Inflammatory Foods According to experts, there are dietary changes worth considering that can help reduce arthritis symptoms. Before going through the list of foods not to eat, the expert explained how arthritis affects the body and why adopting a low-inflammatory diet could be the key to reducing pain.
8 Inflammatory Foods to Avoid by Arthritis Patients
“Arthritis is degeneration of the joints,” says rheumatologist Sonali Khandelwal. “Joint pain is the most common clinical symptom, but arthritis can also involve tendons and ligaments,” he adds. Symptoms include stiffness, swelling in the joints, sharp pain, decreased range of motion, and muscle weakness, and usually occur in the knees, ankles, hips, fingers, back, neck, and wrists.
There are two main types of arthritis:
osteoarthritis and arthritis. Osteoarthritis is usually a degenerative disease that develops in the aging process but can also occur early on due to injury or overuse, says Dr. Khandelwal. “Wear in the joints, and repetitive, or repetitive stress injuries are the most common situations in which I see generalized osteoarthritis,” he adds. Physical exercise, running on hard pavement, frequent typing, and neck pain, also known as cervical arthritis, are all common causes. Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, but genetics and obesity can also increase your risk.
Arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system becomes overactive and starts attacking your tissues and joints instead of germs, viruses, or other foreign substances. “We diagnose many women and men in their mid-twenties and thirties with rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, but some inflammatory arthritis can develop later in life,” says Dr. Khandelwal. Obesity, genetics, and smoking can increase the risk of arthritis.
Your diet and food choices won’t alone eliminate all of your arthritis woes, but a low-inflammatory diet can help limit pain and reduce symptoms. “There are certain foods that cause more inflammation [in the body], and directly affect the joints.
8 Inflammatory Foods to Avoid by Arthritis Patients
1. Processed food
If you read labels on packaged foods or snacks, and half of the ingredients are chemicals or words you don’t know, you should avoid them, says Dr. Khandelwal. Processed foods contain advanced glycation end products (AGEs), and too much of these chemicals can accumulate in the bloodstream and trigger inflammation. But cutting back on processed foods (think sausage, bacon, jerky, mayonnaise, and butter) can lower your AGE levels and help reduce inflammation in the body to relieve arthritis symptoms.
OK, alcohol isn’t technically a food, but it does cause major inflammation in the body, says Dr. Khandelwal. “We know very well that alcohol can cause direct inflammation and harm arthritis,” he emphasizes. Alcohol causes acute or chronic inflammation due to a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP), and the more CRP there is in the blood, the more inflammation there is. So, to help reduce those CRP levels and minimize arthritic inflammation, try stopping or reducing alcohol consumption.
3. Red meat
“Some conditions in arthritis, particularly arthritis such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis, have been associated with high fat intake or high red meat intake,” says Dr. Khandelwal. “The heme protein in red meat is highly inflammatory and very well reported,” he adds. Red meats, such as beef, pork, lamb, and veal, are also high in saturated fat, which triggers inflammation and heightens symptoms of arthritis. To help reduce joint pain, swelling, and inflammation, try eating meat-free for at least most of the week. But if you eat red meat, reduce your portion size. Treat the meat as a side dish, not the main attraction. Hello, vegetables, fruits and carbohydrates full of fiber!
Milk can be beneficial for strong bones, but the lactose and saturated fat in milk can actually cause inflammation, says Dr. Khandelwal. But don’t panic! Milk is a broad category from cheese to yogurt to ice cream, and it’s probably not necessary to cut out all dairy products. Research shows that foods high in saturated fat, such as cheese, cream, and whole milk, increase inflammation in the body, but plain yogurt can actually help reduce the unpleasant symptoms of inflammation. Different bodies respond to different foods, so see what works best for you. “If you feel worse on a certain dairy product, then avoid it,” says Dr. Khandelwal.
Gluten doesn’t cause inflammation in everyone, but research shows that people with rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis may have a higher risk for gluten intolerance. “Many people go on an elimination diet with gluten and find their joints feel better,” says Dr. Khandelwal. “That doesn’t mean they have celiac disease, but they could have gluten sensitivity.” So, if your joint pain is especially severe after eating pizza or a sandwich with whole grain bread, your body may be telling you something. Try eliminating gluten for a period of time to see if symptoms subside and joint pain lessens.
6. Added sugar
You should always try to limit your sugar intake, but added sugar in candy, soda, ice cream, and even some condiments like barbecue sauce or ketchup can increase inflammation and worsen arthritis symptoms. “Sugar is a direct trigger for inflammation, let alone metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes,” says Dr. Khandelwal. So, to prevent less-than-ideal arthritis symptoms, watch your added sugar intake and always check food labels. Packaged goods are known to contain an alarming amount of added sugar.
Complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, quinoa, barley, and sweet potatoes are needed for energy, but refined carbohydrates, such as sugary breakfast cereals, white bread, white rice, pastries, and pasta, can worsen arthritis symptoms. Refined carbohydrates lack fiber, raise blood sugar levels, and are difficult to break down, so when your body tries to remove sugar and refined grains from your bloodstream, it creates an inflammatory response. Refined carbs are definitely something to avoid, but you don’t have to avoid carbs altogether, explains Dr. Khandelwal. Instead, stick to 100 percent whole grains and fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
8. Salty Food
“Salty foods are linked to hypertension and trigger inflammation.” Says Dr. Khandelwal. Foods like pizza. Canned soups. Packaged frozen foods. And savory snacks like chips. Crackers. And pretzels can cause fluid retention in the body, which is directly linked to inflammation, he explains. Plus, salty foods, which also often contain refined sugar, are not nutrient dense and may even increase your risk of developing arthritis. Instead of racking up sodium, focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and white meats. Oh, and always drink lots of water to flush out toxins and control hypertension. 8 Inflammatory Foods to Avoid by Arthritis Patients