Adapting to a healthy diet
Adapting to a healthy diet can contribute to several health benefits, including reducing arthritis symptoms. If you have arthritis, you may feel your symptoms worsen with changes in the weather or an increase in activity. What many people living with arthritis don’t realize is that diet can also have an effect on arthritis symptoms. Arthritis is an inflammatory disease, and certain foods cause an increase in inflammation, thus worsening arthritis pain.
Eating a special diet or avoiding certain foods is a common course of treatment for many diseases and disorders, and arthritis is no different. The Arthritis Foundation lists a number of foods that can cause more inflammation and thus cause problems if you have arthritis.
Here’s a rundown of foods to steer clear of:
Sugars. Sugary foods trigger the release of inflammatory cytokines. Read nutrition labels and avoid any foods that have ingredients ending in “-ose,” such as sucrose, glucose or fructose.
Saturated fats. Studies show that saturated fats trigger inflammation in adipose (fat) tissue. Not only can inflammation in the fatty tissue worsen your symptoms, but it is also an indication of heart disease. Pizza, hamburgers, full-fat dairy products, potatoes and grain-based desserts such as pie and cake all contain high amounts of saturated fats.
Trans fats. Trans fats are a trigger for systemic inflammation and are most often found in fast foods, processed snack foods, frozen breakfasts, cookies, donuts, crackers and stick margarine.
Omega-6 fatty acids. Although the body does needs some omega-6 fatty acids for normal growth, too many can cause the body to produce inflammatory chemicals. Avoid oils like corn, safflower, sunflower, soy, peanut and vegetable oil, as well as mayo and rich dressings like Thousand Island.
Carbohydrates. Refined carbs — mostly white flour foods such as breads, rolls and crackers, white rice and potatoes and many cereals — are high on the glycemic index and can stimulate inflammation.
Monosodium glutamate. Also known as MSG, monosodium glutamate enhances the flavor of most prepared Asian foods, especially soy sauce, but it can also be found in most fast foods, prepared soups, salad dressings and deli meats.
Gluten. This mixture of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale may also cause inflammation. If you have arthritis and Celiac disease, the inflammatory effect of gluten can be particularly damaging.
Artificial sweetener. Aspartame, an artificial sweetener found in over 4,000 products including sugary sodas, is a neurotoxin, meaning it affects the brain. If you are sensitive to this substance, your body will attack the chemical and trigger an inflammatory response. This can be difficult for people trying to cut back sugar with artificial sweeteners.
Alcohol. Excessive alcohol use weakens liver function and causes inflammation. It is recommended that alcohol be only used in moderation — that means no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
Now you know what to avoid if you want to prevent excessive inflammation, but what can you eat? Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake will help, as will making fish your main protein to increase omega-3s and thus reduce arthritis symptoms.
For more on arthritis-friendly foods, check out the Arthritis Foundation’s Arthritis Diet.