Foods to Fight Inflammation and Joint Pain

Foods to Fight Inflammation and Joint Pain

By Professional Physical Therapy

Many factors affect inflammation and joint pain, and your diet is one of them. Making smart food choices can not only reduce inflammation and build strong bones, but they can also help you prevent injuries and preserve your joints for a long active life.

Inflammation refers to the body’s process of flighting against things that harm it, like an infection or injury, in an attempt to heal itself. But sometimes the immune response occurs when it shouldn’t. It can be triggered by other causes such as chronic stress or autoimmune disorders. In these cases, the inflammation persists over time and is known as chronic inflammation which can lead to numerous health problems including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and even cancer.

The good news is choosing the right foods can combat this condition and we have a list of 9 fruits and vegetables that should be on the top of your next grocery list.

While food selection is a powerful tool to combat inflammation and join pain, it’s also important to incorporate moderate exercise into your daily routine to help. Professional’s Anthony Lombardo, PT, DPT, CPT, SUA-W, USA-PL, Pn.1 weighs in and shares, “If you’re ready to take an extra step to feel better, exercise is another great way to reduce inflammation. Recently, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that just one 20-minute session of exercise can also act as an anti-inflammatory. In fact, just walking on the treadmill for 20 mins, can improve the body’s anti-inflammatory fighting properties and boost immune response!”

Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation

Symptoms of chronic inflammation might not be noticeable at first.  Some symptoms are usually more subtle which makes them easy to overlook. Common signs of chronic inflammation according to medical experts are:

  • Body discomfort, including joint stiffness, tendonitis, and muscle pain.
  • Sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea and persistent fatigue.
  • Weight gain or unexplained weight loss.
  • Skin rashes like psoriasis and frequent infections (viruses, etc.).
  • Abdominal pain, acid reflux and other digestive system issues.
  • Unexplained fever.
  • Mood disorders, including depression and anxiety.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or want to prevent them from happening, these food choices can help. The following nine fruits and veggies offer a tasty way to help reduce inflammation, alleviate joint pain, and build strong bones.

Foods to Fight Inflammation

Dark Leafy Greens: In your body, there are pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines, which increase inflammation. Vitamin E can actually fight these molecules and reduce their amounts within your body. It can limit, for instance, the amount of damage the heart experiences from these harmful molecules, thus preventing heart disease. One of the best natural sources of Vitamin E is dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens.

Red Tomatoes: 
Tomatoes and other red fruits and veggies, such as red carrots, watermelon, pink grapefruit, and papaya, are delicious ways to decrease inflammation inside the body, especially for inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, colitis, and ischemia. Each is a great source of lycopene, a plant chemical that has positive health-related effects. Unlike other fruits and vegetables, cooking tomatoes actually increases the concentration of readily absorbed lycopene.

Garlic and Onions: 
These pungent vegetables have anti-inflammatory chemicals that can work similarly to pain medications like ibuprofen. Both works great for swollen joints, and garlic in particular can help ease injury-related and chronic back pain. Onions, shallots, leeks, and scallions contain quercetin, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that limits the effects of inflammatory chemicals within the body. Chopping or crushing garlic or onions releases an enzyme that forms allicin, which breaks down to create sulfenic acid, an inflammation-fighting compound.

The red and blue colors found in berries come from anthocyanins, powerful chemicals that have been shown to be anti-inflammatory in nature. Raspberries in particular prevent arthritis and gout pain, and eating strawberries reduces the level of CRP, an inflammation-causing protein, in your blood.

Tart Cherries: 
Drinking the juice from these little nutritional powerhouses has been found to increase athletes’ performance while allowing them to reduce their use of pain medications. That’s because the chemicals in tart cherries protect against muscle damage, inflammation, and pain. 1 cup each day of tart cherry juice or 1.5 cups of the whole fruit can help alleviate some of your worst symptoms. Just make sure they’re tart, not sweet!

Foods to Strengthen Bones

Dark Leafy Greens: 
You may have heard that calcium, a mineral that builds strong bones, comes mainly from milk products. However, did you know dark leafy greens and other vegetables also contain calcium? 1 cup of either cooked spinach or collard greens contains around 25% of your daily calcium! Add these, bok choy, or kale to a green smoothie to pack a bone-building punch!

Grapefruit – both its juice and pulp – has been scientifically proven to improve bone mineral deposits and slow the rate of bone density loss. The high antioxidant levels found in grapefruits could be responsible for these bone-strengthening properties. Drink its juice or have a half for breakfast.

If spinach and kale don’t spark your interest, broccoli is a great alternative that is full of Vitamin K, which is linked to greater bone density and reduced bone loss. This vegetable, like its leafy green relatives, is also a great dietary source of the bone-building mineral calcium.

Not only are oranges full of vitamin C, but the ascorbic acid found in many supermarket orange juices can aid calcium absorption. Starting the day off with a glass of OJ can have a positive impact on strengthening your bones!

Is inflammation bothering you? Feeling a little weaker in the joints and bones? Find a Professional Physical Therapy clinic near you or make an appointment to learn more about our personalized physical therapy programs that can help keep inflammation in check.


Novant Health, Chronic Inflammation: Why it’s harmful, and how to prevent it.
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School: Foods that Fight Inflammation.
Harvard Health Publishing: What is Inflammation, and why is it dangerous?

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