The Best Foods to Relieve the Pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The pain and stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis can be debilitating. “We see it all the time,” said Dr. Mark T. Malone, founder of Advanced Pain Care. “Patients come to us with desperate pain that has taken over their lives.” Although symptoms can be treated with drugs, many medications have serious side effects, especially with long-term use. Fortunately, numerous studies have shown that certain foods can reduce the pain suffered by patients. Here’s a look at eight of the best inflammation-fighting foods for rheumatoid arthritis and how they work.


Turmeric is a yellow-colored spice commonly used in curries and other Indian dishes. In recent years, researchers have uncovered a long list of benefits offered by turmeric, including powerful anti-inflammatory effects that work in several ways. Curcumin, the key constituent of turmeric, is known to inhibit inflammation-causing enzymes COX2, 5-LOX and others. One study looked at turmeric’s efficacy in rheumatoid arthritis and found that it was actually more effective than prescription drugs in relieving patients’ swelling and tenderness.


Garlic is packed with antioxidants and other inflammation-fighting substances, such as thiacremonone and diallyl sulfide, that can reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. One study, which tested a Russian garlic preparation called Alisate, found that Alisate reduced rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in 86.5 percent of patients who received it and had no side effects.


Pineapple is the natural source of bromelain, an enzyme that fights inflammation directly, and is rich in manganese, which supports the body’s ability to fight inflammation on its own. In one study of 31 adults with rheumatoid arthritis, pineapple eliminated symptoms to the point that many patients stopped taking their regular drugs. One to two slices of pineapple per day is an effective dose, but it must be fresh because the active enzyme is deactivated in cooked or canned pineapple.

Colorful Vegetables

Brightly colored vegetables, such as broccoli, bell peppers and squash, are rich in antioxidants that fight against joint-damaging free radicals. These foods are also rich in vitamin C, which is necessary for repair of damaged joints. A combination of different-colored vegetables is important to ensure a varied intake of inflammation-fighting antioxidants and other nutrients.

Fermented Foods

Research has found that healthy gut bacteria, which can be supported by the probiotics contained in unpasteurized yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi, may help control inflammation. This is related to their close association with overall immune function. Besides affecting the body’s inflammatory response, probiotics also boost absorption of nutrients and manufacture some nutrients, such as B vitamins, on their own.

Cold-water Fish

Fatty cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, contain high levels of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA, which fights inflammation through the COX-2 pathway. As a cheaper alternative or addition to eating these fish varieties, patients can take fish oil supplements. Fish also gives rheumatoid arthritis patients the bonus benefit of protection against heart problems, which are more common in this group.


Ginger root has a host of antioxidants and enzymes that help control inflammation. Gingerols, the main beneficial substances in ginger, have been shown to block production of inflammation-causing leukotrienes and prostaglandins and reduce inflammatory compounds made by leukocytes, chondrocytes and synoviocytes. Studies of patients with rheumatoid arthritis found that three-quarters of patients had reductions of swelling and pain. These benefits can be received from fresh or dried ginger in food or tea.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a healthy fat whose taste can be credited to oleocanthal, a compound with anti-inflammatory effects that equal those of over-the-counter NSAIDS. Besides reducing inflammation and pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, olive oil has been shown to boost overall functioning in this group. Olive oil made from Tuscan olives is richest in oleocanthal, and three to four tablespoons is comparable to ibuprofen for fighting inflammation.

Rheumatoid arthritis pain can be reduced or eliminated with the right foods in many cases. Unlike drugs, which can cause a wide range of unwanted and dangerous side effects, the foods listed above will only result in general wellness and vitality. Start incorporating these foods into your diet today to start reclaiming your comfort and mobility.

About the author:

Advanced Pain Care specializes in chronic pain management. For news and updates, follow them on Facebook.