Foods to Avoid with Arthritis

Medically reviewed by Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR on October 2, 2017Written by the Healthline Editorial Team

Inflammatory foods

“Arthritis” is a general term encompassing conditions that share joint pain and inflammation. There are many different types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.

Typical treatment involves inflammation and pain-reducing medications. While there is no single diet to follow, research suggests including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet and limiting foods that may trigger joint pain.

Read on to learn about the arthritis trigger foods you should avoid.

Fried and processed foods

Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine examined disease prevention through diet. In their 2009 study, they found that decreasing the amount of fried and processed foods eaten can “reduce inflammation and actually help restore the body’s natural defenses.”

What you can do: Cut down on the amount of fried and processed foods you consume, such as fried meats and prepared frozen meals, and include more vegetables and fruits in your diet.

Lower your AGEs

AGE doesn’t refer to how many birthdays you’ve celebrated. An advanced glycation end product (AGE) is a toxin that appears when foods are heated, grilled, fried, or pasteurized. AGEs damage certain proteins in your body, and your body tries to break these AGEs apart by using cytokines, which are inflammatory messengers. Depending on where the AGEs occur, they may result in arthritis or other forms of inflammation.

What you can do: Researchers have shown that reducing the amount of foods cooked at high temperatures in your diet could potentially help reduce blood AGE levels.

Sugars and refined carbs

High amounts of sugar in your diet result in an increase in AGEs, which can result in inflammation.

What you can do: Cut out candies, processed foods, white flour baked goods, and sodas to reduce your arthritis pain.

Dairy products

Dairy products may contribute to arthritis pain due to the type of protein they contain. For some people, this protein may irritate the tissue around their joints. Others living with arthritis have success switching to a vegan diet — which contains no animal products whatsoever.

What you can do: Rather than getting protein from meat and dairy, get the bulk of your protein sources from vegetables like spinach, nut butters, tofu, beans, lentils, and quinoa.

Alcohol and tobacco

Tobacco and alcohol use can lead to a number of health problems, including some that may affect your joints. Smokers are at risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis, while those who consume alcohol have a higher risk for developing gout.

What you can do: Healthy joints require a balanced diet, physical activity, and an adequate amount of rest — all of which can be compromised by alcohol and tobacco use. Cut back on drinking and smoking, and ramp up your eating habits with healthy choices, regular exercise, and quality sleep.

Salt and preservatives

Know what’s in your food. Many foods contain excessive salt and other preservatives to promote longer shelf lives. For some people, excess consumption of salt may result in inflammation of their joints. It may be worth trying to reduce your salt intake to as modest an amount as is reasonable.

What you can do: Read labels to avoid preservatives and additives. Less salt may help you manage your arthritis, so avoid prepared meals. Though they’re convenient, microwavable meals are often very high in sodium.

Corn oil

Many baked goods and snacks contain corn or other oils high in omega-6 fatty acids. While these treats may satisfy your taste buds, they may trigger inflammation. Some studies have found that fish oil, which contains omega-3s, may help with joint pain relief in certain people.

What you can do: Replace foods containing omega-6 fatty acids with healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 alternatives such as olive oil, nuts, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

The bottom line

There is no single established arthritis diet plan. What works for one person may not work for someone else. Trial and error will determine which foods you need to eliminate. In general, experts advise people with arthritis to maintain a healthy body weight and eat a balanced diet.

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