Bananas for Arthritis

Banana isn't necessarily the best food for arthritis, but it may help relieve aches and swelling. This delicious fruit abounds in antioxidants that fight inflammation. It also contains large doses of potassium, which may further help relieve joint pain and improve bone health.

Arthritis often causes intense ongoing pain in the joints of the hands. Credit: desk006/iStock/Getty Images

Can Diet Relieve Arthritis Symptoms?

More than 54 million Americans have some form of arthritis, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 43.5 percent find it difficult to function in their daily life because of it. The number of sufferers is expected to reach 78.4 million by 2040.

Arthritis is actually an umbrella term for over 100 disorders, such as osteoarthritis, gout, lupus and fibromyalgia. These diseases are typically characterized by pain and inflammation. Treatment options depend on the root cause and symptoms of the disease. In severe cases, joint surgery may be needed.

Read more: 9 Moves You Can Do Every Day for Better Joint Mobility

A growing body of research indicates that diet may help alleviate arthritis symptoms. Although no single food can cure this disease, you can manage pain and swelling through dietary changes. A review published in the journal Reumatologia in August 2018 discusses the role of nutrition in arthritis prevention and treatment. Researchers point out that certain foods, especially those high in fat, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may increase the odds of developing this disorder.

For example, one study from Reumatologia has found that people who consumed fruit drinks, soda and other foods or beverages rich in fructose or sugar more than five times per week were three times more likely to develop arthritis. Citrus fruits, mushrooms and dairy may have a protective effect. Orange juice, for instance, is high in beta-cryptoxanthin, an antioxidant that may help prevent this disease.

Bananas and Arthritis

Bananas are not a typical choice for arthritis sufferers. These fruits, though, may help relieve pain and swelling due to their anti-inflammatory properties, reports a November 2017 review published in Frontiers in Nutrition. As the scientists note, certain foods, including bananas, pomegranates, dried plums, olive oil, ginger and turmeric, fight inflammation and may improve arthritis symptoms. When consumed regularly, they may reduce joint damage and slow the progression of this disease.

Read more: 16 Surprising Facts About Bananas

A small study featured in the Open Sports Sciences Journal in September 2019 confirms the anti-inflammatory effects of banana. Healthy men who consumed two ripe bananas daily for one month experienced a reduction in plasma interleukin-23 (IL-23), a pro-inflammatory cytokine. Another small study, published in the Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences in July 2014, found that rheumatoid arthritis patients had significantly higher levels of IL-23, indicating greater disease activity.

Banana is also an excellent source of potassium. One serving (about 4.4 ounces) delivers 10 percent of the daily recommended intake for this mineral. According to a January 2018 review featured in the Rheumatology Research Journal, potassium may help ease arthritis pain, reduce inflammation and improve bone health. Researchers recommended eating potassium-rich fruits and vegetables rather than taking this mineral in supplement form.

Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Current evidence indicates a link between bananas and inflammation. Rich in potassium and other phytochemicals, these fruits may help reduce swelling, which in turn, can ease joint pain and improve your range of motion. Bananas alone won't cure arthritis, but they may improve your symptoms when consumed as part of an anti-inflammatory diet.

The Arthritis Foundation recommends switching to a Mediterranean-style diet, which is rich in omega-3s, lean protein, fiber and antioxidants. This eating pattern isn't just healthy, but delicious too. Your meals may include:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Poultry and lean meat (in small amounts)

Fish and fish oil supplements, for example, are chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients may lower inflammatory cytokines, reduce joint swelling and decrease morning stiffness, points out the Arthritis Foundation. The same goes for nuts and seeds, which boast high doses of omega-3s. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, and may help relieve inflammation.

The Arthritis Foundation states that nightshades, which are otherwise healthy, may worsen arthritis pain in some people — although there's no scientific explanation for it. These include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and others. Researchers believe that solanine, a colorless alkaloid, may be the culprit. Consider eliminating nightshades from your diet for a few weeks to see how your body reacts.

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