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What Not to Eat if You Have Arthritis

Arthritis is a general term used to describe conditions that cause pain and inflammation in the joints. Medical experts have identified over 100 different types of arthritis — osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis among the most common — but, no matter the precise condition, standard treatment involves the use of anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications.

In addition to pharmaceutical treatments, research suggests that those coping with arthritis should eliminate inflammatory foods from their diets. Doing so may help ease their arthritis symptoms.

Here are some of the triggering ingredients and foods you should avoid if you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis.


The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition points out that processed sugars found in desserts, pastries, candy, sodas and even fruit juices may trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Check food labels for any word ending in “ose,” including fructose and sucrose.

Saturated fats

Saturated fats trigger the inflammation of adipose tissue (fatty tissue), which increases arthritis inflammation and is also an indicator for heart disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, pizza and cheese are the biggest sources of saturated fats in the standard American diet. Other sources of saturated fats include red meat products, full-fat dairy products, pasta and grain-based desserts.

Trans fats

Trans fats found in fast food, fried foods, processed foods and sweet treats are known to trigger systemic inflammation in the body. Check food labels for any partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs). Earlier this year, the FDA released its final determination that PHOs are not generally recognized as safe and has set a compliance period of three years for food companies to remove PHOs from their products. However, it’s important to note that this regulation will not completely eliminate trans fats from your diet, as these substances occur naturally (albeit in small amounts) in meat and dairy products as well as some edible oils.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

While omega-6 fatty acids are essential for normal growth and development, excess consumption of omega-6s — found in many oils, mayonnaise and salad dressings — can trigger the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals, causing a flare-up of arthritis symptoms.

Gluten and casein

Gluten isn’t only a problem for people who have celiac disease. If you suffer from joint pain, you are likely also sensitive to gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. You’re also probably sensitive to casein, a protein found in dairy products. Eliminating gluten and casein from your diet may provide relief from your joint pain.

Refined carbs

Breads, rolls, crackers and other foods made with white flour contain refined carbohydrates. So too do white rice, white potatoes and many cereals. These foods are high on the glycemic index and can stimulate inflammation.


This common artificial sweetener, while approved by the FDA, may trigger an inflammatory immune response. If you’re watching your sugar intake, be careful to check food labels as thousands of products labeled “diet” or “sugar-free” contain aspartame.


Monosodium glutamate, a.k.a. MSG, is a food additive most commonly found in Asian prepared dishes and soy sauce. It is also sometimes added to fast foods, prepared soups (and soup mixes) as well as salad dressings and deli meats. As is true of all foods on this list, MSG can trigger chronic inflammation in the body.


Excessive intake of alcohol weakens liver function. A compromised liver can cause numerous problems elsewhere within the body, including inflammation. Limit alcohol consumption or eliminate it altogether if you suffer from joint pain.

So what can you eat if you have arthritis? Some of the best inflammation-fighting foods include:

  • Omega-3 rich fish.
  • Soybeans.
  • Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and walnut oil.
  • Red and purple fruits like cherries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries.
  • Low-fat dairy products.
  • Broccoli.
  • Green tea.
  • Citrus (oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, etc.).
  • Whole grains.
  • Beans.
  • Garlic.
  • Nuts.

If you suffer from chronic joint pain due to arthritis, contact Dr. Kushwaha today to learn more about treatment options for your pain and inflammation.

About Vivek Kushwaha

Vivek P. Kushwaha attended the University of Texas at Austin where he earned his B.A. from the College of Natural Sciences. He then earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio, Texas.

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