Arthritis collectively refers to more than 200 rheumatic conditions and diseases that affect our joints. Rheumatoid, psoriatic, and osteoarthritis are the three most common forms of arthritis. It can impair the ability of an individual to perform daily tasks such as walking.
Consuming a well-balanced diet, having a healthy lifestyle in general by including some physical activity, and abstaining from smoking and alcohol can significantly impact arthritis and our health in general. Consumption of certain foods and beverages seems to have a direct impact on arthritis. Research shows that avoiding some foods and beverages can help control the symptoms of this condition.
How Does Food Impact Arthritis?
There are different types of arthritis, and every person suffering from this condition shows a different set of symptoms and reacts differently to what they are consuming. However, it has been observed that avoiding certain types of foods seems to impact arthritis positively.
Weight and inflammation are the two main things to which arthritis is directly related.
Consuming a well-balanced diet comprising of adequate nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, as recommended by a nutritionist, can help protect your body against inflammation.
Normally, inflammation in our body is a form of protection against bacteria and aids in healing wounds. But when there is continued inflammation in the body for a long period, it can cause severe and chronic symptoms.
Consuming foods of certain kinds is known to impact the levels of inflammation in our bodies. Foods fall into the categories of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory. So, consuming inflammatory foods can trigger arthritis symptoms, whereas consuming anti-inflammatory foods can help suppress both progress and symptoms of arthritis.
Several studies reveal that an individual’s body weight can also impact the levels of inflammation. Being overweight tends to put a lot of strain on your joints, especially on the legs. The knees of an overweight individual usually take double or triple the pressure on them when walking, which tends to increase the pain and inflammation in the body. Rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and osteoarthritis are common forms of arthritis that may develop in an overweight individual.
Also, the fat cells in our body produce immune cells known as cytokines which surge inflammation. Maintaining an ideal body weight can help inflammation, lower the pressure on the joints, and offer relief from arthritis pain.
Although changing the diet doesn’t mean you can get rid of arthritis completely. However, it provides relief and stops the condition from getting worse. You must continue your medication and physical activities as advised by your health practitioner.
Here are five types of foods and beverages that you must avoid if you are diagnosed with arthritis.
- Foods that are High in AGEs
Advanced Glycation End Products or AGEs are created because of reactions between fats or proteins and sugars, and they are considered to be factors in the process of human-body aging. AGE is generally found in foods derived from animals, and when these foods are cooked in specific processed ways, it further leads to the formation of AGE.
Animal-derived foods that are high in fat and protein and cooked using searing, frying, broiling, grilling, or roasting enhance the AGE in them, making them a rich source of AGEs. Fried bacon, grilled chicken, roasted meat, broiled sausages, etc., are some examples of foods rich in AGEs. Mayonnaise, margarine, and cheese are some more examples of foods that are rich in AGEs.
As AGEs accumulate in large amounts in the body, it causes inflammation and oxidative stress. Both inflammation and oxidative stress have been directly related to an increase in symptoms of arthritis in people.
Several tests reveal that people suffering from arthritis have a high concentration of AGEs in their bodies compared to individuals who are free from arthritis. Osteoarthritis is known to develop or progress because of AGE accumulation in the joints and bones.
In a study conducted on 217 people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, it was seen that 20 types of desserts and sweetened soda (sugar) were known to worsen arthritis symptoms.
In another study where 1209 adults were studied, it was seen that those between ages 20 and 30 who frequently consumed drinks containing fructose at least five times a week were three times likelier to get arthritis compared to those who refrained from these drinks or consumed them infrequently.
Consuming sugar in high amounts also causes augmented levels of AGEs in the body. Fruit juice, pastries, candies, soda, chocolates, etc., are all known to trigger cytokines that cause inflammation in the body. Fructose, corn syrup, maltose, and sucrose also should be avoided by people suffering from arthritis.
Although sucralose and aspartame are some sugar alternatives that are widely considered safe, health practitioners ask their patients suffering from the condition of arthritis to avoid sugar alternatives if they are sensitive to these substances as this can easily cause inflammation in the body and trigger more pain. Sugar-free chewing gums, diet sodas, low-fat yogurt, sugar-free sweets, and candies are some examples that contain sugar alternatives to look out for.
- Processed and Deep-Fried Food
Processed foods and fried meat are not just bad for health in general but also triggers arthritis. All types of pre-packaged meals, baked foods, and snacks are best avoided by individuals suffering from arthritis. These foods are high in trans-fats that are preservatives and help in elongating their shelf-life. All food items labeled as – partially hydrogenated oils contain trans-fat, which are known to cause inflammation and worsen arthritis symptoms.
Highly processed food items such as cereals and fast food (pizza, donuts, etc.) are added sugars, refined grains, and preservatives. All these are inflammatory agents and can cause immense pain and discomfort for individuals suffering from arthritis.
Several types of research reveal that Western diets contain heavily processed foods that make you susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis because they contribute to inflammation and several risk factors such as obesity – also a factor that worsens arthritis.
Another study conducted on 56 people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis revealed that those who consumed highly processed foods in large amounts were exposed to heart disease conditions and elevated levels of glycated hemoglobin, which is an indication of blood sugar.
Processed foods deplete your overall health and also make you vulnerable to other diseases besides arthritis.
Lowering the intake of these foods can help control and reduce inflammation in the body. Keep an eye on the foods and beverages that you consume. It is best to have home-prepared fresh meals, and it ensures that you are eating healthy. You must also include more whole grains, fresh vegetables, and fruits. Consume water instead of canned beverages. Consuming healthy foods helps in boosting the defense system of the body.
- Inflammatory Fats
Different types of fats are known to cause inflammation in the body. Individuals with arthritis should limit:
Omega 6 fatty acids: Most oils such as vegetable oil, safflower oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil are high in omega-six fatty acids. Although when consumed in moderation, omega-six fatty acids are not harmful, people these days are known to consume them in excess in fried foods.
Saturated fat: In a day, just 10% of an individual’s calorie intake should comprise saturated fats. Consuming excessive fat causes inflammation in the body, and some common examples are cheese, butter, and meat.
Trans fats: Trans fats are unsaturated fats that are found in natural and artificial forms. They are also known as trans-fatty acids and are harmful to human health. Trans fats lower the levels of good cholesterol and increase bad cholesterol levels in the body, and this causes inflammation in the body. This fat is found in commercially prepared fried and baked food products.
In a study conducted on 278 people suffering from spondyloarthritis, it was found that consuming alcohol had increased the level of damage in their spinal structure. Spondyloarthritis is arthritis that affects the back, neck, sacroiliac joints (lower spine and pelvis).
Many studies show consuming alcohol worsens gout attacks. Alcohol is high in purine which is a substance that the body converts to uric acid. When uric acid builds up in our bloodstream, it frequently causes gout attacks.
People consuming alcohol are also categorized under high risk of getting osteoarthritis. Several indications reveal alcohol to be a cause of inflammation in the body and should be especially avoided by people suffering from arthritis.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, omega three fatty acids, unsaturated fats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean meat should be consumed in the diet instead of the foods mentioned above and beverages. Consuming healthy foods and clean water helps in having an overall healthy life while also helping with arthritis.
Note – Before you can make changes in your diet, you must take the advice of your health practitioner.Authored By: Ankita Agarwal
About Author: Ankita Agarwal is a Health & Wellness Coach from Siliguri, India