Nutrition for Arthritis Relief
Water and a Plant-Based Diet
by Nancy Hearn, CNC

arthritis knee pain

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The best nutrition for arthritis is to first drink enough water daily to stay hydrated. Some foods can also provide relief from arthritis pain, but to fully understand the benefits, it helps to understand the underlying causes.

Even though the causes of arthritis are complex, the primary causes are threefold, according to Dr. John McDougall

In general, joints become inflamed because of (1) bacterial infection, (2) injury or trauma from sprains, strains or tears, or (3) the accumulation of uric acid crystals.  

The dietary causes for join inflammation are largely associated with the intestines and immune system. 

I also believe that chronic or severe dehydration is an underlying factor for arthritis pain and a precursor to problems with the intestines and immune system.

Dehydration Effects

The cartilage surfaces of bones in a joint contain a lot of water. This water is utilized in the cartilage, providing the lubrication needed for two opposing surfaces of bone to freely glide over one another during joint movement. 

Thus, initially, arthritis pain is an indicator of water deficiency in the joint cartilage surfaces. For some arthritis pain, another contributing factor may be a salt shortage. See Water and Salt for more information.

Intestinal Permeability

Various clinical studies have shown that many people with inflammatory arthritis also have intestinal permeability, often called “leaky gut.” Intestinal permeability has many causes but I believe dehydration may be the initial cause.

A diet that is high in animal protein, dairy and gluten can further exacerbate intestinal permeability. Intermittent fasting has proven to be highly effective at decreasing intestinal permeability and decreasing joint pain. 

Immune System

Intestinal permeability can lead to the formation of large groups of foreign proteins and antibodies in the blood stream from foods and bacteria.

A plant-based, gluten-free diet allows the immune system to remove these foreign proteins (also called antigens) and antibodies from the lymph and circulatory systems.

Nutrition for Arthritis Relief

The best nutrition for arthritis relief comes water nutrition as well as plant-based diets that contain no dairy or animal protein.

Numerous clinical studies have shown that vegan diets are the most effective for providing arthritis relief. Vegan diets reduce the amount of unhealthy fats in the diet, which significantly supports immune processes involved with arthritis. 

The wide range of antioxidants and phytonutrients found in vegetables and fruits are a key factor. 

Best Foods to Eat

According to Dr. Neal Barnard and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, certain foods rarely ever contribute to joint pain or arthritis.  He suggests eating a generous amount of the following foods for arthritis relief or any other type of joint pain; cooked or dried fruits; green, yellow and orange vegetables (such as spinach, chard, kale, green beans, asparagus, artichokes, winter squash, yellow squash, sweet potatoes) and small amounts of salt, vanilla extract and maple syrup.

The only beverage he recommends is water.

Foods to Avoid

All dairy products should be avoided since they tend to cause the most severe reactions for people with arthritis.  This includes foods such as all forms of milk (including skim or no-fat milk), goat's milk, cottage cheese, shredded or block cheese, cream cheese and yogurt.

Other major arthritis trigger foods include all meats (chicken, turkey, beef, pork and fish), as well as foods with gluten, wheat, oats, rye, corn, tomatoes, white potatoes, eggs, nuts, citrus fruits and coffee.


F. Batmanghelidj, M.D.; Your Body’s Many Cries for Water; 2008.

Return from Nutrition for Arthritis to Water Nutrition - The Foundation of Good Health  

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Visitor Comments

"This was the best and most straight forward info on the net yet. I asked a question and got an answer that made sense. Thank you so much!" - Linderlinder

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"Thank you for the information, Nancy. I appreciate it. Your article and findings are very helpful,  referring to dehydration." -  Carolyn

"Lemon water is one drink both my wife and I can't drink. It upsets our stomachs. We are in our sixties and in very good healthwell, better health now that we drink about 2 liters plus of water each day. It has made so much difference to our digestive systems and recovery every day. Thank you for your website and effort." - Rod