Over 90 million Americans suffer from arthritis, which the National Institutes of Health describes as “multiple conditions that affect the joints, tissues around the joints, and other connective tissues.” Arthritis can cause joint pain and mobility issues, and is a leading cause of disability.
Whether you have been diagnosed with arthritis or your joints just feel stiff and sore, there are some simple steps you can take. For example, try avoiding foods that cause joint inflammation. Today we’re taking a look at what those foods are.
Consider an Elimination Diet
Of course, not all foods that cause inflammation in someone will necessarily present problems for you. So it’s not as easy as simply following a particular diet, becoming a vegetarian or vegan, or eating exactly what your super-healthy spouse consumes. Instead, you’ll need to do some experimentation.
One way to do that is to try an elimination diet. That will help you figure out which foods cause issues in your joints (and the rest of your body!) and which ones make you feel good. In a standard elimination diet, you cut out the usual culprits for about 23 days.
Those culprits are gluten, soy, eggs, dairy, processed food (including fast food), sugar, and alcohol. After the 23 days are up, you can add each of these back into your diet, one at a time. Paying close attention to how you feel after eating a piece of white bread or some cheese will help you identify the foods that trigger inflammation in your body.
Foods That Cause Joint Inflammation
You can approach the problem from a different perspective, too. Start by slowly eliminate the following foods from your daily diet. You will likely find that your joint pain and mobility begin to improve.
1. Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the best foods for joint health. However, experts advise that you steer clear of their unhealthy counterparts, Omega-6 fatty acids. The primary sources of these are corn, peanut, and soy oils, as well as red meats.
To get the heart-healthy benefits of Omega-3s, opt for avocado oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, and coconut oil. If you choose to continue eating meat, you’ll be better off using it as a “condiment” or flavor enhancer. A little lean beef in a veggie-packed stir-fry is a better choice than, say, a steak or chop.
2. Partially Hydrogenated Oils
Also known as “trans fats,” partially hydrogenated oils, or PHOs, are another no-no. That’s because they wreak havoc with your cholesterol levels and your heart health. One easy way to avoid them? Steer clear of processed foods.
That means saying goodbye to margarine, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, anything made with shortening, coffee creamer, and many types of chips and cookies.
Of course, cutting these items from your diet also means that you will be avoiding other unhealthy ingredients. Think artificial colors and flavors, sugar, high amounts of sodium, and preservatives.
3. Fast Food and Fried Food
Foods that come from the drive-thru and the deep fryer are definitely tempting. However, you probably already know that these are two of the worst possible options for your meals and snacks.
In addition to being high in trans fats, deep-fried items and anything that comes from a fast-food franchise (or convenience store, or hot dog cart) are high in sodium. They are highly caloric and offer little to no nutritional value.
Stay away from sugar, too. Refined sugar causes certain proteins, called cytokines, to be released in the body. These are directly linked to inflammation, and therefore to joint pain.
It’s not just white sugar that’s bad for your knees and hips, though. Look out for corn syrup, sucrose, maltose, and fructose. And if you think that artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose (Splenda) are healthy alternatives, think again. These, too, can trigger inflammatory responses — among other dangers.
5. White Carbs
You know how marathoners and other elite athletes will “carbo-load” on huge plates of pasta with a generous side of garlic bread? That’s because these foods cause a spike in blood glucose. Athletes use this source of energy as a performance boost.
The rest of us, however, experience a crash in blood sugar that leaves us feeling more tired and logy than before. Moreover, carbohydrate-rich flour products exacerbate inflammation. If you eat bread, crackers, and pasta, make sure to choose whole-grain versions that may help with joint pain.
These foods may pack a one-two inflammatory punch, as well. The carbs are one culprit; another is the gluten. Gluten, a protein found in some grains, has been linked with symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and soreness of the muscles and joints.
Many of us were raised to think of dairy products as wholesome. After all, dairy is rich in the calcium that builds strong bones and teeth. But it’s also just plain rich, and the high levels of saturated fat are notorious for spiking inflammation.
Eat cheese, cream cheese, cream, milk, and butter sparingly. Not all dairy is evil, though. Some dairy products that contain active and live cultures, like yogurt and kefir, are good foods for joint health.
Vegetables are all safe and beneficial for joint pain sufferers, right? Not so fast. Unfortunately, some veggies called nightshades contain the chemical solanine. Solanine has been proven to cause inflammation.
Nightshades include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers of all varieties, and white potatoes. Have you successfully purged sugar, white bread, and fast food, and processed snacks from your diet but are still experiencing arthritis symptoms? Consider cutting out these vegetables too.
What Can You Eat to Avoid Inflammation?
What is left for you to eat? Plenty! Some foods that help joint pain include cold-water fish, whole grains, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, green tea, mineral water, turmeric, and ginger.
It may seem daunting to embark on this nutritional experiment. But remember that not all foods that cause joint inflammation will be verboten for you. Listen to your body and eat accordingly, so that you can live an optimal life of optimal health.
Are you interested in learning more about alternative treatments for your arthritis or other health conditions? Give us a call to learn about the services we provide.