How a Dietitian Can Be a Valuable Ally in Arthritis Management

Updated July 2023

A strategy to help manage arthritis symptoms and improve overall wellbeing is seeking the guidance of an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD).

A dietitian can play a crucial role in helping individuals with arthritis make healthy dietary choices that can reduce symptoms, inflammation, and enhance their quality of life.

In this article, we will explore how a dietitian can be a valuable ally in arthritis management.

Personalised Nutrition Guidance

Each person's experience with arthritis is unique, and the impact of dietary choices can vary among everyone. A dietitian takes a personalised approach, considering factors such as the type of arthritis, its severity, any related health conditions, medication usage, and individual dietary preferences.

By tailoring the dietary recommendations to the specific needs and goals of someone with arthritis, the dietitian can optimise the effectiveness of dietary interventions.

Is there a diet for arthritis?

Unfortunately, no diet has been proven by research to cure arthritis. There is also very little proof that specific foods have an effect on arthritis.

Some people with arthritis report improvements after avoiding certain foods. However, arthritis symptoms usually vary day to day, which makes it hard to know if a change in symptoms is because of a particular change in food or just coincidence.

The best diet for arthritis is a healthy, balanced one which helps us to maintain a healthy weight, look after our general health, and to prevent other medical problems.

A dietitian may recommend an eating plan that includes foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and other anti-inflammatory compounds that may help with your arthritis symptoms. These foods may include colorful fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and whole grains.

What is a healthy diet?

In Australia, the Australian Dietary Guidelines provide up-to-date advice about the amount and kinds of foods that we need to eat for health and wellbeing. 

Following the dietary patterns recommended in the Guidelines, helps us to ensure we get enough of the nutrients our body needs for good health. It also helps us to reduce our risk of chronic health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity.

Following a healthy eating pattern can help maintain a healthy weight. This is essential for managing arthritis, as excess weight can place additional stress on the joints. Weight management may  significantly improve joint function and reduce pain for people with arthritis.

What do dietitians do?

  • Dietitians are experts in food and nutrition. They provide advice about healthy eating, weight loss and diets for medical conditions, such as diabetes. 
  • Some people with arthritis may experience nutrient deficiencies due to medication side effects, dietary restrictions, or changes in appetite. A dietitian can identify and address these nutrient deficiencies through dietary adjustments or recommend appropriate supplements when necessary.
  • They work in a range of settings including hospitals, community health clinics, and private clinics. 
  • Dietitians are trained to translate scientific nutrition information into practical advice. This means they can help to improve our understanding of the ways different foods affect our health. They can also help us identify the changes we can make to our diet to improve health and wellbeing. 
  • One of the most significant advantages of working with a dietitian is the education and empowerment they provide. Dietitians equip people with knowledge and practical skills to make informed decisions about their diet and lifestyle.
  • Dietitians can clarify myths and misconceptions about diet and arthritis, helping people adopt dietary choices that best suit their needs and align with their personal health goals.

Do I need to see a dietitian?

Not everyone with arthritis will need to see a dietitian. However, a dietitian may be of help to some people with arthritis if they: 

  • Need dietary advice and support to make healthier food choices
  • Need dietary advice and support to help with weight loss or weight gain - Extra body weight increases the stress on many joints, particularly the knees, hips and lower back. If you are overweight, losing weight helps to decrease the stress on joints and reduce pain.
  • Have, or are at risk of, another health condition which requires specific dietary recommendations - Many people living with arthritis often also have one or more other chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, coeliac disease, etc.

Finding a dietitian

Dietitians work in both public and private health systems and fall into the group of health professionals called 'allied health professionals'. To see an allied health professionals, speak to your GP about organising a GP Management Plan.

GP management plans (GPMP) and team care arrangements (TCA) can help people with a chronic health condition to access needed care from a range of allied health professionals.

To find a dietitian you can search the Dietitians Australia Find an Accredited Practising Dietitian search engine to help you find one in your area. 

More information on diet and arthritis

How can we help? 

Healthy eating and arthritis information sheet (2017). Arthritis Australia
The Guidelines - Eat for Health(2020). Australian Government, NHMRC
Why choose an Accredited Practising Dietitian. Dietitians Australia

Your gift will help fund self-management courses, education seminars and will provide individual support for people living with arthritis.