This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
Arthritis is a condition that affects many people, particularly as they get older. While certain risk factors are associated with developing arthritis, such as age, sex, family history or receiving an acute injury, your diet can also seriously impact the severity of your arthritis symptoms.
Some foods are known for worsening an individual's arthritis and should be avoided whenever possible to prevent flare-ups.
Continue reading to better understand what arthritis is, why certain foods cause arthritis flare-ups and seven of the worst foods to eat if you have arthritis.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the joints. You can easily understand the meaning of the condition by breaking down the word "arthritis." Its prefix comes from the Greek word "arthron," which means joint, while the suffix "-itis" means inflammation.
Although arthritis can affect virtually any joint in the human body, it commonly affects the knees, hips, spine and fingers. The probability of developing arthritis increases as you get older, although you can get it at any age, and the condition disproportionately affects women. Roughly 20 per cent of Canadians over 15-years-old have been diagnosed with arthritis.
There are multiple types of arthritis, including:
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
Why do certain foods cause arthritis flare-ups?
While no single food will cause arthritis or trigger a flare-up, your diet as a whole can substantially impact the severity of your condition.
Certain foods have been found to have inflammatory properties, so it's wise to avoid these foods as much as possible. Some foods, like white rice, contain compounds called cytokines, which promote inflammation. If you regularly include these in your diet, your arthritis can worsen.
Many health care professionals recommend adopting an anti-inflammatory diet that focuses on heavily reducing the number of foods that may directly or indirectly worsen inflammation. However, it's important to remember that the foods which trigger an arthritis flare-up may vary with the type of arthritis you have.
Foods that are bad for arthritis
Certain foods can affect arthritis through direct and indirect means. Consider cutting the following foods out of your diet if you have the condition.
Dairy contains a protein called casein which can stimulate inflammation around the joints, worsening symptoms of arthritis. Moreover, some dairy products like cheese and butter have high-fat content, which can contribute to weight gain and increase pressure on your joints.
2. High fructose corn syrup
A clinical trial assessed the negative impacts of drinking sucrose-sweetened soft drinks (SSSDs) and found that drinks with processed sugars directly stimulated the production of uric acid. Uric acid not only promotes inflammation but also induces insulin resistance.
3. Saturated fats
Saturated fats and trans fats are bad for individuals with arthritis because they increase levels of inflammation in the body and contribute to other health risks like heart disease. Additionally, saturated fats indirectly affect arthritis by contributing to weight gain.
4. Refined sugars
Refined sugars are problematic for several reasons. Firstly, they have been found to have inflammatory effects in the bloodstream. They also contribute to weight gain, which can indirectly worsen arthritis.
Eating traditional pasta can worsen arthritis because it contains gluten. When eaten, gluten triggers an inflammatory immune response. Instead, opt for non-wheat alternatives like brown rice, lentil pasta or quinoa.
6. Red meat
Other foods that contain purines include pork, organ meats and some seafood.
7. Processed foods
Processed foods are packaged and sold in stores, usually containing multiple ingredients. These foods negatively impact arthritis symptoms because they are difficult for our bodies to process and digest.
While arthritis can be caused by an injury or developed over time, individuals living with arthritis should consider avoiding foods that promote inflammation and worsen the symptoms of the condition.
One of the easiest ways to do this is by following the dietary recommendations in Canada's Food Guide.
If you continue to suffer from arthritis flare-ups, consider speaking with your doctor about additional dietary changes you may need to make, the option of taking medication to manage your symptoms as well as any other lifestyle changes that may help you manage your condition.