Arthritis is a common illness in aging individuals. However, you can try to reduce your risk of developing it or manage your symptoms. Learn about some foods to avoid with arthritis ahead!

A healthy diet is good for nutrition and maintaining health. It can protect the person against the risk of various chronic diseases. Eating whole foods with less salt and sugar are some main parts of a healthy and balanced diet.

As a healthy diet has a positive effect on human health, an unhealthy diet, on the other hand, can have some negative effects on health.

An unhealthy diet can lead to weight gain and other diseases related to obesity like heart diseases, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis. According to a survey, the rate of obesity has doubled in adults and children within the last 30 years.

That is because of the high calories, fats, sodium, and added sugar in the diet of typical Americans. Most people don’t have enough vegetables, fruits, calcium, fiber, and whole grains in their diet. Such a diet can lead to death by increasing the risk of various diseases, including arthritis.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a medical condition in which the joints of the patients get inflamed. This disease can affect one joint or multiple joints at the same time.

There are many different types of arthritis with different causes, symptoms, and treatments. Some of its common types include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Psoriatic arthritis

Most people who develop arthritis are between the ages of 30 and 50. However, it can also affect teens, children, and adults. Osteoarthritis, a common type of arthritis, commonly develops after 60 years.

However, there is some evidence of osteoarthritis developing in women before age 40. The risk of developing this disease also increases if the person is overweight.

Painful joints human anatomy concept with the body as a group of circular panels of sore areas as a pain and injury or arthritis illness symbol for health care and medical symptoms due to aging or sports and work injury

Symptoms of arthritis

The person suffering from arthritis may feel the symptoms worsening in the morning when he gets out of bed or stands up after resting. Some other common symptoms are:

  • Not able to move quickly after resting
  • Popping or clicking while bending
  • The inability of the joints
  • Weakness of muscles around the joints
  • Grating feeling in the knees
  • Bony growth within the fingers

Some other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are:

  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade Fever
  • Joints on both sides of the body can get affected
  • Inflammation of the eyes and mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Onset in the joints of feet and hands
  • Joint stiffness after waking up
  • Inflammation in blood vessels and heart muscles
  • The lower amount of red blood cells

Causes of arthritis

There can be different causes of arthritis, including:

  • Obesity
  • Age
  • Autoimmune disorder
  • Injuries
  • Tearing of joints caused by overuse
  • Muscle weakness
  • Family history

Foods to avoid with arthritis

Arthritis can cause damage to joints, bones, and other parts of the body. According to studies, almost 40% of men and 47% of women are diagnosed with osteoarthritis in their lifetime.

Research has also shown that food may also be linked with the increasing symptoms of arthritis. Eliminating certain food and beverages from the diet can reduce the severity of its symptoms. So, here are some of the food that should be avoided during arthritis.

1. Added sugars:

Sugar can be taken in a limited amount, especially for arthritis. Added sugar can be present in many food items like candy, sodas, ice creams, and other foods like Barbecue sauces.

A study (Tedeschi, 2017), of 217 people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis found that foods with added sugars like desserts, and sugar-sweetened sodas, were most likely to worsen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

sugar spread out with "sugar" spelled out

Moreover, sugary beverages like soda can also increase the risk of arthritis. One study (L R DeChristopher, 2016), of 1,209 adults of 20-30 age, found out that the participants who drank fructose-sweetened beverages five times or more per week were more likely to have the risk of arthritis than those who drank non-fructose sweetened drinks.

A large study (Hu, 2014), of 200,000 women has shown that regular sodas with added sugar and sweetens can increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

2. Processed red meat:

Some research shows the link between red and processed meat with inflammation, a main risk of arthritis. For example, one study (Alwarith, 2019), has shown the effect of red and processed meat on a high level of inflammatory markers, like C-reactive and interleukin-6.

Another study (Tedeschi, Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms: Survey Results From a Rheumatoid Arthritis Registry, 2018) was done on 217 people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. It found that red meat can worsen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Moreover, a plant-based diet that doesn’t have red meat has shown to be very effective in reducing arthritis symptoms.

A high intake of processed red meat can also increase fat consumption, resulting in weight gain, leading to arthritis and other joint and muscle-related issues.

3. Gluten-containing foods:

Gluten is a certain kind of protein that is found in rye, barley, and wheat. Some studies have shown the link between gluten-containing foods and inflammation and suggest that a gluten-free diet can ease the symptoms of arthritis.

Moreover, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity have a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

According to research (Beenish Fayyaz, 2019), people suffering from autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis have a higher acceptance of gluten sensitivity or celiac diseases than the normal population.

In one study of 66 people (Badsha, 2018), with rheumatoid arthritis, the people who chose a gluten-free, vegan diet showed a significant reduction in disease activity and improvement in inflammation as compared to those who chose gluten-containing food.

4. Foods high in salt:

Reducing salt from the diet can be a great option for those suffering from arthritis. Certain foods are high in salts like shrimp, pizza, canned soup, processed meat, cheeses, and other processed items.

According to an animal study (Jung, 2019), of a mouse, the mice fed a high salt diet have more symptoms of arthritis than those fed with diet normal salt levels.

Another animal study (B. Sehnert), found that a diet with low levels of salt decreases the severity of rheumatoid arthritis. as compared to a diet high in salt.

In this study, the mice given a low salt diet had less bone destruction and cartilage breakdown, and low inflammation compared to those with a high salt diet.

Moreover, high sodium intake can also lead to the risk of autoimmune diseases, including inflammatory arthritis.

5. Food high in AGEs:

AGEs, or advanced glycation end products, are the molecules formed due to the reaction between sugar and fats or protein.

These molecules are found in uncooked animal meat and can also be formed through certain cooking methods.

A high amount of AGEs is present in high fat and high protein animal food roasted, grilled, fried, or boiled. For example, pan or grilled steak, roasted or fried chicken, broiled hot dogs, and bacon.

Mayonnaise, French fries, margarine, and American cheese also contain many AGEs. Higher intake of AGEs can result in oxidative stress and inflammation.

Oxidative stress and AGEs formation can increase the symptoms of arthritis. In fact, studies (Groot), have shown that people suffering from inflammatory arthritis have higher levels of AGEs in their bodies compared to healthy people.

AGE molecules can accumulate in bones and joints, resulting in the development and progression of osteoarthritis.

So, replacing food high in AGEs with other nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, and legumes can help control arthritis.

6. Alcohol:

Alcohol may worsen arthritis symptoms. People with inflammatory arthritis should cut down on alcohol completely.

Read more about the dangers of alcohol here.

A study of 278 people (Min, 2019), suffering from axial spondyloarthritis, a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects the sacroiliac joints and spinal cord, found that a higher intake of alcohol can increase the damage to spinal structure.

Studies (Fenando, Rednam, Gujarathi, & Widrich., 2022), have also shown that alcohol intake can increase the severity and frequency of gout attacks.

Moreover, higher alcohol consumption is related to arthritis and can also affect overall health by increasing the risk of certain chronic diseases.

7. Certain vegetable oils:

A diet low in omega-3 fatty acids but rich in omega-6 fatty acids can worsen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Both fats are necessary for health, but the imbalance ratio of these fats, most common in western diets, can cause the risk of certain medical conditions, including inflammation.

Studies (Sibille, 2019), have shown that reducing the intake of foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids like vegetable oils and increasing the intake of omega-3-rich foods like fatty fish can improve the symptoms of arthritis.

8. Highly processed foods:

Highly processed food items like breakfast cereals, baked goods, and fast food contain a high amount of refined grains, preservatives, and added sugar. These all are inflammatory ingredients and can worsen the symptoms of arthritis.

Read more about how to avoid processed foods here.

According to research, (Elena Philippou, 2018), a western diet high in processed food is linked with obesity and inflammation, contributing factors to rheumatoid arthritis.

Moreover, another study of 56 people (Smaira, 2020), found out that people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis who eat highly processed food can increase the risk factor of heart disease, including a higher level of HbA1c.

This processed food not only increases the symptoms of arthritis but is bad for overall health and can cause the risk of many other diseases as well.

Lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of arthritis

Diet has a major effect on our body and health, but lifestyle also matters. Even if you eat a healthy diet, but remain on your sofa watching TV all day, then the diet won’t provide as much benefit. Being active is as important as a healthy diet.

Studies have shown that losing excess weight and maintaining a healthy body weight can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis and the symptoms of this condition already present. Eating a diet full of nutrients is also very important for losing weight.

Choose a diet with a high amount of antioxidants like fresh fruits and vegetables. These can help in reducing inflammation. Fish and nuts can also be very beneficial in reducing inflammation.

On the other hand, regular exercise can keep your joints moving and flexible. Swimming can be a great option to do, especially for people suffering from arthritis. Because swimming does not put as much pressure on joints as running or walking do.

Staying active is very important, but if you are tired, listen to your body. If your body is showing signs of resting, then don’t overexert yourself; just rest a bit to relax your joints and bones. There are some easy exercises that you can also try at home:

  • Neck rotation, head tilt, and other exercises like that to reduce neck pain
  • Thumb bends or finger bends to check if there is any pain in the hands
  • Hamstring stretches, leg raises, and other exercises like that for people suffering from knee arthritis.
sample diet plan written on notebook graphic

5 tips to protect your joints:

First, start slowly with low-intensity exercise, especially when you have not been active for a long time. If you start working too hard suddenly, it may worsen the joint pain. Here are a few tips which can help you in protecting your joints:

  • Apply heat: If you have pain in joints even before starting the exercise, heat can be very helpful. Some good heat treatments are warm towels, hot packs, or a hot shower. But make sure that it should be nicely warm, not too hot. And should only be applied for a maximum of 20 minutes.
  • Low-impact exercises: If you are a beginner, try some low-impact exercises first. Some good options are elliptical trainers, stationary bicycles, or swimming. This exercise doesn’t stress your joints much when you move.
  • Warm up first: Move slowly at first to warm up your joints and muscles a bit. You can start with some range-of-motion exercises before any strength training or aerobic exercises.
  • Go slowly: Do not overexert yourself. Start slowly if you feel pain in any part of the body. Take a break. Sharp pain or pain stronger than usual joint points can signify something wrong. Stop exercising if you feel redness or swelling in joints.
  • Ice afterwards: Apply ice to your joints when you have finished your activity. Use an ice bag or ice cubes for 20 minutes at least, especially after the activity, which causes swelling in the joints.

Bottom line on foods to avoid with arthritis:

Arthritis is a common medical condition in which the joints get inflamed. People above 50-60 age have a higher risk of getting this disease.

There are many different causes of arthritis. If you have this medical condition, then a healthy diet and lifestyle can help improve the symptoms and reduce the risk of this disease.

Research has shown that processed food, red meat, high salt foods, fried foods, and added sugar should be avoided in arthritis because these foods are linked with inflammation and weight gain.

Remember that a healthy diet, regular activity, and healthy body weight are important to manage arthritis. So, adopt a healthy lifestyle, and put never put more pressure on your joints than these can handle.

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  4. 10 Foods That Boost The Immune System
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  7. Eating Healthy Food On A Budget

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