Arthritis refers to a set of diseases that are characterized by joint pain and inflammation. There are many different types of arthritis. The most common include:

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of chronic arthritis that occurs most often in people with the skin condition psoriasis. Like other types of arthritis, psoriatic arthritis affects the major joints of the body. These joints can become inflamed and painful. Over a long period of time, they can become damaged.

In people with inflammatory conditions, eating certain foods may either lower inflammation or cause even more damage. Research suggests that specific dietary choices can help reduce disease severity in psoriatic arthritis.

Here are some suggestions of which foods to consume, which foods to avoid, and various diets to try for the management of your psoriatic arthritis.

Anti-inflammatory omega-3s

For people with psoriatic arthritis, anti-inflammatory foods are an important element of potentially reducing painful flare-ups.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). They have been studied extensively in disease management because of their anti-inflammatory properties.

One study on people with psoriatic arthritis looked at the use of PUFA supplementation over a 12-week period. The results showed a decrease in disease activity following supplementation with omega-3s.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a type of omega-3 that is considered essential, as the body can’t make it on its own. ALA can convert to EPA and DHA, which are two other important types of omega-3s. However, the conversion is low, and it’s very important to eat plenty of omega-3 rich foods as part of a well-rounded diet.

The best food sources of omega-3s include:

  • fatty fish such as salmon and tuna
  • olive oil
  • flaxseed oil
  • flax and chia seeds
  • nuts
  • avocados

High-antioxidant fruits and vegetables

In people with certain diseases such as psoriatic arthritis, chronic inflammation can damage the body.

Antioxidants are compounds that reduce the harmful oxidative stress from chronic inflammation.

A recent study found that many people with arthritis have a low antioxidant status. Lack of antioxidants was linked with increased disease activity and disease duration.

There are plenty of natural food sources of antioxidants. Fill your shopping basket with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and spices. And no need to skip the espresso — coffee beans are a great source of antioxidants too!

The best food sources of antioxidants include:

  • dark berries
  • dark, leafy greens
  • nuts
  • dried ground spices
  • dark chocolate
  • tea and coffee

This grocery list can help get you started.

High-fiber whole grains

Obesity is a risk factor for psoriasis and therefore a risk factor for psoriatic arthritis as well.

One of the most common conditions associated with obesity is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is caused by long-term blood sugar problems, most often from a poor diet.

Research suggests that there is a link between obesity, insulin resistance, and chronic inflammation. For people with psoriatic arthritis, weight management and blood sugar control are crucial.

Unprocessed whole grains contain plenty of fiber and nutrients and are digested more slowly. This helps to avoid insulin spikes and keep blood sugar at a healthy level.

The best food sources of whole grains are:

  • corn
  • oats
  • quinoa
  • brown and wild rice

Red meat

Diets high in red meat and processed meat products have been suggested to play a role in weight gain and inflammation.

In one large cohort study, a high intake of fatty, red meat was associated with a higher body mass index (BMI) in both men and women. As the researchers noted, a high BMI is associated with negative changes in the hormones that control hunger and insulin secretion.

What to eat instead:

  • chicken
  • fatty or lean fish
  • nuts
  • beans and legumes

Dairy

According to the National Library of Medicine, roughly 65 percent of people have some form of lactose intolerance. In fact, this number is even higher in certain communities.

Food intolerances and allergies activate the immune system and can cause low-grade, chronic inflammation in the gut.

One small study also found that people who consumed a high-dairy diet for four weeks had higher insulin resistance and fasting insulin levels.

What to eat instead:

  • almond milk
  • soy milk
  • coconut milk
  • hemp milk
  • flax milk
  • plant-based yogurts

Processed foods

Processed foods and drinks are high in excess sugar, salt, and fat. These types of food are linked to inflammatory conditions such as obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels.

In addition, many processed foods are cooked using omega-6 rich oils such as corn, sunflower, and peanut oil.

Omega-6 fatty acids demonstrate a pro-inflammatory pattern, so it’s important to keep their consumption at a reasonable level.

What to eat instead:

  • fresh fruits
  • fresh vegetables
  • whole grains
  • unprocessed lean meats

Gluten-free diet

A gluten-free diet isn’t necessary for everyone with psoriatic arthritis.

However, research suggests that people who have psoriasis tend to have a higher prevalence of celiac disease.

Testing can determine if you’re sensitive to gluten. For people with a sensitivity or with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet can help to reduce the severity of psoriatic flare-ups and improve disease management.

Learn more about the possible connection between psoriatic arthritis and gluten.

Paleo diet

The paleo diet is a popular diet that emphasizes choosing foods like what our ancestors would have eaten.

A recent analysis of the literature shows that in many clinical studies, the paleo diet had positive benefits. It was commonly associated with improvements in BMI, blood pressure, and blood lipid levels, particularly within the first 6 months of the diet.

For people with psoriatic arthritis, keeping metabolic markers healthy has been shown to decrease inflammation and disease severity. However, you’ll want to choose more lean meats over fatty red meats while on a paleo diet, due to the link between red meat and inflammation and disease.

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet has long been called one of the healthiest diets in the world. This diet is high in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and oils. Red meat, dairy, and processed foods are rarely eaten.

One study found that people with osteoarthritis who adhered to a Mediterranean diet for 16 weeks experienced weight loss and reduced inflammation.

Another cross-sectional study reported that those who had higher adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet also benefitted from decreased arthritic pain and disability.

For people with psoriatic arthritis, a healthy diet can greatly help with disease management.

Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and whole grains can help to decrease inflammation and keep metabolic markers stable.

Choose a dietary pattern that decreases the risk of weight gain, insulin resistance, and other chronic conditions.

Discussing these options with your doctor and seeking the advice of a nutrition professional can help you take first steps in managing your psoriatic arthritis.