Arthritis affects a whopping 54 million people, or 23% of adults in the United States, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Osteoarthritis, which involves “wear and tear” of the joints, is the most common form. Other forms include gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis, which are cause by joint inflammation and are actually autoimmune diseases.
While anti-inflammatory medications and pain-relieving drugs can help alleviate the symptoms of all types of arthritis, lifestyle changes can also be effective. Losing weight and exercising are at the top of the list to treat the condition naturally. Weight loss lessens the load on the joints, and movement helps stretch and strengthen the muscles around the joint to improve mobility and flexibility, says AARP
But healthcare experts point out that eating certain foods can increase inflammation and worsen arthritis. According to Healthline, research shows that eliminating particular foods and beverages from your diet can reduce symptoms and pain associated with arthritis.
Six food categories to avoid:
- Added sugars. In a study of 217 people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in which 20 foods were tested, sugar-sweetened soda and desserts were the prime culprits in exacerbating RA symptoms. On top of that, a larger study of nearly 200,000 women linked drinking sugar-sweetened soda with an increased risk of developing RA.
- Processed and red meats. Research has linked the consumption of red meat and processed meats with higher blood levels of inflammatory markers, such as interleukin-6, C-reactive protein, and homocysteine, says Healthline.
- Gluten. According to the Rheumatology Center of New Jersey, it is more than just a health trend to avoid foods with gluten. A recent study published in the Oxford Journal of Rheumatology found that 41% of people suffering from RA improve on gluten-free diets.
- Trans fats. These fats found in most processed foods, such as cookies, crackers, doughnuts, and fast-food, trigger inflammation which can be harmful not only for arthritis sufferers but to those with cardiovascular health risks. Trans fats are usually listed as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on product labels.
- Alcohol. According to Healthline, experts say that alcohol could exacerbate arthritis symptoms, so it is best to avoid it altogether. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol also affects the frequency and severity of gout flare-ups and may put people at risk of developing osteoarthritis.
- Salt. Several studies on mice determined that a low-sodium diet reduces the risk of developing RA, while eating too much salt increases the risk of autoimmune diseases, including inflammatory arthritis. A study in 18,555 people tied high sodium intake to increased risk for RA.