Unlocking Arthritis Nutrition Therapy: Dietary Strategies for Relief

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Arthritis is inflammation of the joints and the two common types are Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Osteoarthritis (OA). RA is an autoimmune disease consisting of inflammation and swelling in the joint’s interior lining. Chronic pain and permanent joint damage can result from RA. OA is arthritis within the bones accompanied by cartilage loss typically in the hands, hips, knees, and spine.

Cannabis can be an effective tool for managing arthritis symptoms. THC specifically is utilized for targeting pain relief while also utilizing CBD in a cannabis regiment can help with inflammation of the joints. Phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids found within the marijuana and hemp plants) contribute anti-inflammatory properties, in fact THC itself is known to have twice the amount of anti-inflammatory effects compared to hydrocortisone.

Alternative Pain Relief

Cannabis can decrease dosage requirements or potentially even replace the need for opioid medications. Opioid medications include fentanyl, hydrocodone, codeine, oxycodone, methadone, and more. This class of drugs is known for its pain-relieving effects, but with an increased rate for developing an addiction as the opioids also can give off a euphoric feeling. Opioids are also known as opiates, narcotics, or painkillers. Studies show incorporating cannabis within arthritis nutrition therapy with current prescribed opioid medications can increase the pain-relieving effects with high potential for reducing opioid dosage and/or discontinuation of opiates all together with the supervision of a physician.

Beta-Caryophyllene is a common terpene found in cannabis, black pepper, oregano, cloves, basil, hops, and cinnamon described to have an aroma of spicy, peppery, and woody. This terpene in particular is useful in the management of arthritis as it is a very potent anti-inflammatory and it is one of the only terpenes know to act as a cannabinoid (THC, CBD, CBN, etc.) binding and activating the CB2 receptors found within our endocannabinoid systems. CB2 receptors are largely present in immune cells and when activated they produce strong anti-inflammatory effects. Beta-caryophyllene dominant strains include Girl Scout Cookies, Gorilla Glue #4 and Sunset Sherbet. Beta-Caryophyllene is also known to be effective both internally inhaled and ingested, as well as applied topically.


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Dietary Recommendations for Arthritis

When it comes to arthritis management through arthritis nutrition therapy it is important to note there is no particular diet that “cures” arthritis but there are certain foods that are recommended to consume more of and some foods that should be moderated. It is recommended to incorporate whole grains (wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa), whole fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds, as well as legumes (beans, peas, and lentils). An increased consumption of these foods typically is associated with the Mediterranean diet, which is viewed as more of a sustainable, disease-fighting lifestyle change that benefits multiple aspects of health, especially in decreasing inflammation.


The Mediterranean diet consists of foods high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, both target chronic disease and inflammation present in the body. Although, foods that contain a high saturated-fat content and sodium level should be moderated as this can increase inflammatory activity, it is important to focus on what we can add to our dietary intake versus what to avoid or take away, a huge part of nutrition is ensuring you have a healthy relationship with food. Adding more color, texture, and variety to your meals and snacks will lead to satisfaction and nourishment. The goal is to look for realistic, long-term, sustainable changes.
Try increasing intake of the following foods/food groups to target arthritis pain and inflammatory conditions:

  • Aim for 9 servings per day of whole fruit and vegetable intake
  • Incorporate 3-4 ounces of fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna) around 2-3 times per week
  • Try to include a handful, or 1.5 ounces, of nuts and seeds each day (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds)
  • Choose to cook with olive, walnut, avocado, or safflower oils instead of butter
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Food and Inflammation

Micronutrients Vitamin C (citrus fruits), Vitamin K (leafy greens), and Anthocyanins (found in berries) can help reduce joint pain and aid inflammation as these components act as antioxidants reducing the number of damaging cells in the body (called free radicals). Beans, peas, and lentils, all known as the legume family, are also beneficial in fighting arthritic pain. Legumes, especially beans, are loaded with fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that reduce levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of unwanted inflammation in the body. Switch up refined grains for whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, or wheat bread. Try to make half your daily intake of grains come from whole grains as these products have higher amounts of fiber, protein, and micronutrients.

The last family of foods to mention for arthritis nutrition therapy are nightshade vegetables. These vegetables include eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, and red bell peppers and they contain solanine, a chemical reported to cause inflammatory flares and pain. Although keep in mind there is conflicting research and evidence showing the efficacy of this statement and its accuracy. When determining if nightshade vegetables should be avoided or included in dietary intake for managing arthritis, it is important to work with a Registered Dietitian to truly decipher if nightshade vegetables (which are full of nutrients) should be eliminated or included in meals/snacks. Remember there is no one single food or diet that can cure arthritis, but arthritis pain caused by inflammation can be managed through mindful arthritis nutrition therapy with and without the addition of medical cannabis therapy.


References

  1. Backes, M., Weil, A., & McCue, J. D. (2017). Cannabis Pharmacy: The practical guide to medical marijuana. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers.
  2. The ultimate arthritis diet: Arthritis foundation. The Ultimate Arthritis Diet | Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/anti-inflammatory/the-ultimate-arthritis-diet
  3. Khanna, S., Jaiswal, K. S., & Gupta, B. (2017, November 8). Managing rheumatoid arthritis with dietary interventions. Frontiers in nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5682732/

LEARN MORE

Discover the power of nutrition in managing arthritis. Our Registered Dietitian is her to help you explore effective dietary strategies and foods that can help reduce inflammation and improve your well-being. Contact us at (904) 586-0041 to learn more about incorporating medical cannabis into your daily arthritis regimen.

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