help you lose weight. Carrying extra weight adds extra pressure on weight bearing joints such as the back, hips, knees, ankles and feet. Additional weight is a common problem for many people with arthritis. Certain drugs such as corticosteroids can lead to weight gain. Losing even a few kilos can make a significant difference.
If you are trying to lose weight, vegetables should make up half of your plate; carbohydrates a quarter; and protein a quarter. Reducing the size of the portions on your plate will also help.
Exercise is an important part of weight loss and control, so make sure you incorporate that into your daily routine. You can find out more in our Exercise and Arthritis booklet.
All alcoholic drinks contain calories – something people often do not realise. Cutting down on alcohol will help you lose weight and will be good for you too. Alcohol can interact with arthritis medication or make some side effects worse.
Interaction between food and arthritis
There is a lot of debate about whether what you eat affects your arthritis but there is no definite connection between food and flare-ups. However, certain foods may help reduce pain and inflammation.
There is some evidence that eating oily fish can help people with arthritis. It is thought that long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, contained in oily fish, could ease the symptoms of inflammatory arthritis. You should try to eat oily fish twice a week.
Our Healthy Eating and Arthritis booklet contains more information on foods that could help your symptoms.
You may feel that certain foods make your arthritis worse. If you decide to avoid these foods, you might need to take supplements to ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Some people with arthritis recommend trying ‘special diets’, which might exclude a certain type of food. You should always get advice from your GP and/or a dietician before starting a special diet. Never begin a diet that involves stopping medication without discussing it thoroughly with your doctor.
Supplements and arthritis
Most people should get the nutrients they need through their diet without taking supplements. If you do decide to take supplements, check with your doctor as some of these can interact with your prescribed drugs.