Foods Arthritis Sufferers Should Avoid

Arthritis is a condition that stems from the degeneration and overuse of joints, mostly affecting the knees, fingers, and hips. Australia and the United States have some of the highest rates of arthritis in the Western world, with fifteen and over twenty percent of individuals (respectively) being affected. Evidence of arthritis has even been discovered in dinosaurs as well as being found in human remains from as early as 4500 BC. Today, individuals with arthritis can manage joint pain and swelling in a variety of ways, including by monitoring what they consume in their everyday diet. Although there is no prescriptive diet for arthritis patients, this article will explore foods these individuals should stay away from. As always, however, patients should consult their physician before making major dietary changes.

Fried Food

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It has long been known that fried food is bad for just about anyone due to the amount of saturated fat. A lot of fried food is also from a freezer and is often overly processed, as well as being high in salt and artificial preservatives. These all negatively affect individuals suffering from arthritis. Consuming a lot of fried food also has a connection to obesity, which, in turn, can fast track the degenerative process of joints; this is due to the extra weight and load being placed on the knees and hips. Fried meats should specifically be avoided by arthritis sufferers.

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Processed Sugars

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Processed sugar is found in candy, cereal, doughnuts, soda, and even condiments such as ketchup.  Eating too much sugar, particularly processed sugar, causes the body to create uneven insulin levels, which trigger immune cells that cause swelling. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that showed processed sugar increased the symptoms of "pain, overheating, redness, and swelling" in arthritis patients. Sugars such as these will use the body's vitamins to complete the digestion process and the lack of these vitamins can worsen arthritis.

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Dairy

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Although dairy products are known to aid with increasing bone strength and durability, some individuals with arthritis will see negative effects after consuming certain dairy products. Some studies show evidence of proteins within dairy that will cause a tissue irritation within the joints of arthritis sufferers. If individuals with this condition do notice joint irritation after consuming dairy, it may be worth it to look for alternatives. Many with arthritis have turned to plant-based foods for their calcium and protein sources and have experienced positive results. Some find milk alternatives helpful, while others speak with a physician about appropriate calcium supplements.

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Alcohol

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Alcohol contains uric acid, which causes a build-up of crystals that will gather within an individual's joints and can cause inflammation and pain. Alcohol can also have a negative reaction with some arthritis medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and can also cause stomach bleeding. Individuals who take methotrexate of leflunomide increase their probability of liver damage if they consume too much alcohol while taking these medications. Gout, a form of arthritis in the fingers and toes, has been linked to the prolonged and excessive consumption of alcohol.

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Tobacco

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Although tobacco is not a food product, it can be easily ingested and is very common. Studies have shown smoking can increase the severity of an individual's arthritis. Tobacco can also have an adverse effect on arthritis medication, making it harder for the medication to control the inflammation and pain associated with the condition. In particular, rheumatoid arthritis is affected negatively by smoking tobacco products and ingesting anything with tobacco will increase the likelihood of a symptom flare-up including pain and swelling.

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Salt

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Arthritis medication can sometimes cause an individual's body to retain more sodium, which can have a negative effect on the inflammation associated with arthritis. Salt consumption leads to the bloodstream absorbing more water than normal, almost swelling the bloodstream itself. Due to the expansion of blood vessels, this will cause increased inflammation in some joints. Nearly all canned, frozen, and convenience foods contain a lot more salt than even healthy individuals should be consuming, which means they are crucial for arthritis patients to avoid. Many individuals with arthritis experience increased inflammation and more severe symptoms if they consume a diet high in salt.

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Oil

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Not all oils are bad and many of them harness essential acids and fats that actually help with the symptoms of arthritis. However, some oils can be harmful, and thus, individuals with arthritis should pay more attention to what they are consuming. Specifically, arthritis patients should avoid corn, sunflower, soy, and vegetable oil due to their high saturated fat content. American diets are very high in this type of oil, which can trigger the production of chemicals that increase swelling and inflammation within the body. Omega-6 oils such as the ones mentioned are not to be avoided completely, but reduced intake may have a positive effect on inflammation. Omega-3 oils such as the ones found in canola, flaxseed, and grape oil can be used as a substitute.

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Refined Carbohydrates

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Refined carbohydrates can make an individual's arthritis worse by increasing overall inflammation. These foods have a high glycemic index and cause the body to produce excess advanced glycation end products, otherwise known as AGE products. These substances are what contribute to inflammation throughout the body. Some research also indicates refined carbohydrates may be even more responsible for chronic conditions and obesity than fatty foods. Anything baked with white flour contains refined carbohydrates, and this includes white rice, crackers, white bread, rolls, and the majority of baked goods. White flour is the grain that has had most of the nutrients removed during its processing.

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Pizza

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Researchers have found saturated fats can increase the overall levels of inflammation in the body, which can lead to arthritis flareups or make existing flareups worse. Most types of pizza are a high source of saturated fat, and 4.5 grams of every one hundred grams of pizza can be made up of saturated fats. For comparison, regular cheese has about 0.2 grams of saturated fats for every twenty-one grams. This means there's only about one gram of saturated fat in every one hundred grams of regular cheese. Nutritionists and dietitians have recommended for individuals with arthritis to not get over ten percent of their daily calories from saturated fats. Cutting pizza out can be very helpful in achieving this.

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Food With MSG

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The research regarding monosodium glutamate (MSG) is hotly debated. Some studies have shown MSG has no adverse health effects, while others indicate the substance can cause inflammation flareups and overall pain, which can worsen arthritis. MSG is found naturally in foods like tomatoes and mushrooms, and natural sources (in moderation) are typically fine. But when it's added artificially to foods, MSG tends to be highly processed. Many frozen dinners and canned foods have high levels of artificial monosodium glutamate. If individuals are trying to cut MSG out of their diet, it's best to look for foods made with organic ingredients. They should also check the ingredients lists for monosodium glutamate. Patients can experiment by monitoring how they feel with MSG-containing foods versus without them to see if cutting it out is helpful.

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Omega-6 Fatty Acids

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Omega-6 fatty acids are an essential part of a healthy diet, and individuals absolutely should not cut them out of their diet completely. These acids are necessary to allow the cells and body to develop and grow normally. In an ideal diet, an individual's omega-3s and omega-6 acids will be balanced. However, individuals, particularly those with arthritis, should avoid having too much omega-6 in their diet. Excessively consuming this fatty acid can cause the body to produce chemicals that increase inflammation. Many foods contain omega-6 fatty acids, such as many salad dressings, mayonnaise, vegetable oil, peanut oil, soy-based oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and corn oil. Arthritis patients should try not to consume any of these foods or oils in excess.

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Aspartame

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Aspartame is an artificially-produced sweetener that can have a negative effect on an individual's pain perception. In the past, many rumors have circulated about the effects of aspartame on the body. Many of them, like the rumor aspartame causes epilepsy, aren't based on any scientific fact. However, there is research supporting the idea aspartame may increase pain perception by triggering neurons, and this has been associated with arthritis. Many diet sodas use aspartame as a no-calorie sweetener, which can also sometimes be found in low-calorie or no-calorie mints and gum. Some sugar-free gums use aspartame, but there's a range of less potentially-harmful low-calorie sweeteners that can also be used.

J. Findlay