Live Well with Diabetes and Arthritis

If you have diabetes and arthritis, you may have wondered if they are related. The answers is,” It depends.” Whether diabetes and arthritis are related depends on your age, the type of diabetes you have, the kind of arthritis you have, your lifestyle and the medications or supplements you take.

Both diabetes and arthritis are chronic diseases. As you age, your chances for having chronic diseases increases. Also as we get older, many of us tend to get heavier. This extra weight adds stress on your joints, which can lead to inflammation and eventually a form of arthritis.


There is more than one type of diabetes and there is more than one type of arthritis. As you already know, the two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. The two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (or degenerative) and rheumatoid arthritis. Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are both auto-immune diseases, meaning your body fights against another part of your body. In the case of type 1 diabetes, your body destroys the cells that make insulin. With rheumatoid arthritis, your body fights the linings of your joints. Both type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are more common among younger people.

Type 2 diabetes is related to aging, being overweight and being sedentary. Degenerative, or osteoarthritis, is also related to getting older and being overweight, which results in inflammation of the joints. Inflammation is the pain, redness and swelling that occurs when you have an injury or infection. Inflammation can raise blood glucose levels—leading to diabetes.


The medicines you take for arthritis are used to reduce the inflammation, swelling and pain. Some of these medicines increase insulin resistance and can raise your blood glucose levels. Steroids such as prednisone can” bring out” type 2 diabetes. This is sometimes called chemical diabetes or steroid-induced diabetes. Steroids do not really cause diabetes, but they can bring it out earlier in people who are at risk. Some other medications used to fight inflammation are called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include ibuprophen and naproxen sodium. Another class of medications used to fight inflammation is called COX-2 inhibitors. This includes Celebrex (celecoxib).If you take steroids for the pain and swelling of arthritis, your blood glucose is likely to increase. Usually, when you decrease or stop your medicine, your numbers will return to where they were before you started taking the medicine. So if your diabetes was brought on by the steroids, your diabetes may go away if you stop taking them. However, you will be at risk for diabetes in the future. If you are taking NSAIDs or COX-2s, you need to keep a close eye on your blood glucose. Because pain also can raise your blood glucose, pain relief may cause your blood glucose to come down. Whenever you take medication, remember to keep an eye on all of your numbers, not just your blood glucose. Make sure to know your weight, your blood pressure and the lab reports of your kidney function. Besides giving you some relief, some arthritis medications can cause ulcers and bleeding and can affect your heart and your kidneys, causing swelling and increased blood pressure—especially if you have diabetes.


Many people who have arthritis take the supplement glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, or a combination of both to improve joint health. Before taking a supplement, you should first talk with your health care provider to discuss what effect they may have on your diabetes care regimen.


When you are stiff and in pain from your arthritis, it may be hard to do all of the things you want to do to care for your diabetes. Just getting up in the morning can be hard. The hassle and costs of health care visits and taking medicines for both illnesses can seem like a lot to deal with. Just remember that high blood glucose levels increase your sense of pain. Being physically active and losing weight can help reduce the pain, as well as your glucose level. Therefore, taking care of your diabetes may also help you mange your arthritis.


  1. Diet. Make sure to eat healthy and don’t skip meals. The medicines you take for arthritis are hard on your stomach. You will have less stomach upset if you take the medicines with meals.
  2. Weight. If you are overweight, losing even 5 to 10 percent of your weight can lower your blood glucose and can make things easier on your joints.
  3. Attitude. It is common to be depressed when you have diabetes and when you are in pain. Steroids can cause or increase depression. Be sure to tell your health care provider if you have any signs of depression. A positive outlook helps you manage both your diabetes and your arthritis.
  4. Medications. Take your medications and supplements as prescribed. Watch out for interactions. An important safety rule for arthritis medicines is never to stop taking them suddenly, even if you are having side effects or your blood glucose level goes up. You need to stop taking these medicines gradually. Call you health care provider if you are having problems and ask how to taper your dose.
  5. Physical activity. Move more. Physical activity can help lower your blood glucose and reduce the stiffness from arthritis. Work with your health care provider to design an activity plan that is safe for both your diabetes and your joints and will help you live well with diabetes.
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Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN—an award-winning RD, certified diabetes educator, and past national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the author of The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes, which received the Favorably Reviewed designation from the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes.

Dr. Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC, CLC, the best-selling author of “Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! and leading health and weight loss expert, is also known as “The Inflammation Terminator.” She has made it her mission to educate the public on the toxic effects of certain foods and lifestyle choices and how they create inflammation in the body. She is a leading authority on inflammation and its role in weight loss, preventing disease and optimizing health.

Rebecca Bitzer – MS, RD/LD, CEDRD is an award-winning Registered Dietitian, writer, speaker, blogger, and REBEL Dietitian business owner. Rebecca and her team of six Registered Dietitians have counseled thousands of clients struggling with diabetes for over twenty-five years. They work closely with each other along with internists, endocrinologists, therapists, and families.

Maureen Sullivan – RN, CDE has worked for many years as a Registered Nurse, most of them in emergency and trauma services. She is a Certified Emergency Nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator, and the former manager of a hospital stroke program. Maureen’s wealth of knowledge, passion for nursing and education, and ability to engage people makes her an excellent teacher and a captivating lecturer. Recently, Maureen has been concentrating on writing, speaking and teaching, as well as working on her award-winning weekly podcast, “The Health and Humor Show.”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN is a nutrition communications specialist, registered dietitian in private practice, social media consultant, speaker, spokesperson and corporate consultant. She is currently the owner of Nutrition Starring YOU, LLC and Lauren strongly believes that we should “Think Healthy, not Skinny”, and “EveryBODY is unique, your diet should be too”. Lauren was co-host of the Family Food Experts Kitchen radio show, available for listening on iHeart Radio and iTunes. Also known as one of the “NutritionBabes”, Lauren co-founded, a popular Health and Wellness website in 2009. was voted one of Healthline’s Top 100 Health Blogs in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE is a clinical health psychologist and the director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health (CDMH). In addition to treating patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Dr. Heyman provides training for health care providers on how to identify and address the emotional and behavioral aspects of diabetes in their patients. He also works with pharmaceutical and medical device companies to help them understand these issues and incorporate this information into their sales, marketing, and patient education materials. He is particularly interested in empirically supported behavioral interventions that promote behavior change and improve physical and mental health in people with diabetes.

Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and author with an expertise in nutrition communications and curriculum development. She is the co-author of “Diet Therapy in Advanced Practice Nursing” (McGraw Hill, 2014) and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition at the University of California San Francisco and University of San Diego’s graduate schools of nursing.

Dr. Beverly S. Adler, PhD, CDE (aka “Dr. Bev”) is a clinical psychologist and certified diabetes educator, author and speaker. She specializes treating the emotional issues of people with diabetes. In her private practice, she provides individual, family and/or group therapy utilizing a cognitive behavior therapy orientation, combined with a spiritual approach. Her goal is to empower her patients to manage their diabetes.

Dr. Bev is the author of two self-help diabetes books. She has written numerous articles which are published in print and online – always focused on diabetes from the emotional perspective. She also speaks to audiences of people living with diabetes, as well as, to audiences of healthcare professionals and diabetes educators. Dr. Bev, herself, has been living successfully with type 1 diabetes for 40+ years.

In August 2016, Dr. Bev was honored to receive the “CDE Entrepreneur of the Year” Award from her Metropolitan NY Association of Diabetes Educators.

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert with more than two decades experience. Through writing, speaking and one-on-one coaching, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health. She has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is known for her practical approach and caring attitude. Her no-nonsense strategies to eating well include foods that both taste good and are good for you.

Marlene Koch (pronounced ‘cook’) is a nationally recognized nutritionist, popular TV personality and New York Times bestselling author. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science. She is a registered dietitian and one of a select group of dietitians to hold an advanced certificate in Child and Adolescent Weight Management from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

Marlene has taught professional chefs from the American Culinary Federation the principles of healthy cooking and eating. She has been adjunct Nutrition professor and cooking instructor for Columbus State College and the Columbus State Culinary Academy, and she is a nationally recognized expert in weight loss, diabetes, child and adolescent nutrition, and sugar substitutes.

Marlene has sold over one million cookbooks, and is a regular guest on QVC.

Barbara Ruhs – MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Neighborhood Nutrition LLC, a consulting firm focused on providing solutions to help food companies and supermarkets improve consumer health & wellness. She’s a former supermarket dietitian and has run a successful business for 17 years. A leader in the field of nutrition, her mission is to help people by impacting the way food is produced, marketed and sold. She’s a strong advocate for supermarket dietitians and believes the retail food industry has the greatest potential to impact public health.

Cheryl Orlansky has over 25 years of experience in health promotion and chronic disease prevention and management. Her first career as a registered dental hygienist led her towards a path of wellness and nutrition! Her expertise is in diabetes, weight management and cardiovascular disease for individuals and groups. She works in a large private practice including endocrinology, internal medicine, rheumatology, neurology and sleep medicine. She is an award winning dietitian with current leadership positions in state and local dietetics organizations.

She has been interviewed and quoted in media outlets for WebMD, Atlanta Sports and Fitness, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. She has partnered with V-103 Radio to lead supermarket tours as part of a community outreach during National Nutrition Month.

Cheryl helps her clients reach balance through lifestyle choices: cooking and eating, activity and purpose in life.

Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and classically-trained chef. With a passion for helping people (including her father) with diabetes, she’s author of The With or Without Meat Cookbook: The Flexible Approach to Flavorful Diabetes Cooking and the award-winning The All‐Natural Diabetes Cookbook, both published by the American Diabetes Association. Jackie is also author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes and Big Green Cookbook. Her next book, The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook—2nd Edition, was published in 2015.

Nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH is the author of the best-selling book, The One One One Diet. She holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and is also a Wellcoaches Certified Health and Wellness Coach endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

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