Drink to Your Joint Health
Plain everyday water is a safe bet if you suffer from arthritis pain, but other beverages require a closer look.
What you drink may affect how you feel, or at least how your joints feel if you have arthritis. Some fluids and beverages are highly recommended, others are just okay, and a few should be limited or avoided.
"Eight cups of water a day has been the standard recommendation for years," says Desiree Parella, MS, RD, LD, Inpatient Dietitian at Cleveland Clinic, "but individual needs may vary depending on the amount of exercise a person gets, the climate, overall health conditions, and even gender."
The exact amount is somewhat of a moving target. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies claims that men should consume 13 cups of fluids a day, while women are advised to drink nine cups.
The standard eight ounces a day—eight cups of water in addition to everything else you drink—seems like a lot, but don’t panic. One cup of water is eight ounces and it’s also one glass, but not a tall glass. Use your containers at home to determine which glasses hold how many ounces of water.
Getting the right amount of water, whether it’s a few more or few less than eight cups a day, does all sorts of good things for your overall health, as well as for your arthritis. Among them: It moves nutrients easily throughout your body, it hydrates your cells, it enables metabolic activity, and it reduces arthritic pain by filling the spaces between your joints.
Other fluids can also count toward your eight cups of water per day, assuming they are arthritis-friendly beverages. Here’s a lineup of the good, the bad, and the in-between.
"Aim for at least three servings of calcium and vitamin D-rich milk products a day," Parella says, "or the equivalent in calcium-fortified orange juice or a nutritional supplement drink." Whole milk, however, is high in calories, which can add weight and contribute to increased pressure on joints. Low-fat or skim milk are healthier choices.
"Green tea is particularly rich in polyphenols—substances rich in antioxidants—called catechins," says Parella. "Catechins in green tea can neutralize free radicals and may reduce some of the problems they cause, including inflammation and joint damage. Two or three cups per day can help."
The high concentration of vitamin C in one cup of 100 percent orange juice makes it an excellent source for meeting nutritional requirements, according to Parella. Anti-inflammatory drugs taken by arthritis patients tend to deplete the body’s store of vitamin C.
Be careful, however, with grapefruit juice. Chemicals in grapefruit juice can interfere with enzymes that metabolize, or break down, drugs in your digestive system.
Drink caffeinated coffee, soft drinks, and tea in moderation—two cups or less per day. "Too much caffeine can lead to bone loss if you do not consume enough calcium," warns Parella.
Some sodas contain phosphoric acid, which can prevent calcium from being absorbed. The long-term effect is an increased risk of osteoporosis.
"If you drink, do so in moderation," says Parella. "One or two glasses of alcohol at most per day." Alcohol is dehydrating, can cause stomach problems when consumed with anti-inflammatory drugs, and can make some forms of arthritis—gout, for example—worse.
Back to basics
Approximately 20 percent of fluid needs are met in the foods we eat. The other 80 percent is derived from beverages. Safe beverages promote health and may even reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Enjoy them, but when in doubt, there is always the water option. It may not be exciting, but it’s safe, inexpensive, and available.