Osteoarthritis doesn’t cause inflammation, but most types of arthritis do—such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.
Arthritis is a chronic health condition, and there is currently no cure. There are medications and treatment options available for people with arthritis, but there’s no way to remove it altogether. Because of that, people try other things, like elimination diets.
Why Are Certain Foods Triggers?
Certain foods can trigger people with arthritis, depending on the type of arthritis they have and their diet.
Most of the foods listed below are triggering because they cause inflammation, but there are many other reasons why they should be cut from your diet.
When you have a chronic illness, it may seem hard to find relief. But doing small things for yourself, like avoiding the foods that make your pain worse, can be helpful in the long run.
If you’re struggling to find relief, cutting these foods out may help you to feel better. Of course, not all of these foods will trigger every single person with arthritis, but the best way to find out what triggers you is to remove all of them and then slowly add them back in one at a time, keeping notes on how certain foods affect you.
1. Red Meat
Red meat is delicious, but it’s also incredibly high in fat compared to most other meats. In addition, its high saturated fat content is associated with higher levels of inflammation, leading to increased symptoms of arthritis.
Thankfully, there are so many different meat substitutes these days, and you won’t miss eating red meat. Instead, you can choose leaner meats, like chicken and fish, or meat substitutes, like legumes or tofu.
Dairy is a complicated category because there are some things that you can have and some things that you can’t.
Full-fat products like milk and ice cream contain lots of sugar and fat, but these values change drastically depending on the specific product. For example, some low-fat ice creams may be okay to consume, and others might make things worse.
The same is also true of milk. You should avoid the higher-fat options and opt for low-fat ones instead if you need to keep milk in your diet.
Other dairy products such as yogurt may be helpful to your diet, as they contain probiotics. Probiotics make your gut healthier, which can lead to reduced inflammation throughout the body.
Keep in mind that dairy milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich in calcium and vitamin D. So, you might not want to cut out the entire category. Instead, choose products that are low in fat and sugar to keep in your diet and eliminate the rest.
While this may mean saying goodbye to some of your favorite foods, there are some great plant-based options you can switch to.
You may be thinking to yourself, how on earth am I supposed to cut salt out of my diet? Salt is in everything. Don’t worry, no one is asking you to cut salt out of your diet altogether. However, decreasing the amount of salt you consume every day may help reduce inflammation.
The best way to cut down on the salt in your diet is by switching to foods labeled as “no salt added” or “low sodium.”
Also, cut down on the amount of salt you add to each dish and instead use other spices like ground pepper, cumin, and garlic powder
4. Omega-6 Fatty Acids
While omega-3 fatty acids are great at combating inflammation, omega-6 fatty acids are great at inducing it. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in soybeans, sunflower seeds, safflower oil, canola oil, meat, and nuts.
To switch away from omega-6 fatty acids, try using olive oil when you cook and eat fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel that are rich in omega-3s.
5. Fried Foods
Everyone knows that fried foods aren’t the best for them, whether they cause inflammation or not. Most of the time, fried foods are cooked in neutral oils packed full of saturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids.
Not only are fried foods linked to an increase in inflammation, but they’re also known for making arthritis symptoms worse.
Foods that are fried are also often packed with fat already. Air frying and baking are great alternatives to help cut down on the inflammation you experience.
6. Sugary Beverages
Any beverages that have a lot of sugar in them aren’t worth your time, including processed fruit juices. Not only should you avoid drinking your calories for the day, but you should avoid products that have too much sugar in them altogether.
Harvard Health suggests that excess sugar also increases the risk of heart disease, leading to obesity and other chronic diseases.
Large amounts of sugar are known for causing inflammation, so you should switch to unsweetened drinks. Steer clear from sugar alternatives and ingredients like corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, and maltose.
Drinking more water can help calm down inflammation. If you’re trying to switch off soda, sparkling water is a great substitute. While it won’t have the same sugary flavor, you may be able to trick yourself with carbonation.
Drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation may help with inflammation. For example, having a glass of red wine at night can help to calm the inflammation you may be feeling. However, when you drink past moderate amounts, you can make your arthritis worse.
When drinking red wine, it’s best to limit yourself to no more than five ounces per night for best results.
8. Canned Foods
You don’t have to cut out every canned food item on the face of the planet, but you should cut out those that are high in sugar and salt.
Salt is often used as a preservative to keep canned foods from going bad, but that means it’s present in high amounts, and as we previously stated—high amounts of salt cause inflammation easily.
Try using fresh products like dry beans and vegetables to prevent high salt intake. Canned fruits are often high in sugar, so try using frozen fruits instead, as they don’t contain any additives. It is also important to steer clear from nightshade vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes.
We know you really don’t want to hear this one, but cutting out sweets is something you need to do if you want to experience relief from your arthritis symptoms. While this one will be hard, you will notice the results, especially if your diet is packed with sugars and sweets.
Switch out refined sugars for natural ones by eating more fruits. Some people believe that citrus fruits can cause inflammation due to acidity. However, citrus fruits have anti-inflammatory benefits in addition to being rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. They’re a great option for when you have a sweet tooth but want to stay away from empty calories packed with sugar.
Another difficult food to cut out is gluten.
Gluten is a group of proteins in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. It is found in most grain products, so you’ll have to be extra attentive about this one. There isn’t a ton of research behind this one, but many arthritis sufferers have found that cutting out gluten has really helped diminish the symptoms associated with it.
Celiac disease, an immune disorder, can actually be linked to arthritis. People who have celiac disease are often at higher risk of developing arthritis.
However, with all the new products on the market, there are so many gluten-free options that you might even forget that you can’t eat the real thing.
So, What Can You Eat?
After all this talk of cutting out foods, you may be left wondering: what can I eat? The question is simple. You’ll mostly want to consume whole foods that haven’t been processed.
You can make simple changes to your diet and make it more like the Mediterranean diet, which consists of dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli, high-fiber fruits like oranges, starchy foods like sweet potatoes, lentils, and beans. Also, aim to eat more complex carbohydrates like quinoa, whole grains, brown rice, and wheat bread
While you can also eat chicken, we suggest leaning more toward different varieties of fish.
After a month or two of eating on your elimination diet, you should begin to add things back in one at a time, monitoring your symptoms as you do so. If something triggers a flare-up, remove it again.
When an Elimination Diet Isn’t Enough
Unfortunately, even an elimination diet isn’t enough to keep all the inflammation at bay all the time. While it will make things better, it might not take away all the inflammation you’re experiencing. There are many options out there for further pain management, but here at Hempvana, we specialize in treatment options for people with arthritis.
Our pain creams and gels will help soothe your joints, giving you pain relief when you need it. We also offer compression gloves and other arthritis-specific products to help reduce your symptoms, making your chronic pain more manageable.