Arthritis is a general term used to describe a variety of conditions that are primarily characterized by joint pain and inflammation. The most common of these conditions are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.
Although the causes and symptoms of these conditions can vary, inflammation is a common issue among all types, which can unfortunately be made worse by eating the following seven trigger foods.
1. Fried and Processed Foods
Although fried foods like burgers and French fries may be tasty, their high saturated fat content can worsen the inflammation associated with arthritis. As such, they’re best avoided.
In fact, a 2009 study out of Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that cutting back on these, as well as processed foods, can “reduce inflammation and actually help restore the body’s natural defenses.”
Added, or processed, sugars are a major culprit of arthritis symptoms. The Arthritis Foundation explains that this is because they “trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines.”
Unfortunately, they’re found in almost all processed foods. While the most obvious ones to steer clear of are soda, baked sweets, and chocolate bars, processed sugars are also found in less obvious products like fruit juices, cereals, and yogurt. To help avoid these sugars altogether, the source says to “look out for any word ending in ‘ose,’ e.g. fructose or sucrose on ingredient labels.”
3. Refined Carbohydrates
According to Healthline.com, refined carbohydrates—which encompasses any foods made with white flour, such as bread, pastas, and cereals—actually “stimulate your body’s inflammatory response,” which can result in increased joint pain and discomfort.
Reader’s Digest explains that the reason for this is because, due to the simple molecular structure of refined grains, the body quickly converts them to sugar. And, as mentioned earlier, sugar triggers inflammation in the body.
4. Dairy Products
Unfortunately for people who love cheese and other dairy products, they contain a type of protein they contain called casein, which Healthline.com indicates “may irritate the tissue around their joints,” leading to worsened pain.
As a result, these foods are best avoided. In fact, the source says, “A study found that people with arthritis that avoided animal milks experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms.” Therefore, it may be beneficial to switch to a vegan diet, or simply switch these products for plant-based alternatives like almond or flax milk.
Although everyone should drink alcohol in moderation, this is especially important for those with arthritis. If consumed in excess, the Arthritis Foundation says alcohol “weakens liver function and disrupts other multi-organ interactions and can cause inflammation.”
Healthline.com adds that the “high purine levels in commercial alcohol products” may be another reason they trigger arthritis symptoms, and warns that alcohol should never be mixed with medications used to treat the condition “because it interacts with the effectiveness of the drug and can actually be quite dangerous.”
Salt, like processed sugar, seems to be in everything these days. As such, it’s important for those with arthritis to carefully monitor their consumption, as “salt causes your cells to retain water,” says Healthline.com, which leads to swelling.
Although the source says your body does require a certain amount of sodium in order to function properly, “too much leads to an inflammatory reaction,” which can cause damage to the joints.
In addition to refined carbohydrates, some people with arthritis should also avoid whole wheat, as well as barley, oats, and rye. Why? Because the gluten they contain can trigger inflammation.
This generally only occurs in those who have a gluten intolerance or, more seriously, celiac disease. But, in speaking with Reader’s Digest, nutritionist and health expert Joy Bauer encouraged those with certain types of arthritis (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis) to get tested for celiac disease “as they are both autoimmune diseases that often occur together.”