Is your diet affecting your arthritis? Although there isn’t a specific diet that can cure psoriatic arthritis, modifying what you eat can help reduce the frequency of flare-ups.

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects some people living with psoriasis. It causes the major joints of your body to be inflamed and painful. If you have this condition, you may experience flare-ups. At times, your symptoms may get worse.

Adjusting your diet may help keep your symptoms under control and reduce the chances of developing other chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and mental health conditions.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), there’s no diet that can cure psoriatic disease. However, an analysis of 55 human studies found that dietary adjustments, along with medical treatments, can help reduce the severity of arthritic psoriasis symptoms.

Many people claim that avoiding certain foods helps reduce the frequency of flare-ups. Consider keeping a log of your eating habits and symptoms. This might help you identify foods that seem to trigger flare-ups.

If you plan on modifying your diet, it’s helpful to first consult your doctor and, if possible, a nutritionist. This is especially important if you’re taking systemic medications to manage the inflammation and stiffness of your joints.

Cutting back on the amount of added sugar in your diet might ease your psoriatic arthritis symptoms while improving your overall health.

Excessive added sugar might increase inflammation in your body, warns the Arthritis Foundation. Since sugar also packs in calories, it can contribute to weight gain, putting more pressure on your achy joints.

When you do want to eat something sweet, instead of baked goods, packaged desserts, candies, or beverages with added sweeteners, consider eating berries and other types of fruits that are high in antioxidants, such as:

  • tart cherries
  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • red raspberries
  • avocado
  • watermelon
  • grapes
  • figs
  • mangos

Vegetables can also be a good source of antioxidants. Carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, and broccoli are some examples.

Loading up on these colorful and nutritious fruits and veggies can boost your antioxidant intake and reduce inflammation, which may in turn reduce the frequency of flare-ups.

Some research links red and processed meat to inflammation, which may increase arthritis symptoms. When you do eat meat, choose lean options, such as fish and poultry. Stick to portions that measure 3 ounces, or about the size of your palm.

Alternately, consider trying a plant-based diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits. You can meet your protein needs by eating a variety of whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Another anti-inflammatory diet, the Mediterranean diet, may potentially help reduce flare-ups.

Eating too many saturated fats can lead to weight gain, putting more pressure on your joints. Saturated fat can be found in meat, butter, cheese, coconut oil, and more. It can increase your cholesterol levels and risk of developing heart disease.

Since people with arthritis are at higher risk of heart problems, it’s important that you manage your cholesterol, advises the Arthritis Foundation.

Another type of fat, also known as trans fat, has been shown to increase inflammatory markers in our body. This type of fat is found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, commonly used as an ingredient in baked goods, packaged snacks, and other processed foods to increase their shelf life. Consider eating them only as an occasional treat.

Unsaturated fats are a healthier alternative. They have anti-inflammatory properties and can be found in:

  • olive oil
  • safflower oil
  • grapeseed oil
  • avocado oil
  • walnut oil

Research suggests that people with psoriatic arthritis are more likely to have celiac disease and may benefit from a gluten-free diet.

However, there’s no strong clinical evidence to suggest a gluten-free diet is beneficial for all patients with psoriasis. Only those who have gluten sensitivity will find it beneficial.

If you do want to give the gluten-free diet a try, remember that it can take a few months before the inflammation in your joints subsides.

To see if skipping gluten has any effect on your psoriatic arthritis, it would be helpful to stay 100% gluten-free for at least 3 months. That means avoiding food that contains wheat, barley, and rye, plus all of their derivatives, such as MSG and soy sauce.

After the initial 3 months, if you haven’t noticed any marked benefits, try adding back gluten. See if you have any increased itchiness and joint pain over the next 3 to 4 days.

If not, a gluten-free diet may not be what you need to improve your condition, and you may want to add gluten back to your diet.

Eating right is key to staying healthy, especially when you live with a chronic condition such as psoriatic arthritis.

Reducing the consumption of saturated fats, trans fats, and added sugar while increasing the consumption of anti-oxidant-rich foods will help bring down inflammation and reduce your chances of flare-ups. Going gluten-free is an additional option that you can experiment with to see whether it helps reduce the flare-ups.

Besides modifying your diet, there’s much more you can do to manage your condition and overall health. For example, adjusting your posture can reduce the strain on your joints. Practicing a few simple daily stretches and exercises can help prevent hand stiffness. Regular exercise also fosters physical and emotional well-being.

Learn more about psoriatic arthritis and what you can do to keep your symptoms at bay.