Foods and Beverages to Avoid for Those Managing Arthritis Pain

Updated on October 31st, 2020
foods to avoid with arthritis

Arthritis, also called joint inflammation, is inflammation of one or more joints in our body. The word “arthritis” itself isn’t actually a single disease but is a combination of a hundred plus types of arthritis and related conditions [1].

Throughout the body, symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion that make performing specific tasks challenging, and these symptoms can intensify as you grow.

If you suspect you have arthritis, it’s always best to meet with a medical practitioner to advise the best method of treatment for you. But apart from physical therapy, medications, and potentially joint surgery, lifestyle alterations can significantly impact how seriously you experience arthritis symptoms.

Trans fats – usually seen as “partially hydrogenated” oil in margarine and packaged goods, trans fats are vegetable oils that are processed to increase the shelf life and minimize the chance of spoilage of processed foods, specifically snack foods.

These fats have been proven to aggravate inflammation. Trans fats can also lower good cholesterol and raise the bad cholesterol, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Be sure to read labels and substitute trans-fat-free liquid oils, such as canola and olive oils, instead of shortening or margarine.

It’s also a great idea to restrict the amount of fried foods you order at food joints, as these are often fried in trans fat.

Foods to avoid with arthritis

1. Dairy Products

Milk and all foods that have it are just as bad as gluten for many people with arthritis. The protein in milk is termed as casein, and it promotes leaky gut syndrome and irritates the gut lining.

Lactose is not the villain; therefore, consuming lactose-free milk is not the solution. Some people can tolerate milk made by sheep or goats. Through a process of experimentation, you can check if you are one of them.

2. Vegetable Oil

Although it’s termed vegetable oil, the unhealthy oils to skip typically come from seeds, the delicate fatty acids in these oils are spoiled during the process of refinement and extraction [2]. They are further destroyed if you heat them while cooking.

Damaged fats create an immense amount of free radical damage in our bodies. The oils to avoid are canola, cottonseed, soybean, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, rice bran, and corn oil.

You have huge control over whether or not you will develop arthritis and how serious arthritis may be. The food you opt to consume or decide to avoid can make all the difference.

[Also Read: Vegetable Oil vs Olive Oil]

3. Alcohol 

As alcohol may exacerbate arthritis symptoms, anyone with inflammatory arthritis should limit or avoid it. A study in two hundred and seventy-eight people with axial spondyloarthritis — inflammatory arthritis that majorly affects the sacroiliac (SI) joints and spinal cord   — tied alcohol intake to increased spinal structural harm [3].

Research has also proven that alcohol intake may increase gout attacks’ severity and frequency. Moreover, chronic alcohol consumption is linked with an increased risk of osteoarthritis, though not all studies have found a significant link.

[Read: Home Remedies for Arthritis]

4. Added sugars

You should restrict your sugar intake no matter what, but particularly if you have arthritis. Added sugars are found in soda, candy, ice cream, and various other foods, including less obvious foods like barbecue sauce.

Research in 217 people with rheumatoid arthritis observed that desserts and sugar-sweetened soda were the most regularly reported to worsen RA symptoms among twenty foods [4].

What’s more, sugary drinks like soda may remarkably increase your risk of arthritis. For instance, in a study in 1,209 adults ages 20–30, those who consumed fructose-sweetened drinks 5 times per week or more were thrice more likely to have arthritis than people who drank few to no fructose-sweetened drinks.

Moreover, an extensive study in nearly 200,000 women associated a regular intake of sugar-sweetened soda with an increased RA risk.

5. Processed and red meats 

Some studies link processed and red meat to inflammation, which may spike arthritis symptoms. For instance, diets high in processed and red meats demonstrate high levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and homocysteine.

The research in 217 individuals with RA mentioned above also found that red meat commonly aggravated RA symptoms. Moreover, a study in 25,630 people determined that high red meat intake may be a risk factor for inflammatory arthritis.

Contrarily, plant-based diets that exclude red meat have been proven to improve arthritis symptoms.

6. Foods high in purines

For individuals who have gout, a physician may advise a low purine diet combined with the medicines.

Purines are substances in foods that our body converts to uric acid. Uric acid may accumulate in the bloodstream, leading to a gout attack. With reference to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the following foods are rich in purines:

  • beer and other alcohol
  • organ meat, such as liver
  • red meat
  • cured meats such as  bacon, ham, or lunch meats
  • some seafood, such as scallops and mussels 

However, a 2018 review noted that some purine-dense vegetables, such as mushrooms, cauliflower, and beans, have no links to gout risk.

7. Nightshades

Nightshades are a group of vegetables that have the compound solanine. Research has not confirmed that nightshades can trigger arthritis pain. Still, the PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) indicates that removing them from the diet helps improve some individuals’ symptoms.

Nightshade vegetables include:

  • bell peppers
  • tomatoes
  • eggplant
  • chili peppers
  • potatoes

The Arthritis Foundation advises that people who suspect nightshades might exacerbate symptoms exclude them from their diet for a few weeks, then take them one at a time. Keeping a food diary can help a person keep track of any reactions they have to a particular food.

8. AGEs (Advanced glycation end-products)

Advanced glycation end products are inflammatory compounds that can build up in tissues, particularly as someone ages. An article in Patient Education explains that people with diseases such as RA and diabetes often have increased AGE levels.

So, minimizing AGE levels can help reduce inflammation. Sugar and fat both increase AGE levels in the body. High-temperature cooking and Some food processing methods also increase the AGE levels in food.

Bottom Line

If you have arthritis, a healthy lifestyle and diet may help improve your symptoms. Research shows that you should avoid certain beverages and foods, including highly processed foods, fried foods, red meat, and those rich in added sugars.

Remember that lifestyle factors like your body weight, activity level,  and smoking status are also vital to managing arthritis.

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