Your knees are stiff in the morning - your fingers don’t quite work like they used to…
Living with arthritis pain and other arthritis symptoms can make even the simplest tasks, like getting up from a chair, seem like a chore.
But stiffness, soreness, and joint pain isn’t something you just need to grin and bear.
If you’re looking to manage your arthritis symptoms, one common practice is using medical nutrition therapy and a bit of trial and error to find the best diet for arthritis -- and your body. The idea behind this is that you can heal your body or decrease your arthritis symptoms from the outside in. After all, your diet directly correlates with how your body functions, and how you feel day-to-day.
So, let’s dive deep into what makes the best diet for arthritis symptom management - so you can get back to an active, pain-free lifestyle.
What is the best diet for arthritis?
The food that you eat is directly related to the health of your body. So, if you are feeding your body the right nutrients, it can help manage certain health conditions, like arthritis.
When changing your diet for health reasons, it is beneficial to get a doctor’s referral for medical nutrition therapy sessions with a dietitian or nutritionist. This way, you’ll have an expert to help you design the best diet for arthritis that will work with your lifestyle and any other medical issues you may be experiencing.
Even without a nutritionist, there are some simple changes you can make to your diet that can make a huge difference in your arthritis symptoms.
Since common forms of arthritis are primarily caused by inflammation, avoiding inflammatory foods - and adding anti-inflammatory foods - is one of the most important dietary changes. Adding in plenty of antioxidants and vitamin C to your diet may reduce future inflammation or keep any existing issues at bay.
Both antioxidants and vitamin C help your body synthesize collagen naturally, which is a key component to your bone, ligament and joint health.
Let’s break down the different dietary changes you could try implementing in your search for the best diet for arthritis.
Antioxidants for arthritis management
Key tip: it’s not the best diet for arthritis pain if it doesn’t contain antioxidants.
Even if you don’t have arthritis, adding some antioxidants to your diet can be beneficial. Antioxidants are what help protect your body from free radicals. This essentially means that they inhibit oxidation.
Oxidation is the chemical process in your body that produces free radicals. Free radicals are what lead to chain reactions that cause damage to your cells. When you eat antioxidants, your body uses them to terminate these damaging free radical reactions.
Foods that commonly contain high levels of antioxidants include:
- Anything with vitamin C
This is relevant to arthritis pain because oxidative stress in your body is often correlated with inflammatory conditions, like arthritis.
If antioxidants are attacking and stopping oxidative reactions caused by free radicals, then it is possible that some inflammation may decrease-- therefore helping manage arthritis pain and keep any future symptoms of arthritis from appearing.
Vitamin C for arthritis management
One of the most powerful antioxidants you can consume is vitamin C. And, depending on the type of arthritis, vitamin C can be extra beneficial.
For instance, those that experience rheumatoid arthritis, or other types of autoimmune arthritis, may benefit more from increased levels of vitamin C, which may help strengthen your immune system, among other things.
Autoimmune-created arthritis conditions are caused when your body attacks healthy cells by mistake. This will cause inflammation and pain in your joints due to gradual deterioration.
Vitamin C is not only a powerful antioxidant, but it also can be a cofactor in collagen synthesis, and can curb inflammation and infection related to arthritis flares. So, vitamin C is definitely something to consider in your search for the best diet for arthritis pain management.
Foods that contain high levels of vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits
- Tropical fruits
- Leafy greens
- Bell peppers (all colors)
- Sweet potatoes and winter squash
Collagen for arthritis management
As many ProT Gold readers know, collagen may promote overall joint health and a faster recovery after surgery. But is collagen good for arthritis?
If you have arthritis, then you’ll know that the main player in your pain is your joints. This is largely because of inflammation or damage to joint structures like cartilage.
That’s where collagen comes in.
Collagen is the most prolific protein found in the human body. You can create it naturally, but as early as age 25, you start to produce less collagen. Your body will still use up the available collagen being produced, but if a major joint structure is damaged, your body may not be able to repair it fully -- or as quickly as you could in your younger years.
Maintaining protein structures fully gets more and more difficult as you age, and that’s why adding in some extra collagen or collagen boosting foods to your diet can be helpful.
Foods that naturally contain collagen include:
- Bone broth
- Fish (with skin)
- Pigs Feet
Why might collagen help alleviate arthritis symptoms?
Since so much of your joint structure consists of collagen, it makes some sense that adding extra collagen may help curb some arthritis symptoms.
Still, how exactly does collagen help your joints?
When you consume collagen protein, your body breaks down the molecules into the original amino acid forms of glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. Since your body has been provided with the proper tools, these amino acids can then be applied in the areas of most need to rebuild collagen protein structures.
This means that, if parts of your joints are damaged, like the cartilage or the synovial membrane, your body can begin to repair those areas. By taking an easily digestible collagen protein, your body can start to repair itself, and your arthritis symptoms may also improve.
But let’s talk about what we mean by “easily-digestible” for a moment.
Although you can get some collagen from animal products you prepare in the kitchen, this type of collagen isn’t always very bioavailable in your body due to the large molecule size and sometimes inconsistent serving sizes.
This means your body may not be processing as much collagen as you think it is.
That’s why taking a collagen supplement that has undergone a process called hydrolysis is important when trying to find the best diet for arthritis.
What is the best type of collagen for arthritis?
While it may be tempting to grab any old collagen supplement - or just eat more chicken or fish to try and get your collagen fix for the day - not all collagen is created equal.
When working on the best diet for arthritis, (and looking for a collagen supplement to add to that diet) first look for hydrolyzed collagen. Finding easily digestible collagen is important for synthesis and application in your body.
When collagen is in its complete form, it is far too big to fit into your stomach pores, so most of it goes to waste. You will simply pass it instead of digesting it fully.
Hydrolyzed collagen, however, goes through the process of hydrolysis, which breaks down the molecules of the protein to be small enough to fit into the tiny pores in the lining of your stomach.
Once you know the collagen is hydrolyzed, then it is time to look at the specific type of collagen. There are many different types of collagen on the market, and they all are good for different things like skin health, improving joint structure, etc.
Since you are focusing on the best diet for arthritis, specifically, it makes sense to go for a collagen supplement that targets your joints.
Type 2 Collagen
Type 2 collagen comes specifically from cartilage in animal products. Though there is no vegan alternative for this type of collagen, it is the most beneficial type to consume when it comes to your joint and cartilage health.
You see, all collagen is made up of three amino acids: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. These amino acids form a chain of amino acid molecules.
What differentiates type 2 collagen from other types of collagen is that all three chains of amino acids are identical. These tightly packed networks of fibrils and fibers are the main components that cartilage in your body is made up of.
Type 2 collagen is what gives your cartilage the elasticity and strength it needs to cushion and protect your joint bones as you move.
Because your cartilage is used every time you move - absorbing shock and allowing your bones to move without friction - it is prone to wear and tear. This normal wear and tear, combined with decreased production of cartilage over time or an autoimmune response, can accelerate cartilage deterioration.
Since type 2 collagen is only found in cartilage, the amino acid chains are specifically geared towards synthesis in your body’s cartilage structure.
So, when you take type 2 collagen, you are providing your body with the necessary ingredients to repair damaged cartilage and strengthen joints that may have become weakened or stiff due to arthritis.
Type 1 Collagen
Although type 2 collagen is thought to be the most effective for joint health and is a great addition for patients experiencing arthritis symptoms, type 1 collagen does a good job protecting ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues, as well. And these are also vital joint structures.
Unlike type 2 collagen, type 1 collagen has two of the three amino acid chains that are identical. This microscopic difference is what makes type 1 collagen interact with your body differently than type 2 collagen.
Although your cartilage needs a lot of extra support when you have arthritis, other joint structures could use some collagen, too.
Your bones, ligaments, and other connective tissues are all prone to damage when one part of your joint is inflamed or damaged. So, it is important to keep all aspects of your joint structure strong and healthy.
Since the amino acid chains in type 1 collagen are different from those in type 2 collagen, your body applies them to different areas.
With all of that in mind, it could be helpful to consider getting a collagen supplement that emphasizes type 2 collagen but also includes some type 1 collagen. Having a blend is more likely to give your body a more balanced boost in collagen production.
Try adding some collagen to your diet
Finding the best diet for arthritis will be a personal journey, and depending on your current lifestyle, it may require some major changes. That said, working with a dietitian or nutritionist could help you get on the right track.
When looking for the best collagen supplement for arthritis management, look for one that is hydrolyzed and contains type 1 and type 2 collagen. Some collagen supplements may have more than those two types of collagen, and that’s fine, but make sure you know how much of each type is included.
If possible, find one that is primarily type 2 collagen to support your cartilage, and just has a few other types to add some balance to collagen synthesis in your body.
One such option is ProT Gold, a nano-hydrolyzed complete protein that can be digested in 15 minutes. As soon as you take this supplement, your body will start working to heal itself and your joints.
Plus, it is ready to drink-- no mixing required, making it easy to take no matter where you are, or what you have going on that day.
While collagen can be an exceptionally beneficial part of your diet, in order to have the very best diet for arthritis, you should remember to include plenty of antioxidants like vitamin C to help process the additional amino acids.
It's crazy to think that a few extra fruits and a simple supplement could help so much, but even the smallest dietary changes can make all the difference in managing your arthritis pain.