Have you ever wondered how your diet influences the severity of arthritis? Or are you in a quest to find the perfect food which is appetizing yet healthy enough not to cause arthritis-related health problems? Let’s face it: Healthy food does not always taste good but on the other hand, they offer the best benefits as far as your health is concerned. Nevertheless, one way to reduce arthritis-induced inflammation is by avoiding highly processed, saturated fat-dense foods. In this article, we will further dig deeper into what exactly is arthritis, foods that inflame arthritis, and how to choose the right diet to reduce inflammation caused by arthritis.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a general term used to describe joint-related conditions affecting the body. This results in inflammation of the joints, which in turn, exacerbates pain, stiffness, and swelling – which may occur either suddenly or gradually. Ever wondered why your arthritis seems to flare up at odd times seemingly inexplicably? Well, arthritis can be triggered by stress on the joints, weight gain, cold weather, repetitive motions, and lifestyle factors such as smoking and excessive drinking. Genetic reasons and aging are other risk factors of arthritis.
Although there’s no cure for arthritis, proper management, therapy, and lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing cholesterol consumption can alleviate symptoms and improve the condition. As previously stated, what you eat can influence the severity of joint pains caused by arthritis. Keep on reading to discover good and bad diet choices as far as arthritis is concerned.
Foods That Inflame Arthritis: Five Foods to Avoid and Their Substitutes
1. Sugars and highly processed carbohydrates
These types of foods include table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and processed carbohydrates which have most of their nutrients and fibers removed. White bread, pizza, pastries, white rice, and pasta fall in this category. These are all refined carbohydrates, which are converted to sugars when in the body. When this occurs, the body releases pro-inflammatory proteins known as cytokines, which are already at high levels for people with inflammatory arthritis.
This means that when you consume more processed carbs, the inflammation worsens due to increased levels of cytokines. While most of our foods are made up of refined carbohydrates and sugars, it is difficult to entirely eliminate them from our diets. However, with gradual substitution, you can improve your diet and reduce arthritis inflammation.
When choosing grains, opt for whole grains products such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oats. You can also switch to a sugar-free diet and use natural sweeteners such as fruits, agave, honey, and molasses.
2. Salt and other food preservatives
Salt and other preservatives are mostly used to extend the shelf life of most processed foods. Consuming salt in excess may trigger your arthritis pain by promoting calcium loss in your joints. Eating less salt may help to preserve your bones by reducing calcium loss. That being said, suddenly taking salt off your diet could be difficult to achieve.
However, you can gradually begin with reducing your salt intake by using low sodium salt substitutes, limiting condiments, rinsing off canned fruits and vegetables with water, or opting for fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s also worth noting that reading food labels carefully can help you spot hidden salts usually labeled as sodium.
3. Alcohol and tobacco
Excessive consumption of alcohol might also trigger arthritis inflammation. Many alcoholic beverages are not only full of sugar, but they also interfere with the functioning of your arthritis medications. Additionally, excessive binge drinking can also cause liver damage due to toxins from our gut bacteria getting into the liver. Once this happens, alcoholic liver cirrhosis is usually the result, which is further linked to liver damage caused by scarring.
In addition to alcohol consumption, excessive smoking can lead to severe cases of arthritis. Smoking is also linked to the development of rheumatoid factor, an antibody used to test for rheumatoid arthritis. A study linking tobacco use to arthritis inflammation suggested that smoking may also trigger severe rheumatoid arthritis due to genetic factors.
The gene responsible for detoxifying the harmful chemicals in tobacco was absent in about 50% of Caucasians, putting smokers who lacked this gene at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. All in all, it’s vital to avoid excessive smoking or drinking.
4. Dairy products
Dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese, and cream may contribute to arthritis inflammation because of the protein they contain. They are also high in saturated fats which and can cause inflammation in the fatty tissues. Some people may also experience irritation in their tissues surrounding the joints when they consume dairy products. Consider switching to plant-based protein such as nuts, beans, tofu, lentils, and soy products if dairy products aggravate your joint pains.
5. Omega 6 fatty acids
A healthy balanced diet includes the consumption of both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids for normal body function. However, excessive consumption of omega 6 fatty acids can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals. So it’s vital to avoid baked foods and snacks, which usually contain large amounts of omega 6 fatty acids. Excessive intake of these foods can also lead to weight gain and inflammation of the joints.
You can substitute oils high in omega 6 fatty acids (such as corn oil, sunflower oil, and soybean oil) with oils rich in omega 3 fatty acids. These are usually found in salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines. Seeds rich in omega 3 fatty acids include walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds.
In conclusion, reducing arthritis inflammation is possible through improved lifestyle practices. This includes eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water, exercising, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco. Also, try to stay away from highly processed sugars, dairy products, salt, and omega 6 fatty acids. Rather, make it a point to switch to healthier alternatives such as whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, vegetable-based protein, and low sodium diets.
We do hope you enjoyed reading this article, and it has assisted you in finding foods that inflame arthritis Why not share your experience with foods that trigger arthritis in the comments section below? Also, feel free to share this article with others.