Arthritis Today

Need Nutrition Help?

Meeting with a registered dietitian can help you better manage arthritis pain.


While you may not view arthritis as a diet-related condition, the reality is, what you eat impacts your joints more than you think. Studies suggest certain foods could help alleviate arthritis pain and stiffness.

“Antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, particularly those that are rich in vitamins C and E, may help reduce inflammation that is at the crux of many forms of arthritis,” says Karen Ansel, MS, RDN the co-author of The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life. “On the flip side, it may also be beneficial to avoid inflammatory foods, such as red meat and full-fat dairy.”

Whether you’re trying to lose weight to reduce pressure on your joints or wondering which supplements and nutrient-rich foods can help mitigate arthritis pain, a registered dietitian (RD) can offer personalized guidance that also appeals to your taste buds.

What Can a Dietitian Do for Me?

Help You Lose Weight

Excess body weight can increase arthritis-related pain. “In many cases, the most helpful dietary change for people suffering from osteoarthritis is a calorie-controlled diet, which can help them lose weight and relieve pressure on joints,” says Ansel. Unfortunately, with the preponderance of nutrition misinformation available, following such a diet isn’t always easy.

Even for the savviest health nut, navigating the murky seas of nutrition advice can be overwhelming. Fad diets may offer a quick fix, but they won’t sustain you for the long haul. What’s worse, you’re likely to gain back any lost weight – plus more, explains Ruth Frechman, RD and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of The Food is My Friend Diet (Gales Publishing, 2012).

Using creative, out-of-the-box strategies, RDs can help you develop a safe and effective weight loss plan. They also will show you how to plan meals, shop for the most nutrient-rich foods and develop mindful eating practices, so nutrition becomes a source of pleasure, rather than confusion and anxiety.

Help You Pick Arthritis-friendly Foods

Some medications prescribed for arthritis interfere with the absorption of important nutrients. Dietitians can help ensure you’re getting the most out of your food. They also can help you limit potentially harmful food components like saturated fat and sodium.

For people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or gout, consulting a dietitian can be especially beneficial, as certain foods have been shown to exacerbate (or alleviate) these conditions, explains Ansel. “Fish, which can be beneficial for people with RA, can actually lead to gout flare ups, while milk can reduce the risk of gout, but if it’s full-fat, it can increase inflammation for people who have RA.”

Figure Out If Supplements Are Helpful or Hurtful

In some instances, vitamin complexes and nutrient supplements may help alleviate arthritis pain, but it can be tough to weed through the health claims and recognize the facts. “People with arthritis may be spending a lot of money on needless supplements that promise results,” says Frechman. An RD can evaluate and determine which supplements are beneficial and which are better left on the shelf.

Formulate an Exercise Plan Tailored to You

People with arthritis need to keep moving, says Frechman. A dietitian can help people with arthritis make the most of their diets so they feel better, which in turn can help them move more.

How to Find a Nutritionist

When searching for nutrition professional, it’s important to realize that not all nutritionists are created equal, and some aren’t even trained to deliver diet advice. 

“The term ‘nutritionist’ isn’t regulated,” says Frechman. “So while all RDs are nutritionists, not all nutritionists are RDs.” In fact, anyone can claim to be a nutritionist, regardless of whether they’ve completed the appropriate education.

An RD, on the other hand, must complete multiple layers of training. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, RDs must obtain a bachelor’s degree, fulfill an accredited nutrition curriculum, pass a rigorous registration exam, and complete extensive supervised training.

What’s more, about half of all RDs hold advanced graduate degrees and many have earned certifications in specialized fields, including arthritis, diabetes and geriatric nutrition. Iin many cases, insurance covers at least some portion of the cost for visits with a qualified RD; that’s not usually the case with a “nutritionist.” 

“Most insurance companies cover a dietitian for a certain number of visits,” says Frechman. But every policy is different, so check with your provider.

In the meantime, the best eating advice is to follow a balanced diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which can help you maintain a healthy body weight – one of the most important goals for improving arthritis pain.