Distinguishing between bizarre myths and eye-opening truths—everything you need to know about effectively controlling inflammation and easing joint pain
When it comes to arthritis, the statistics are shocking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 54 million Americans have some form of arthritis—which works out to nearly 25 percent of the entire adult population!1
About half of these people report that their condition limits their daily activities. And over 25 percent suffer from severe pain as a result. So it’s no surprise that big pharma has jumped on board the arthritis train—full steam ahead.
But the drugs they’ve developed to supposedly “treat” arthritis pain have life-threatening side effects. I’m sure you’ve heard the disclaimers in the ubiquitous TV ads about how arthritis drugs can lead to “serious infections like tuberculosis, and infections from bacteria, viruses, and fungi.”
Not to mention that it’s questionable how well these drugs really work. Sure, they try to temporarily alleviate the inflammation that causes arthritis. But to truly tackle the underlying cause of inflammation and arthritis, you need a long-term approach—not a quick drug fix.
Fortunately, study after study shows the solution is simple.
The best way to stop inflammation is to eat a healthy, balanced diet—and to add the right key dietary supplements, when needed.
Of course, for years, there have been some common myths in circulation about which foods either contribute to or help prevent arthritis.
So, this month, let’s do some myth busting—and some truth telling—all based on the latest science…
The top 6 myths about food and arthritis
Over the years, stories about how certain foods can impact arthritis have transitioned from folklore to accepted fact. But there’s actually no scientific basis for the following six myths…
Myth #1: Nix the nightshades
When it comes to arthritis, one of the most common myths is that eating foods from the nightshade family (eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes) can worsen symptoms.
(This may date back to a superstition since these plants are distantly related to the “deadly nightshade” in Europe. When peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes were first introduced to Europe from the Americas in the 1500s, there was an initial reluctance to consume them.)
In recent years, people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have been sharing anecdotes about how cutting out nightshades helps improve their symptoms. But there’s actually no real scientific evidence for this belief.
The truth is, the brightly colored members of the nightshade family are high in inflammation-fighting nutrients like vitamin C and carotenoids. They’re also good sources of dietary fiber. Consequently, people with arthritis should consider eating more—not less—of these vegetables as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Myth #2: Cut out citrus
Many people with RA believe that cutting out citrus fruits from their diet will help reduce joint pain. But again, there’s no scientific evidence behind this myth.
In fact, citrus fruits are high in beneficial nutrients like B and C vitamins, which are important for healthy joints.
Plus, new research suggests that consuming just five servings of fruit and vegetables each day offers optimal health benefits and protection against disease (as I discussed in the June issue). And it inevitably becomes more difficult to reach this goal if you eliminate all citrus fruits from your diet.
Myth #3: Ditch the dairy
People with arthritis are frequently told to cut out milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy foods. But just as with nightshades and citrus fruits, there’s no scientific evidence that dairy products worsen or cause arthritis.
The fact is, if you don’t eat full-fat dairy, you’re missing out on key nutrients that have been shown in studies to support a healthy, balanced immune system—which, in turn, helps lower inflammation. Like calcium (which needs to come from dietary sources, not supplements), essential fatty acids (which should ideally come from the diet), and vitamin D (which can come from dietary sources and smart supplementation).
And, of course, full-fat dairy also supports good bone and cartilage health, which is critical for healthy joints.
Myth #4: Reach for raw foods
Decades-old research found that people who followed a raw, vegan diet, with some probiotics added, had temporary relief from RA symptoms. But the diet didn’t slow progression of the disease.
Not to mention, raw or vegan diets are highly restrictive—and, frankly, not reasonably palatable or digestible for most people. And, as I often report, any food plan that cuts out whole categories of foods (like dairy, citrus, or nightshade plants) works against consuming a healthy, balanced diet—which is what really counts for fighting inflammation and arthritis.
Myth #5: Add apple cider vinegar
Drinking apple cider vinegar has some popular support as a remedy for joint pain. Some say it’s because vinegar is high in beta-carotene. But there’s no evidence that beta-carotene alone works for joint pain and arthritis, and there’s only a small amount in apple cider vinegar, anyway.
So, rather than overindulging in vinegar, you can get healthy amounts of beta-carotene as well as other needed carotenoids by adding more yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables to your diet.
Myth #6: Dine on “drunken raisins”
I’ve saved the most bizarre myth for last. Turns out, some people believe that gin-soaked raisins can treat arthritis. Supposedly, the sulfur used to preserve raisins can reduce joint damage, and the juniper berries infused in gin are anti-inflammatory.
And while this folk remedy probably won’t hurt you, there’s no scientific evidence it will stop (or help prevent) arthritis. So I don’t recommend it as part of a regular regimen.
The top 6 truths about food and arthritis
Now that we’ve discussed (and debunked, based on the science) the top six myths surrounding what foods to cut or add to your diet to help alleviate inflammation and joint pain—let’s focus on some truths.
There’s plenty of science showing simple changes to your diet and nutrition can help arthritis, and joint health, in general. Here are my top six recommendations, based on the latest research…
Truth #1: There’s nothing fishy about omega-3s for healthy joints
On the top of my list (as always) is to eat more fish. In fact, you can’t go wrong with wild-caught fish like mackerel (the smaller varieties; not the large sport fish), salmon, sardines, and tuna (preferably skipjack, or “chunk light,” not “white” tuna).
All of these fatty fish are high in omega-3 essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA. In addition to being beneficial for the brain and heart, they also help with stiff and tender joints.
That’s why I recommend five servings of fish a week. But if you can’t manage that goal—and let’s be honest, many people don’t—try to work your way up to just two servings a week (as I reported in June’s issue), plus 4 to 5 grams a day of a high-quality fish oil supplement that contains both EPA and DHA. Then, the more fish you eat in your diet, the less is required as a dietary supplement, as I also explained in June’s newsletter.
Truth #2: Fight inflammation with fiber
There’s plenty of research showing dietary fiber helps lower a biochemical called C-reactive protein (CRP—which I also discuss on page 8). CRP is a sign of the inflammation that lurks behind chronic diseases like RA and heart disease.
Rather than taking dietary fiber supplements (which can be dangerous), a simple solution is to fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables at each and every meal. Since produce is an excellent source of fiber, you’ll get all you need—along with a healthy, balanced diet that naturally fights inflammation.
Truth #3: Boost muscles, joints, and immunity with beans
Beans—particularly kidney and pinto—are another healthy, nutritious food that helps reduce inflammation. Not only are beans high in dietary fiber, but they’re also good sources of protein, which supports muscles and joints.
Beans also contain nutrients that support a healthy immune system (and help alleviate chronic, low-grade inflammation)—including iron (which, like calcium, should always come from dietary sources and not from supplements) folic acid, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Truth #4: Pass on processed foods
If you’re concerned about joint pain—and for your health in general—you need to cut processed foods from your diet (if you haven’t already). They’re the exact opposite of the natural, whole foods that reduce inflammation.
In particular, processed foods can be higher in omega-6 fats (which counterbalance the healthy omega-3s that help alleviate joint pain). These unhealthy fats are found in vegetable oils like corn, peanut, and safflower, along with packaged snack foods like chips and crackers. Instead, choose healthy oils—like olive oil, the only oil I cook with—and make healthier choices for snacks—like raw vegetables, popcorn, nuts, or hummus (which is made from chickpeas, or garbanzo beans).
Packaged baked goods are also loaded with sugar and refined carbohydrates, which are top culprits behind inflammation. If you have a sweet tooth, try making your own desserts with whole-grain flour and natural sweeteners like honey or agave. Or, better yet, substitute fresh fruit (including citrus) for dessert—perhaps with some dark chocolate (made with 70 to 85 percent cocoa)!
Truth #5: Beat back inflammation all day long with this breakfast beverage
Some evidence shows that green tea may slow joint damage since it contains nutrients (like antioxidants) that help reduce inflammation and pain. But I don’t usually recommend green tea—because studies show you need to consume a whopping 8 to 16 cups per day to get “therapeutic” amounts.
Instead, I like the science on the health benefits of drinking coffee. A variety of studies show that three to four cups of coffee a day can lower inflammation. Plus, coffee has many other benefits for the brain and body.
Truth #6: Soothe aching joints with this spice rack staple
I always recommend that you consume curcumin (from turmeric, a popular spice in Indian foods like curry) to help reduce inflammation. In fact, it’s one of my ABCs—along with ashwaganda and boswellia—for joint health.
I also recommend not taking Tylenol (acetaminophen, paracetamol) for anything, ever—including arthritis or joint pain. Tylenol may provide some temporary pain relief, but there’s no clear clinical benefits for prevention or reversal of joint disease. Plus, research shows that ongoing use is associated with significant side effects for the liver, gastrointestinal (GI) system, heart, and kidneys.
The good news is, a new study shows that turmeric can be as effective as Tylenol-like paracetamol drugs at reducing joint pain and stiffness.2
Researchers gathered 193 adults with knee osteoarthritis. Each participant took either a specially formulated extract of turmeric (500 mg twice daily), or 650 mg of paracetamol, three times daily, for six weeks.
At the end of the study, the researchers found significant improvements in joint pain and stiffness in the turmeric group compared with the paracetamol group. In fact, nearly a quarter of the people who took turmeric had more than 50 percent improvement in their joint pain and stiffness!
Plus, markers of inflammation were significantly reduced in the turmeric group versus the paracetamol group—indicating that turmeric performs as well as Tylenol. This is a key finding because it shows that turmeric and curcumin actually counter the cause of joint inflammation and pain—while drugs like Tylenol just temporarily reduce symptoms (while also causing serious side effects).
That’s why I recommend cooking with turmeric as often as you can. And for optimum joint health, I also recommend taking 400 to 500 mg each of ashwaganda, boswellia, and curcumin daily, as dietary supplements (taking all three together creates synergistic benefits that go well beyond how each nutrient works individually).
Other strategies for fighting inflammation and arthritis
There’s no doubt that the right diet can certainly help with arthritis and joint pain. Especially when it’s combined with moderate physical activity that doesn’t put joints in danger, like swimming and aquatic exercise and non-drug therapies like acupuncture, bodywork, massage, meditation, and yoga.
To learn more about many other effective, natural approaches for combatting arthritis pain without dangerous drugs or surgeries—and without turning to folklore—check out my Arthritis Relief and Reversal Protocol.
To learn more about this innovative, online learning tool, or to enroll, click here or call 1-866-747-9421 and ask for order code EOV3X700.
How to make your kitchen arthritis-friendly
One of the best ways to make sure you’re eating the right foods (and cutting out the wrong foods and ingredients) for inflammation and arthritis is to do your own cooking. But meal preparation can be physically demanding—especially if you have joint pain.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make cooking easier and more enjoyable. So, go ahead and turn on some music, pour yourself a drink, and whip up a classic, homecooked meal using these simple tips to keep you comfortable while you cook…
Take a seat. You don’t need to stand up for long stretches of time while cooking. Instead, find a sturdy stool that’s the right height for you to perch in front of your counter or range. Then, sit when cutting, chopping, and doing other prep work. This arrangement takes stress off your hips, knees, and ankles.
When you do need to stand, try using a soft, anti-slip kitchen mat (for example, in front of the sink and/or stove) to help protect vulnerable joints.
Rethink and reorganize. Your kitchen doesn’t need to look like a “Better Homes & Gardens” photoshoot. Organize it so you can readily access appliances and commonly used tools
Heavy, less frequently used items can be stored on lower shelves and cabinets, and lighter items can be placed higher up—where you can use a reaching tool to safely get them down.
And remember, water is one of the heaviest items you use in the kitchen. Don’t stress your wrist joints by carrying big pots of water from the sink to the range—instead, put the pot on the range and fill it with water, one cup at a time. Likewise, after cooking or steaming foods, don’t bring the heavy, hot pot to a colander in the sink. Use a slotted spoon or spaghetti server to transfer the food directly from the pot into a plate or bowl.
Hang it up. Many pots and pans have slots or hooks at the ends of their handles, which makes it easy to suspend them from a hanging rack. These racks are affordable, can be attractive, and allow you to easily see and select the right pot or pan without stooping or bending to sort through cabinets.
Get a grip. Many common kitchen utensils are now made with large, soft handles for easy gripping. Or you can make your own with your old favorites by slipping spongy plumber’s pipe insulation onto their handles.
In addition, a damp kitchen towel placed underneath bowls used for prepping will keep them from slipping on smooth countertops. You can also use flat rubber grips—or metal grips with handles for more leverage—to open jars. You can even use big, wide rubber bands from the U.S. Post Office…simply place the band around the lid for added grip support (after washing them off).
Go shopping. It’s worth going out and taking a look at the new, specialized kitchen tools that are good for people with joint pain.
One that caught my eye is a rocking knife, with two handles on either end, that helps you gain leverage while cutting. I also like mandolines, which slice, grate, and julienne fruits and vegetables (you use the same wrist motion as a mandolin player—hence the name). With this trick, you’ll be making your own music in your kitchen!
Get creative. Just because arthritis-friendly kitchen tools are available, that doesn’t mean you need to buy all new utensils. You can modify, adjust, and adapt your old ones.
For example, hard-boiled egg slicers can also be used for cutting small, firm foods like mushrooms. Apple corers and slicers can cut small veggies. And those nice kitchen scissors or shears that often come with knife sets can be used to cut meat.
Rolling pizza cutters can be used for sandwiches and flat foods. And those funny little pronged, skewered corncob holders can be used to pin down items onto cutting boards. (I always recommend wooden cutting boards because they’re more hygienic, and now here’s another reason—try pinning down a food to a plastic board!)
2“Bioavailable turmeric extract for knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, non-inferiority trial versus paracetamol.” Trials 22, 105 (2021).