Managing Arthritis with Diet: Plants Again!


I would wager a bet that most persons suffering from a variety of rheumatologic disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus,  and Sjogren’s syndrome have never been advised by their medical team to abandon animal foods and concentrate on the health attributes of plant foods. There have been stunning success stories of complete reversal of life-threatening illness like lupus. A recent review article argues that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be managed with diets rich in certain plants that have anti-inflammatory properties and it is worth a careful read (1). Completely vegan diets for RA are included in the scientific analysis because of evidence for their healing effects. The foods with the highest recommendations for arthritis therapy are listed here. 


Regular consumption of fresh fruits rich in important phytochemicals can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Studies have reported that repeated and high consumption of fruits provide protective effects against RA.


Ginger has been known for its therapeutic properties as an anti-inflammatory.  Turmeric, rich in curcumin, has also proved its beneficial effects. Curcumin has also presented itself as a potent anti-inflammatory component derived from the turmeric spice. Cinnamon is widely used in South-East Asian dishes and has the ability to lower inflammatory pathways.

Essential Fatty Acids

Omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids have shown their potential as immunosuppressants and anti-inflammatory agents. A double-blind trialwas conducted on 37 patients with active RA, and they were assigned to consume borage seed oil rich in essential fatty acids. After 24 weeks of consumption, the group which received borage oil had significantly reduced tender and swollen joint scores, whereas placebo group did not show any change. Other foods that support a healthy diet high in essential fatty acids would include ground flax seed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and green leafy vegetables. 


Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is a main chemical present in green tea. In RA, a  study of EGCG treatment has successfully shown its ability to decrease pathways of inflammation.


Plants with effective health promoting effects are known as herbs, and these have a long history of being used as medicine to cure several diseases. Boswellia serrata) is widely recommended as an anti-inflammatory herb as prescribed in Ayurveda that has anti-inflammatory properties.  Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is one of the plants being described in Ayurveda as a potent anti-inflammatory plant. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, ashwagandha significantly reduced stiffness, disability to move knee and joints, and pain score.

 The data in the review article provides a path for millions suffering from inflammatory arthritis. Another randomized trial demonstrated the benefits of a whole food plant diet on degenerative arthritis also (2). Many do not realize the potential for foods to manage or even reverse their disease. Almost all of the foods with anti-inflammatory benefits are plant based.