Arthritis: Does diet play a role in treatment?

Arthritis (Sometimes referred to as inflammation) is the swelling and tenderness of your joints. This may occur in a single joint or more than one joint. Arthritis affects both males, females, and children but much more common in older adults. Typically, two bones meet at a point called a “joint” and are covered by a hard, slippery tissue called cartilage, arthritis causes the cartilage to break down thereby leading to friction between two bones.

In Nigeria, the true incidence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) remains unknown but the estimated incidence of RA in a Nigerian urban city has been estimated to be 12.3% with an average age of 46.9 years. Women are about two times more likely to develop arthritis than men ( ratio 2.4: 1)

Types of Arthritis

There are over 100 medically identified arthritis. The common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid, and gout. Others include:

For the three (3) common types of arthritis; osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout, inflammation always occurs. This inflammation process could be due to obesity, overload of uric acids, or your immune system attacking healthy body cells.

What Signs Should I look out for?

Since there a lot of arthritis, your symptoms would vary on the type you have. An accurate diagnosis would go a long way to help spot the type and give adequate treatment. Some common symptoms to look out for are:

  • Joint pain, tenderness, and stiffness.
  • Inflammation in and around the joints.
  • Restricted movement of the joints.
  • Warm red skin over the affected joint.
  • Weakness and muscle wasting.

 What causes Arthritis?

There are different types of arthritis, so there are also different causes for each type.

  • Injury (osteoarthritis).
  • Metabolic abnormalities as elevated levels of uric acid (gout).
  • Hereditary factors.
  • Bacterial and viral effects (whether directly or indirectly).
  • Inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis).

What are the Possible Risk Factors?

  • Obesity: This has always been cited as a risk factor for osteoarthritis especially in women. This occurs as the load-bearing joint (knee mostly) tends to be under so much pressure. However, recent research has opened our eyes to understand that it may not be just obesity itself, but other related factors that often go along with obesity as well, such as chronic systemic inflammation or insulin resistance that can contribute to the deterioration of joint bones and aggravate symptoms in osteoarthritis/rheumatoid arthritis. The inflammatory process is associated with excess fat tissues.
  • Diet: High intake of diet containing alcohol, red meat, saturated fats, and some kinds of seafood are the major risk of excess levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. These excess levels of uric acid in the bloodstream flows into joint spaces thereby causing gout.
  • Age: Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, but the typical onset age is 30-55 years.
  • Occupation: Some certain occupations like hairdressing, carpentry, sewing, etc, could increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knees and hands.
  • Genetics: Studies have indicated that osteoarthritis is majorly hereditary 40% of the time.

Are there Treatment Options?

There is really no specified treatment for arthritis, but it can be managed with diet, lifestyle modifications, physiotherapy, and medications.

Dietary Considerations

  • Anti-inflammatory Diet: intake of diets high in refined starches, sugar, and saturated and trans fats contained in processed foods, and commercially fried foods are likely to trigger the release of pro-inflammatory substances thereby leading to arthritis. These types of diets should be restricted totally. Increasing the intake of oats, psyllium, or okra, nuts (about a handful daily), soy protein, avocado, fatty fish, and some spices such as ginger and turmeric have been shown to reduce inflammation in people affected by arthritis.
  • Vitamin D Supplements: Vitamin D is essential for bone and cartilage health and also muscular strength and balance. Taking a daily vitamin D supplement (e.g. 10- 25 µg/day), especially during the winter months, will help to ensure sufficient status throughout the year.
  • Vitamin K-rich foods: These may influence arthritis through their role in making bone and cartilage and also making calcium accessible by the body. Although little evidence is given for its role in helping individuals with arthritis, it is important to have it incorporated into the diet. Certain fats and oils (e.g. olive oil, margarine) and liver meat contain small amounts of vitamin K and may also help absorb foods.
  • Low Purine Diet: Gout patients are advised to take off foods that are high in purines from their diet. These foods include red meat, shellfish, alcohol, corn syrup.


The ultimate goal is mostly focused on optimal treatment and management of symptoms.

It’s imperative to seek help once you notice even the slightest joint pain and stiffness.

Though there is no definite cure for Osteoarthritis, some dietary considerations can be put in place to help manage it when it occurs.

Most likely, to prevent it, it’s important to stay fit and exercise enough to avoid being overweight.




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