If you suffer from joint pain on a regular basis, you should know which foods to avoid for arthritis so you can improve your diet.
The truth is that many foods cause inflammation, triggering arthritis flare ups which can be anything from an annoyance to debilitating.
Eliminating inflammation causing foods from your diet may help manage your arthritis along with strength building exercises and gentle movement.
This article will cover the main foods to avoid for arthritis and help you decide if you’d be better off without them in your diet.
Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:
- Arthritis can occur as a result of wear and tear in the joints or as an autoimmune response in the case of rheumatoid arthritis.
- There are some foods to avoid for arthritis as they can worsen inflammation in the joints, causing stiffness and pain.
- Most of the evidence is anecdotal and may not cause inflammation for everyone, so it’s important you see what foods work for you.
- It’s best to avoid processed foods and those with high levels of added salt and sugar and follow a mediterranean diet.
What are the types of arthritis?
There are different types of arthritis that are caused by different factors from genetics, injury and lifestyle factors.
People with arthritis experience joint pain and stiffness in joints such as the knees, fingers, wrists and elbows.
It can cause great discomfort and is one of the main things that causes mobility issues in elderly people, especially if not managed properly.
Osteoarthritis: The most common form of arthritis, especially with age causing degeneration of joints in the hands, hips, and knees.
Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disease which causes inflammation as the body mistakenly attacks healthy cells.
Psoriatic arthritis: A long-term condition affecting people with psoriasis on their skin, causing swelling and pain in joints.
Ankylosing spondylitis: This type of arthritis causes inflammation in the joints and ligaments of the spine which reduces mobility.
What is the connection between food and arthritis?
As the saying goes, you are what you eat.
When we eat something, our body takes in essential nutrients we need to function and gives us energy.
But it also responds and processes proteins and fats that prompt an immune response to something it doesn’t like, causing inflammation.
If you eat foods that cause inflammation then naturally you’ll suffer with chronic inflammation-related symptoms.
Tips for managing arthritis
As well as keeping an eye on your diet and knowing the foods to avoid for arthritis, it can be managed in other ways.
Exercise for arthritis is essential to keep the joints mobile and prevent further deterioration and mobility issues.
There are plenty of gentle exercises that allow people with arthritis to move safely and without pain.
Beware modern food
We live in a society where we want food that’s easy to eat, cheap and convenient for our busy lifestyles.
This has created an ultra-processed food culture in which much of what we eat is pre-made and ready to go.
But this means that our food contains lots of ingredients for flavour as well as preservation that our bodies just don’t need.
Consuming these processed foods leads to inflammation around the body which can be painful and cause other health issues.
What are the foods to avoid for arthritis?
It is clear to health professionals and people living with arthritis that there are some foods that cause the condition to worsen.
This is due to the way the body reacts to certain foods, which cause an inflammatory response.
Many of the suggested foods to avoid for arthritis have not yet been medically clarified as arthritis-causing foods.
And not all of these foods will be problematic for all people with arthritis, so it’s important that you listen to your body and find what works for you.
Gluten is found in products made from wheat, barley or rye all of which can cause inflammation.
This is especially prominent for people with Coeliac disease, in which gluten triggers an immune response causing inflammation in the small intestine.
This may also affect the joints leading to arthritis, which people with Coeliac are more likely to develop.
The connection between non-Coeliac, gluten and arthritis isn’t strictly clear, but it seems that limiting gluten can be beneficial for arthritis for some people.
AGE stands for Advanced Glycation End products. These are molecules which are found in processed foods including meat and dairy products.
They exist naturally in uncooked animal products, but are activated during food processing in reactions between sugars and proteins or fats.
These foods include:
- Bacon and ham
- Butter and margarine
- Fried eggs
Some vegetable oils such as sunflower, soy, sesame and corn are high in omega-6 fatty oils.
Unlike omega-3 oils, which fight inflammation, high levels of omega-6 oils are thought to contribute to inflammation.
Should you smoke if you have arthritis?
- Did you know that smoking can worsen arthritis as well as cause you to develop it?
- Smokers are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis due to the production of antibodies that lead to this type of arthritis.
- There is some evidence to suggest that smokers may be more susceptible to cartilage loss with osteoarthritis, causing greater discomfort.
- It’s also thought that smoking can reduce the effects of treatments for arthritis which can make treatment somewhat ineffective.
Highly processed food such as fast food, baked goods and sweet cereals can cause inflammation and arthritis.
This is due to them containing high levels of refined grains, added sugar, preservatives and fructose.
Eating a lot of these foods causes inflammation in the body as well as obesity in the long-term, which can also contribute to arthritic symptoms.
Processed food is generally bad for your health, so should be limited, especially if you already have arthritis.
High sodium foods
Having extra salt in your diet can cause inflammation as you retain sodium in your body cells which can affect the immune system.
High sodium foods include processed meats, salted nuts, pizza, pasta sauces and some bread products.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you should avoid these kinds of foods as they could cause oedema, or swelling in the legs and ankles.
Here’s everything you need to know about what causes swelling and how to get rid of swollen ankles fast.
What drinks should you avoid for arthritis?
- Alcohol is generally not great for our bodies, but in terms of arthritis, it can increase the levels of uric acid in the body, which is a cause of gout.
- Some people find coffee to be a trigger for arthritic pain, while others don’t. Be mindful of how much coffee you drink as caffeine could have negative side effects, and stop drinking it if it causes pain.
- Fructose sweetened drinks like sodas or fruity flavours have huge amounts of sugar and increase uric acid. Many also contain aspartame and can affect the body’s ability to absorb calcium, which is important for bone health.
Are there any myths on foods to avoid for arthritis?
The short answer is yes.
There are a number of myths around foods to avoid for arthritis, but much more research is needed to say anything conclusive.
Therefore, it’s important to stay informed about potential triggers and helpers for arthritis pain, but be wary about taking these anecdotes as medical truths.
Can any fruit and vegetables cause inflammation?
One food group that has been demonised as foods to avoid for arthritis is the nightshades.
This group includes aubergines, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes which all contain a toxin called solanine.
Some people claim that their arthritis is triggered by nightshades, but there is no conclusive medical evidence to suggest they are harmful.
If your arthritis becomes worse after consuming any of these foods, avoid eating them, however they are not generally seen as foods to avoid for arthritis.
Foods that help with arthritis symptoms
Following a healthy balanced diet can help reduce the severity of arthritis symptoms or prevent you from getting it later in life.
The Mediterranean diet has long been hailed as the best anti-inflammatory diet thanks to its inclusion of:
- A wide variety of fruits and vegetables
- Legumes such as beans and lentils
- Oily fish such as salmon
- Nuts and olive oil
- Limited red meat and saturated fats
- No added sugars or processed foods
It is also integral to stay hydrated when living with arthritis at any age, as it supports lubrication in the joints.
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