8 Foods to Avoid With Arthritis
Arthritis is an unfortunate condition that results in pain and swelling of the joints, and it affects millions of people worldwide.
There are currently over one hundred known forms of arthritis, one of the most common of which is rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition that occurs when the body's immune system does not function correctly.
Although there are various medical treatments for the condition that should not be ignored, there are also more simple methods of keeping the disease and it’s symptoms under control, one of which being your dietary choices.
Here on the Eu Natural blog we’ve already looked at the many different foods that can help bring down levels of inflammation, and in this post we’ll be exploring the foods that you may want to avoid to keep your arthritis under control.
Everyone has different sensitivities and tolerances for certain food groups, so it is not possible to recommend a complete ‘cure all’ diet plan. But here are eight foods and substances that are the most likely to cause inflammation and aggravate symptoms of arthritis.
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1. Dairy Products
It seems that intolerance to dairy products is on the rise, with estimates that two thirds of the population of the planet have issues digesting and assimilating it properly.
When the body is intolerant to certain proteins found in milk such as lactose, it produces antibodies. These act to fight off the proteins, as if they were some kind of harmful foreign substance. These antibodies are not the most accurate in their attack however, and can cause damage to other parts of the body, leading to inflammation and a worsening of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Dairy products are also generally quite acidic. Regular consumption can lead the body towards a more acidic state, which encourages inflammation.
Thankfully there are an increasing number of non dairy alternatives available that still contain plenty of vitamin and calcium, such as almond milk, rice milk, and even vegetable based cheeses such as those made from soy or coconut oil.
As well as ditching the dairy, it has been suggested that transitioning away from meat and adopting more of a plant-based diet may reduce inflammation and improve symptoms of arthritis.
As stated on Everyday Health:
“Consumption of meat is associated with higher overall fat and calorie intake, which are markers for an unhealthy diet. The fats in meat are more easily metabolized into pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body. Production of these inflammatory chemicals is good in certain circumstances – like when you're fighting an infection – but they can also cause painful inflammation and swelling in spaces like your joints.”
Studies have also shown that the saturated fats found in meat can trigger inflammation of fat cells in the body, which can again worsen the symptoms of arthritis.
You don’t have to shun meat completely, but you may benefit from transitioning towards more plant-based sources of protein such as legumes, nuts and seeds.
As well as sensitivities to lactose, it seems that intolerance to gluten, the protein found in wheat products and several other cereals, is also on the rise. When someone has a sensitivity (or a severe allergy, as seen in celiac disease), the body mounts an immune response, which can lead to chronic inflammation if it occurs over a prolonged time period.
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Research has shown a correlation between celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis, so it may be worth experimenting with cutting gluten out of your diet to see if it has a positive effect.
Just be aware that many gluten free substitute products are not necessarily always that healthy, and may in fact contain other compounds that can aggravate inflammation, including…
Although sugary snacks such as cereal bars and chocolate often appeal to the taste buds, they may not be the best choice when it comes to keeping your inflammation levels under control.
The Arthritis Foundation warns that:
“Processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Sugar goes by many names so look out for any word ending in “ose,” e.g. fructose or sucrose on ingredient labels.”
You don’t have to cut sugar out of your diet completely, but look limit your consumption and substitute it with more natural sweeteners such as stevia and maple syrup when you can.
Be careful to avoid foods that contain the sweetener aspartame, which acts as a neurotoxin, and amongst many other negative health effects, triggers an inflammatory response.
5. Trans Fats
Processed foods are those that have been significantly altered from their natural state by human beings, and they often come in brightly coloured packaging. Again, they often appeal to the taste buds because of their high sugar and fat content, but they are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to inflammation.
Processed snacks, fast foods and margarine are often rich in trans fats, man made versions of saturated fats. They are sometimes labelled as hydrogenated or partly hydrogenated fats.
As well as presenting a myriad of other health issues, they are known to trigger systemic inflammation and worsen symptoms of arthritis.
6. Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that the body does not produce naturally, hence need to be obtained through dietary means. They are typically found in high concentrations in oils such corn, sunflower, grapeseed, peanut, and many salad dressings Optimal health is achieved through a balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, yet the western diet is typically too high in omega-6.
Over consumption of omega-6 fatty acids triggers an inflammatory response, causing joint pain and increasing the risk of other chronic conditions such as coronary heart disease.
7. Refined Carbohydrates
Sugar is the most refined version of a carbohydrate, but there are also intermediate versions such as white rice, white pasta, white bread and desserts made from white flour. These are all high-glycemic index foods, meaning that they are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing large fluctuations in blood sugar levels and insulin production.
As well as contributing towards fat storage, refined carbohydrate sources are known to stimulate the production of advanced glycation end (AGE) products that lead to systemic inflammation and a worsening of arthritis symptoms.
8. Alcohol - Excessive alcohol consumption places a large number of stressors on the body, particularly with regards to the liver.
When the liver is weakened, is unable to function properly, which disrupts the normal bodily processes and organ interactions. Over time this can lead to inflammation, which as we know worsens symptoms of arthritis.
If you drink regularly, look to reduce your consumption or eliminate alcohol completely.