Can Diet Affect Arthritis?

Baked salmon steak with vegetables. Diet menu. Top view

Arthritis refers to a painful condition that causes swelling in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis, a specific form of arthritis, is an autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system attacks otherwise healthy joints, causing the painful swelling. There are a variety of drugs on the market to treat rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, but there is no cure at this time. With the amount of pain and misery this condition may cause, many patients may be willing to try almost anything to prevent flare-ups. One thing that many RA patients try is regulating their diet to prevent flare-ups.

There are many foods that scientific evidence links to inflammation. Some of the foods believed to be most guilty of causing inflammation include:

  • Processed sugar – Natural sugars, such as food in fruit, are not likely to cause problems. Look out for ingredients containing the suffix -ose, such as sucrose.

  • Saturated fats – Common culprits in the American diet include pizza, cheese, red meat, full-fat dairy products, and pasta.

  • Trans fats – Trans fats appear in fried products, mass-produced baked goods, frozen breakfast foods, and many margarines. The phrase “partially hydrogenated oils” in an ingredient label is a good indicator that the item  may include trans fats.

  • Refined carbohydrates – Refined white flour (such as found in mass-produced white bread), white potatoes, and ingredients in many cereals are high-glycemic, which may directly lead to inflammation.

  • MSG – This flavor-enhancer found in many Asian foods may trigger an inflammatory response.

  • Gluten – This hot-button ingredient has been getting a bad rap in recent years, but this may be warranted. Wheat, rye, and barley all contain gluten, which may encourage the body’s inflammatory response.

  • Aspartame – Aspartame has been blamed for many conditions and health problems even longer than gluten has. Again, though, there is evidence to back this up. Aspartame has no nutritional value and has significant potential to harm the body. If you have a sensitivity to this chemical, it may have the added effect of triggering an inflammatory response.

  • Alcohol – In addition to the well-known fact of causing damage to the liver, alcohol may cause inflammation.

Adding certain items to your diet may actually help reduce inflammation. These items include legumes, fish, soy, olive oil, darkly colored fruits (such as cherries, blueberries, and blackberries), broccoli, leafy greens, green tea, citrus, nuts, and garlic.

While dietary changes may help reduce RA symptoms, it is important to see your doctor or a rheumatologist for a proper diagnosis and medical treatment.

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