An anti-inflammatory diet may reduce chronic pain caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as other types of inflammatory arthritis, such as psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. 1 van Vugt RM, Rijken PJ, Rietveld AG, van Vugt AC, Dijkmans BA. Antioxidant intervention in rheumatoid arthritis: results of an open pilot study. Clin Rheumatol. 2008 Jun;27(6):771-5. doi: 10.1007/s10067-008-0848-6. Epub 2008 Feb 15. PubMed PMID: 18274814; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2367388. , 2 Lassus A, Dahlgren AL, Halpern MJ, Santalahti J, Happonen HP. Effects of dietary supplementation with polyunsaturated ethyl ester lipids (Angiosan) in patients with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. J Int Med Res. 1990 Jan-Feb;18(1):68-73. PubMed PMID: 2139859.

See Suffering and Chronic Pain

One example of an anti-inflammatory diet is the popular Mediterranean diet. No matter what it is labeled, an anti-inflammatory diet discourages eating processed foods and encourages eating vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon and anchovies canned in oil.

See Food and Fibromyalgia: What to Know

In addition to potentially reducing chronic arthritis pain, anti-inflammatory diets tend to promote long-term health.

See How to Understand Chronic Pain vs. Acute Pain

How Could Certain Foods Suppress Arthritis Inflammation?

While inflammation is essential to the human immune system, it is also at the root of most types of arthritis pain. In addition, as people age their metabolisms change, and they are more prone to inflammation, even when they are not sick or injured. 3 Vel Szic KS, Declerck K, Vidaković M, Vanden Berghe W. From inflammaging to healthy aging by dietary lifestyle choices: is epigenetics the key to personalized nutrition? Clinical Epigenetics. 2015;7(1):33. doi:10.1186/s13148-015-0068-2. Certain foods may facilitate or exacerbate this unnecessary inflammation.

In order to understand how foods might suppress arthritis inflammation—or, alternatively, lead to inflammation—it is essential to understand free radicals, oxidative stress, and antioxidants.

Free radicals. Free radicals (sometimes referred to as reactive oxygen species) are negatively charged atoms or molecules. By their very nature, free radicals search for other atoms or positively charged molecules to bond with (oxidation). The creation of free radicals is part of the body’s normal metabolism, but too many free radicals may be promoted by certain behavioral factors, including smoking or consuming certain foods.


Oxidative stress. The body naturally neutralizes and processes some free radicals, but too many free radicals can overwhelm the body’s system and create an imbalance. This imbalance is called oxidative stress.

Inflammation. Oxidative stress is associated with chronic inflammation. Many experts suspect that oxidative stress begins a bio-chemical cascade that promotes inflammation and over time can lead to related degenerative diseases, such as arthritis.

See Degenerative Arthritis

Antioxidants. Free radicals can be trapped and neutralized by antioxidants. Antioxidants can come from within the body or are consumed in the form of food or anti-inflammatory medications.

See Dietary Supplements for Treating Arthritis


An anti-inflammatory diet cuts down or eliminates foods suspected of causing oxidative stress and encourages the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants.

Watch: Video: The Best-Tasting Anti-Inflammatory Cocktail You've Never Tried

Dr. Vijay Vad is a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, where he specializes in back pain, knee arthritis, frozen shoulder, and general sports medicine. He previously served as a physician for the professional men’s tennis circuit and on the Westchester Classic of the PGA Tour.