Inflammatory arthritis and gout sufferers, take note. You may be able to fight the inflammation related to your condition with something that is already in your kitchen. That’s right, blueberries, which we already know are a healthy super-food, are associated with a considerable reduction in inflammation.
How Inflammation Arises in Arthritis
As its name suggests, a major symptom of inflammatory arthritis is an inflammation of the affected joints and sometimes other tissues. Some of the most common conditions under the umbrella of inflammatory arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
All of these are autoimmune diseases, meaning that the immune system goes haywire and begins attacking healthy tissue in the joints. It results in the telltale symptoms of swelling, stiffness, and pain in any joint affected. The dysfunctional immune response produces inflammation in the lining of the joints.
Inflammation in Those With Gout
Arthritis is defined as a painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. Gout, then, is actually another type of inflammatory arthritis, but it develops in individuals with abnormally high levels of uric acid in their blood. People with a family history of gout or those with kidney problems may be more prone to the condition. As the uric acid accumulates, it produces sharp crystals within the joint. This causes pronounced, often sudden bursts of pain, swelling, and tenderness.
Most likely to occur in the big toe joint, gout can also show up in the ankles or knees. It typically strikes men more than women, and men may develop symptoms between the ages of 30 and 50, while women tend to develop gout after menopause.
The Medical Answer to Inflammation
When your physician gives you a diagnosis of inflammatory arthritis or gout, chances are, one of the first things that will be recommended is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to relieve swelling and pain. But even over-the-counter versions of these pharmaceutical medications are not safe, especially as a long-term treatment, which would be necessary to manage a chronic condition.
NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, can provide some quick relief for the symptoms, but they are also linked to serious problems including stomach ulcers, headaches, dizziness, and liver problems. Another common form of medical treatment is the use of corticosteroid pills or injections to reduce inflammation, but these may also bring on side effects such as osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, and cataracts. Even worse, for more severe cases of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, doctors sometimes prescribe drugs that block immune system responses, which elevates the risk of developing infections and makes them much harder to treat when one develops.
Blueberries to the Rescue for Inflamed Joints
Blueberries are chock full of both antioxidants that can help repair damage at the cellular level and polyphenols, which reduce inflammation throughout the body. A 2017 study at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia showed that a diet rich in blueberries is associated with a reduction of markers of inflammation in the blood.1
The polyphenols in blueberries achieve a reduction in inflammation that is ideal because it is natural, with no potentially harmful reactions or side effects. What’s more, when blueberries reduce inflammation in the joints they eliminate symptoms at their source rather than just treating the symptoms for a short period. This can prevent conditions like arthritis and gout from worsening over time.
Extra Health Benefits of Blueberries
In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, blueberries will benefit your health in a number of other ways as well:
- Reducing high blood pressure
- Relieving post-traumatic stress disorder
- Helping to shrink tumors
- Improving cognitive function and possibly reversing dementia
Now is the perfect time to take advantage of these sweet little gems. Blueberries are in season in many areas, and July is even National Blueberry Month, so stock up on fresh local produce and freeze whatever you don’t eat. Once frozen, you can enjoy them for up to 10 months.