Steer Clear Of Seven Foods That May Inflame Arthritic Joints
Inflammation aggravates arthritic joints, causing tissues to swell and become inflamed. Eating anti-inflammatory foods may reduce swelling, but it’s also important to know about the foods that can trigger painful inflammation.
Food is one of life’s pleasures, and nostalgic recipes take center stage as we celebrate the holidays. But, for people with arthritis, indulging in favorite dishes may trigger joint inflammation that causes tenderness and pain. We can’t treat arthritis with diet alone, but knowing which foods cause inflammation can help us to make healthy decisions about our diet.
Although arthritis patients don’t have to avoid these foods entirely, it may be wise to limit their appearance on the menu, and find ways to replace them with some of the healthier options we are suggesting. Food choices are easier to make when we understand the lifestyle benefits that go with them.
- Corn oil. This oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids; think of omega-6s as the evil twin of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s can help to relieve joint pain, while omega-6s can trigger inflammation. When you are tempted to reach for baked goods and snacks made with corn oil, remind yourself that nuts, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds are alternatives that offer joint-friendly omega-3s.
- Fried and processed foods. Research at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that cutting back on fried meats and frozen dinners caused a reduction in inflammation. Instead of deep-fried dinner options, introduce more vegetables and fruits into your diet.
- Grilled and pasteurized foods. When foods are seared over high heat, grilled, or pasteurized, AGEs appear—these are toxins that damage certain proteins in the body and trigger inflammation. To sidestep AGEs, use cooking methods that don’t require searing at high temperatures and limit consumption of pasteurized foods.
- Sugars are not a friend to joints. Candies, sugary baked goods, and sweet sodas may be delicious, but they also increase the AGEs that can trigger inflammation. Choose fruit or unsweetened drinks instead.
- Dairy products. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are good sources of nutrition, but they contain a protein that may irritate tissues around your joints. Foods to consider as non-inflammatory substitutes include spinach, nut butter, tofu, beans, lentils, and quinoa.
- Alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol consumption and tobacco are linked to many health problems, joint issues among them. To protect your joints and your general health, it is best to cut back on or replace alcohol and tobacco use entirely.
- Salt and preservatives. Historically, salt and additives have preserved our food, but excess consumption of salt can inflame joints. We encourage you to read food labels to check for preservatives and additives, steer clear of prepared meals, and use salt sparingly.
These food suggestions are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Foods that cause joint pain for one person may not have equally severe consequences for someone else. Pay attention to your own body’s response to foods, and adjust your diet accordingly.
Dr. Boettcher describes his areas of specialty and philosophy of care.
Dr. Stulc addresses the safety of orthopedic regenerative therapies.
Ask the Expert: Regenerative Medicine Video Series