What Not to Eat When You Have Osteoarthritis

Ask a Doctor

I’ve had osteoarthritis for about a year now, and despite all my medications, it’s getting worse. Is there anything I can do apart from ever-increasing doses of pain meds? For instance, are there foods I shouldn’t eat with osteoarthritis? What’s the osteoarthritis diet?

Doctor’s Response

While there is no specific osteoarthritis diet, supplements of antioxidant vitamins C and E may provide some protection. Vitamin D and calcium are recommended for strong bones. The recommended daily dose of calcium is 1,000 mg-1,200 mg. The current guideline for vitamin D is 400 IU per day.

Other lifestyle changes may also delay or limit osteoarthritis symptoms. These are common home remedies:

  • Weight loss: One study suggested that, for women, weight loss may reduce the risk for osteoarthritis in the knee.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise may help to strengthen the muscles and potentially stimulate cartilage growth. Avoid high-impact sports. The following types of exercise are recommended: range of motion, strengthening, and aerobic.
  • Heat: Hot soaks and warm wax (paraffin) application may relieve pain.
  • Orthoses: These assistive devices, such as neck braces and knee braces, are used to improve function of moveable parts of the body or to support, align, prevent, or correct deformities. Splints or braces help with joint alignment and weight redistribution. Other examples include walkers, crutches or canes, and orthopedic footwear.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications:
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the first drug recommended for osteoarthritis.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used for arthritis pain. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and ketoprofen (Orudis).
    • Newer OTC preparations include chondroitin and glucosamine sulfate, which are natural substances found in the joint fluid. Chondroitin is thought to promote an increase in the making of the building blocks of cartilage (collagen and proteoglycans) as well as having an anti-inflammatory effect. Glucosamine may also stimulate production of the building blocks of cartilage as well as being an anti-inflammation agent. Glucosamine was found to increase blood sugar in animal studies, so people with diabetes should consult their doctor first.
  • Arthritis self-help course: The Arthritis Foundation offers an educational program on the causes and treatment of arthritis. Exercise, nutrition, relaxation, and pain-management programs are covered as well as ways to communicate with your doctor. Completion of the program reduced pain by 20% and doctor visits by 40%.

For more information, read our full medical article on osteoarthritis.

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References
Klippel, John H., et al., eds. Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases. 13th ed. New York: Springer and Arthritis Foundation, 2008

Rennie, N.G., et al. "Presence of Gout Is Associated with Increased Osteoarthritis Prevalence and Severity." Arthritis and Rheumatism 63.10 Oct. 2011.