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Inflammation-Causing Foods to Avoid if You Have Arthritis

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Arthritis, a condition characterized by joint inflammation, affects millions of individuals worldwide, causing mild to severe discomfort and hindering the ability to perform daily activities. Over 100 specific types of arthritis have been identified, targeting different areas of the body, yet they all share the common trait of inflammation. At the Harvard Center for Global Health Education (CGHE), our team of specialists is well-versed in treating all types of arthritis, including:

  1. Osteoarthritis
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis
  3. Psoriatic arthritis
  4. Ankylosing spondylitis

Our experts provide the most advanced treatments tailored to each individual's condition and symptoms, which may include physical therapy, medication, steroid injections, or even surgery. However, it is important to recognize that before these measures become necessary, or as a complement to the treatment, individuals can alleviate pain and stiffness by simply monitoring their diet. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss eight foods known to contribute to inflammation and exacerbate arthritis symptoms.

More About Anti-Inflammatory Foods

If you suffer from lipedema, anti-inflammatory foods can help fight the symptoms and pain associated with the condition. Learn from our experts.

  1. Sweets
    A high sugar intake can increase inflammation within the body. As little as 40 grams, equivalent to the amount found in one can of soda, can initiate an inflammatory response. By reducing the consumption of soft drinks, candy, and pastries, individuals with arthritis may experience relief from pain.
  2. Dairy
    Despite the numerous beneficial nutrients found in dairy products, such as calcium and protein, they also contain casein, a protein that may contribute to inflammation. By limiting dairy consumption, individuals may reduce joint inflammation.
  3. Fatty Foods
    Not all fats are equal in their effects on the body. While healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, olive oil, and nuts, support heart and organ function, trans fats found in processed foods, fried foods, fast foods, and donuts can cause inflammation.
  4. Carbohydrates
    Carbohydrates are essential for energy production; however, refined carbs found in high-glycemic foods like bread, crackers, white rice, and potatoes can cause inflammation if not converted to energy. Furthermore, they can contribute to weight gain and other chronic conditions.
  5. Tobacco and Alcohol
    Both tobacco and alcohol have detrimental effects on overall health and are known to exacerbate inflammation. Smoking increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, while alcohol consumption has been linked to gout, another form of inflammatory arthritis.
  6. Advanced Glycation End (AGE) Products
    High-temperature cooking methods such as grilling or frying and the consumption of pasteurized foods can cause the production of AGEs, which are toxic byproducts. These toxins damage proteins within the body, leading to an immune response involving cytokines, which in turn cause inflammation.
  7. Gluten
    While individuals with celiac disease experience damage to the small intestine due to gluten consumption, even those without the condition may experience joint inflammation as a result of gluten intake. To mitigate this, it is advisable to avoid foods containing wheat, barley, and rye.
  8. Additives
    Processed and packaged foods often contain additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame, and salt for preservation and taste enhancement. However, these chemicals have been linked to increased inflammation. Avoiding processed foods, diet sodas, and other convenience products may help reduce arthritis symptoms.

In conclusion, adopting a healthy diet that avoids inflammation-causing foods and emphasizes anti-inflammatory vegetables, fruits, and plant-based proteins is a crucial strategy for individuals with arthritis. By understanding and implementing dietary changes, individuals can take control of their arthritis symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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