Arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation in the joints, leading to pain and stiffness. While there are over 100 types of arthritis, they all share inflammation as a common characteristic. Certain foods are known to contribute to inflammation and can aggravate arthritis symptoms.

There are also a host of foods that can help reduce inflammation, with fish rich in omega 3, ginger and turmeric being the three most commonly cited, although as you’d have to consume grams of them most people tend to get them from supplements rather than eating them by the spoonful. There’s a great article about how you can make the most of these natural remedies to help improve symptoms here.

But, this article is focused on the foods you should try to avoid. So, here are the most important foods you should avoid if you have arthritis:

1. Sweets and Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Sugar, particularly added sugars found in sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages, is a known contributor to inflammation in the body. This is due to the fact that sugar triggers the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. These cytokines can exacerbate inflammation in the body, including in the joints, thereby worsening arthritis symptoms.

Sodas and other sweetened beverages are particularly harmful as they often contain high levels of fructose, a type of sugar that has been linked to increased uric acid levels. Uric acid is a waste product in the body that can crystallize and accumulate in the joints, leading to a painful form of arthritis known as gout.

Moreover, the high-calorie content of these beverages can contribute to weight gain, which puts additional pressure on weight-bearing joints, further aggravating arthritis symptoms. Therefore, it is advisable for individuals with arthritis to limit their intake of sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages and opt for healthier alternatives such as water, herbal teas, or fruit-infused water.

2. Dairy And Arthritis

Dairy products, while rich in beneficial nutrients like calcium and protein, also contain a protein called casein. Some research suggests that casein may contribute to inflammation, potentially worsening arthritis symptoms. This is because casein can trigger an immune response in some individuals, leading to the release of inflammatory substances.

However, it’s important to note that not everyone with arthritis will have a negative reaction to dairy. Some people may tolerate it well and benefit from its nutrient content. For those who are sensitive to dairy, alternatives such as almond milk, oat milk, or other plant-based dairy substitutes can be good options. These alternatives can provide essential nutrients without the potential inflammatory effects of casein.

3. Fatty Foods and Red Meats

Fatty foods, particularly those high in trans fats, are known to promote inflammation. Trans fats are found in many processed foods, fried foods, fast foods, and baked goods like donuts. They are known to increase levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol while decreasing levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, contributing to inflammation and heart disease.

Red meats, particularly those that are high in saturated fat, can also contribute to inflammation. Studies have shown that a high intake of red meat can lead to increased levels of inflammatory markers in the body. This is likely due to the high levels of saturated fat in red meat, as well as compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that form when meat is cooked at high temperatures. AGEs have been linked to inflammation and can exacerbate arthritis symptoms.

Instead of red meats and fatty foods, individuals with arthritis might consider incorporating more lean proteins, such as poultry and fish, into their diet. These foods are lower in saturated fat and, in the case of fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Plant-based proteins, such as beans, lentils, and tofu, are also excellent choices as they are low in fat and high in fiber, which can also help reduce inflammation. Also staying in shape can help manage arthritis, making it important to avoid too much fat in your diet.

4. Carbohydrates and Gluten-containing Foods

Carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates found in high-glycemic foods like bread, crackers, white rice, and potatoes, can contribute to inflammation in the body. These foods are quickly broken down into sugar in your body, leading to a spike in blood sugar levels. This rapid rise and fall in blood sugar can trigger an inflammatory response.

Moreover, these foods are often low in fiber, a nutrient that has been shown to reduce inflammation. By replacing these refined carbohydrates with whole grains, which are high in fiber, you can help to reduce inflammation and manage arthritis symptoms.

Gluten, a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and other cereals, has also been linked to inflammation. Some individuals, particularly those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, may experience an inflammatory response when they consume gluten. For these individuals, adopting a gluten-free diet may help to reduce inflammation and ease arthritis symptoms.

5. Tobacco and Alcohol And Arthritis

Tobacco and alcohol are known to contribute to inflammation in the body, and they can exacerbate certain types of arthritis. Smoking, in particular, has been shown to increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune form of arthritis characterized by severe inflammation. This is likely due to the numerous toxins in tobacco smoke, which can trigger an inflammatory response in the body.

Alcohol, on the other hand, has been linked to gout, a painful form of arthritis caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints. Alcohol can increase the levels of uric acid in the body, thereby increasing the risk of gout attacks. Therefore, limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding smoking can be beneficial for individuals with arthritis.

6. Advanced Glycation End (AGE) Products

Advanced Glycation End (AGE) products are harmful compounds that are formed when proteins or fats combine with sugar in the bloodstream. This process is accelerated when foods are cooked at high temperatures, such as during grilling or frying.

AGEs can cause damage to certain proteins in the body. Your body tries to break these AGEs apart by using cytokines, which are inflammatory messengers. Unfortunately, this can result in inflammation.

Furthermore, AGEs can also accumulate in the body over time, contributing to aging and chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Therefore, reducing the intake of foods high in AGEs, such as those that are fried or grilled, and opting for cooking methods such as steaming or boiling, can help to reduce inflammation and manage arthritis symptoms.

7. Additives

Food additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame, and salt, are often used by manufacturers to enhance the flavor, texture, or shelf life of their products. However, these additives have been linked to increased inflammation in the body. MSG, a flavor enhancer commonly used in processed foods and restaurant meals, can trigger two important pathways of chronic inflammation, and affect liver health.

Aspartame, an artificial sweetener found in many diet sodas and “sugar-free” products, has also been associated with inflammation. It can increase the production of free radicals, which can cause inflammation and damage cells.

Salt, while necessary for bodily functions, can contribute to inflammation when consumed in excess. High salt intake has been associated with increased inflammation and a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Therefore, it’s advisable to limit the intake of processed foods and beverages that contain these additives. Opting for fresh, whole foods and cooking at home allows you to control what goes into your meals and can help to reduce your intake of these potentially inflammatory additives.

8. Certain Vegetable Oils

Certain vegetable oils, particularly those high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids, may contribute to inflammation. While both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential to health, an imbalance in their intake – specifically, consuming too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 – can promote inflammation.

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in oils like corn, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oil, as well as in margarine and vegetable shortening. On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish like salmon and mackerel, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and certain green vegetables like spinach and Brussels sprouts.

To maintain a healthy balance of these fatty acids, it’s advisable to limit the intake of foods high in omega-6 and increase the consumption of foods rich in omega-3. This can help to reduce inflammation and potentially alleviate symptoms of arthritis.

9. Foods High in Salt

A diet high in salt can contribute to inflammation and has been linked to an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. This is because excessive salt intake can disrupt the balance of fluids in your body, leading to increased pressure in your blood vessels and inflammation.

Foods that are typically high in salt include processed foods like canned soup, pizza, certain cheeses, and processed meats. Even foods that don’t taste particularly salty, like breads and cereals, can also be high in salt.

To reduce salt intake, it’s recommended to eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, as these foods are naturally low in salt. When buying processed foods, look for low-sodium or no-salt-added versions. Additionally, try flavoring your food with herbs and spices instead of salt.

10. Processed Foods

Processed foods, including frozen meals, lunchmeat, baked goods, fast food, and packaged snacks, are often high in refined grains, added sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats. These ingredients can contribute to inflammation in the body, potentially exacerbating arthritis symptoms.

Refined grains and added sugars can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to an inflammatory response. Salt can disrupt the balance of fluids in the body, leading to inflammation, while unhealthy fats, particularly trans fats and saturated fats, have been linked to increased inflammation.

Furthermore, a diet high in processed foods is associated with increased obesity and insulin resistance. Both of these conditions can indirectly worsen arthritis symptoms by increasing inflammation and placing additional pressure on the joints. Therefore, it’s advisable to limit the intake of processed foods and opt for a diet rich in whole foods.

11. Alcohol

While moderate consumption of certain types of alcohol, like red wine, can have anti-inflammatory properties due to their antioxidant content, excessive alcohol use can have negative effects on arthritis. Drinking alcohol once a week or more may increase the risk of osteoarthritis (OA).

Alcohol consumption can increase levels of uric acid in the body, which can contribute to gout, a painful form of arthritis characterized by the deposition of uric acid crystals in the joints. Therefore, it’s advisable for individuals with arthritis to limit their alcohol consumption to avoid exacerbating their symptoms.

12. Coffee

The relationship between coffee and arthritis is complex. On one hand, coffee contains antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation in the body. This could potentially be beneficial for individuals with arthritis.

However, coffee also contains caffeine, which can have various effects on the body. Some research suggests that high caffeine intake could increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, although the evidence is not conclusive.

Therefore, while coffee might not need to be completely avoided by individuals with arthritis, it’s important to consume it in moderation and be mindful of its caffeine content.

In conclusion, while certain foods and beverages can potentially aggravate arthritis symptoms, it’s important to remember that everyone is different.

What may cause inflammation in one person may not in another. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to maintain a balanced diet and consult with a healthcare professional or a dietitian to understand what works best for you. Additionally, lifestyle factors like your activity level, body weight, and smoking status are also vital to managing arthritis.


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The information presented on this website is not intended as specific medical advice and is not a substitute for professional treatment or diagnosis. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


Isreal olabanji a dental assistant and public health professionals and has years of experience in assisting the dentist with all sorts of dental issues.We regularly post timely and trustworthy medical information and news on Fitness, Dental care, Recipes, Child health, obstetrics, and more.

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