Organic animal products may also have added benefits. English researchers found that organic milk has higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, which may help alleviate arthritis symptoms and enhance health, than non-organic milk. That may be one reason why organic milk is often richer and creamier than conventional. Other studies have shown that organic milk has higher levels of vitamin E and other antioxidants as well as minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and chromium.

Q: How do the hormones and antibiotics in conventional animal products affect people with arthritis?

A: If you’re immune-compromised organic livestock products may be safer than conventional varieties. "When you eat meats, eggs or cheeses that contain antibiotics, you get a dose, too," says Dr. Gonzalez. "So, the next time you have a bacterial infection, there may be a greater chance that your antibiotics won’t work." Beyond that, he says, there's no evidence that conventional foods are bad for people with arthritis.

Q: Does eating organic guarantee a food that's free from pesticides?

A: Unfortunately, no. In fact, according to the USDA, 23 percent of organically grown produce contains pesticide residues. These residual chemicals can come from substances already in the soil, some of which have been banned for decades but remain in the ground, or from pesticides that drift onto organic crops from nearby non-organic fields. Still, says Hattner, the growers do their best to produce crops that are pesticide-free.

Q: Does eating organic protect against food borne illness?

A: Not necessarily. A small outbreak of salmonella in organic eggs from Minnesota in 2011 shows that no food is immune to contamination. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, which oversees the safety of most of the U.S. food supply, reported at least 20 recalls due to pathogens in organic food in the last two years, while the Agriculture Department, which oversees meat safety, issued a recall of more than 34,000 pounds of organic beef last year due to possible contamination with E. coli. These regulatory bodies often focus on companies that reach the most people; so small local farms aren't always subject to the same safety standards.

Q: If I'm not buying organic, what can I do to reduce pesticide exposure from eating conventional foods?

A: First, don't stop eating fruits and vegetables. Even with potentially harmful chemicals, fruits and vegetables offer critical vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help protect against a whole host of health conditions – not just arthritis. Washing produce with water or a water/vinegar rinse and choosing fruits and vegetables with hard exteriors or peels can help limit your exposure to pesticide residues, says Hattner. So if you can afford to buy some organic products, consider produce with soft exteriors like peaches, berries, spinach and bell peppers over foods like oranges, bananas and potatoes. And remember, variety is key. “The most important thing,” says Hattner, “is not to eat the same type of fruit everyday. There are toxins in fruit that are a natural part of the food.” So, if you eat 10 apples a day – organic or not – you’ll be getting a high amount of natural apple toxins.