If you suffer from arthritis, then you know the pain and difficulties that come with this condition. Fortunately, there are good nutritional habits that can help relieve the symptoms of arthritis. One of the best ways to relieve pain is by eating a healthy diet of non-inflammatory foods.
The relationship between food and arthritis symptoms
Over the centuries, many claims have been made about the influence of dietary habits and nutritional supplements on arthritis. Some of these claims are supported by medical evidence and some are reasonable theories. However, for most of these claims, we are simply not sure.
Even without all the proof, there are plenty of healthy nutrition ideas to consider. [¹]
Brief review of what arthritis is
Arthritis is a very common health condition, with more than 3 million cases reported each year in the United States alone. This condition is manifested by swelling and tenderness around the joints that generally worsens with age. The two most common types of the disease are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. However, there are more than 100 types, including:
- Rheumatic fever
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Back pain
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in the bones begins to break down, while rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the joints. Treatment depends on the type of condition you have, but the main focus of treatment is on relieving symptoms and improving quality of life.
A key part of treatment is preventing the swelling from getting worse, as more swelling means more pain. What can you do? A great first step is to avoid foods that are scientifically linked to chronic inflammation, such as refined sugars and fried foods. Making simple changes to your diet can help relieve some symptoms of this condition, such as pain and swelling.
Foods to avoid if you suffer from arthritis
If you think you may be suffering from arthritis, be sure to consult a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action for you. But if you’re ready to take back some control in your life, read on for 14 foods you should always avoid.
1. Frozen foods high in sodium
Corticosteroids are a common treatment used to treat inflammation, and doctors often prescribe them for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. These corticosteroids can cause your body to retain more salt. A regular intake of excess sodium can contribute to inflammation in the body. Experts recommend limiting daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams
2. Soft drinks
As mentioned, sugar is involved in inflammation in the body, and research has shown that sugar-sweetened soft drinks are linked to increased arthritic symptoms in women. One study found that consuming just one sugary soft drink a day increased the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by up to 63 percent. Most soft drinks have a high sugar content that far exceeds the recommended daily amount.
3. Fruit juices with sugar
If sugary sodas are bad for you, that means sugary fruit juices are just as bad, too. Fruit juices that are high in sugar are key factors for inflammation. Chronic pain and fibromyalgia are substantially affected by microglial activation and the central sensitization process. Sugar is a key driver in facilitating this process, thereby substantially amplifying arthritic pain.
4. Ice cream and foods with refined sugar
Ice cream contains saturated fat and added sugars, which is a perfect mix for promoting inflammation. Saturated fats are one of the biggest culprits in inflammation in the body.
5. Baked goods
Speaking of desserts, baked goods containing partially hydrogenated oil are a group of foods that anyone suffering from inflammation in the body should avoid at all costs. Partially hydrogenated oil contains trans fat, an ingredient you should always avoid. Trans fats can trigger inflammation, and regular consumption of trans fats can lead to:
- Increased “bad” LDL cholesterol.
- Decreased “good” HDL cholesterol.
- Increased risk of developing heart disease.
Since trans fats were mentioned, it’s important to note that margarine, the favorite substitute for butter, is a food you shouldn’t eat at all. Margarine is usually made from trans fats, which are associated with heart disease, cancer, and inflammation. This group of foods also includes vegetable oils, which undergo a hydrogenation process that changes their chemical properties.
7. Polyunsaturated cooking oil
Polyunsaturated cooking oils, such as soybean, safflower, corn, sunflower, and canola oil, are commonly found in restaurants and homes. These cooking oils are rich in omega-6 fatty acids but lack omega-3 fatty acids. Most adults don’t get enough whole-grain foods that contain omega-3s, and an imbalance of these acids can cause inflammation, which in turn can worsen symptoms of pain and inflammation throughout the body.
8. Fried foods
As a general health rule, you should stay away from fried foods. This advice is because fried foods are often fried in oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which upset the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the body. Including these foods in your diet can cause more inflammation and worsen arthritis symptoms.
9. Whole cheeses
Cheese is one of the most precious ingredients in the kitchen. However, it is important to remember that most cheeses are packed with saturated fat. These fats have been scientifically proven to be a trigger for inflammation in the body.
10. Refined flours
A study conducted by The Journal of Nutrition revealed that white flour greatly promotes inflammation. This can worsen the deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in the body, which significantly affects the presence of inflammation in the joints by affecting prostaglandin E3. Omega-3 fatty acids are important in preventing diabetes and heart disease, protecting the brain, and fighting inflammation.
11. Pasta and pizza
If pain and inflammation are a health issue you’re dealing with, you may want to (or should) stop ordering pizzas. Pizza is one of the highest sources of saturated fat due to the cheese and meat it contains. The saturated fats found in cheese can trigger inflammation in the body, which can worsen symptoms and also cause heart disease.
Pretzels are an all-time favorite snack. However, several studies link this snack with inflammation in the body. Pretzels are a form of refined grains, which are not the best for a healthy microbiome. To have healthier intestines, it is preferable to consume whole foods that are rich in fiber such as pistachios, chickpeas, quinoa, fruits and oatmeal.
13. Canned fruits in syrup
Although fruit is an essential part of any healthy diet, you should avoid fruit canned in syrup. This is because the added sugars in the syrup can cause proteins called cytokines to be released in the body. Cytokines have been linked to increased inflammation. However, this only applies to canned fruit that is in heavy syrup. Dried fruit or canned fruit that has no added sugar is perfectly safe to eat.
14. Sausages and other processed meats
Processed foods are generally highly discouraged due to their high salt and fat content. Processed meats are rich in advanced glycosylation end products (AGEs), which are triggers for inflammation and can make your symptoms worse. AGEs are present in all types of meat, but there are higher concentrations of AGEs in processed meats. So if sausages are a must in your diet, look for organic or all-natural products.
- By: Linda Antinoro, RD, LDN, JD, CDE, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard-affiliated hospital. [Enlace]
- Tedeschi SK, Frits M, Cui J, Zhang ZZ, Mahmoud T, Iannaccone C, … Solomon DH (2017). Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms: Survey Results From a Rheumatoid Arthritis Registry. Arthritis care & research, 69(12), 1920–1925. doi:10.1002/acr.23225
- Basu, A., , Schell, J., , & Scofield, R.H., (2018). Dietary fruits and arthritis. Food & functions, 9(1), 70–77. doi:10.1039/c7fo01435j