Which Foods Make Arthritis Worse?

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis describes over 100 different conditions that involve inflammation of any part of a joint, including the joint lining (synovium), cartilage, bones, and supporting tissues. Arthritis may affect one, a few, or many joints throughout the body.

Some common types of arthritis include:

What Are Symptoms of Arthritis?

Joint symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling 
  • Tenderness
  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Limited movement/decreased range of motion or flexibility
  • Certain types affect joints symmetrically (on both sides of the body)
  • In some types, pain is aggravated by movement and weightbearing and is relieved by rest

Depending on the type of arthritis that is present, other symptoms that may accompany joint symptoms include: 

What Causes Arthritis?

There are many possible causes of arthritis:

  • Age-related wear and tear
  • Infections
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Injuries

How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?

Arthritis is diagnosed with a medical history and physical examination, along with laboratory and imaging tests.

Tests used to diagnose arthritis include: 

  • Blood tests
    • Rheumatoid factor (RF) 
    • Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP) 
    • Antinuclear antibody (ANA) for SLE
  • Arthrocentesis (also called joint aspiration or joint tap)
    • Testing of synovial fluid inside the joint
  • X-rays (also used to monitor changes in the joint over time)
  • Ultrasound
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan

What Is the Treatment for Arthritis?

Treatments for arthritis include:

Which Foods Make Arthritis Worse?

Any food that can cause or aggravate inflammation in the body can worsen arthritis symptoms.

Common foods that trigger inflammation include:

  • Sugar
    • The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition cautions that processed sugars trigger the release of cytokines, which are inflammatory messengers. Check labels for sugars and look for ingredients ending in “ose,” e.g. fructose or sucrose.  
  • Saturated fats
    • Saturated fats trigger inflammation of fatty tissue in the body, which worsens arthritis inflammation. Sources of saturated fats include cheese, pizza, meats (especially red meat), full-fat dairy products, pastas, and grain-based desserts. 
  • Trans fats
    • Trans fats trigger systemic inflammation and are found in fast foods, fried foods, processed snacks, frozen breakfast foods, cookies, crackers, donuts, and most stick margarines. 
  • Omega 6 fatty acids
    • While some omega 6 fatty acids are healthy, excess consumption can trigger production of pro-inflammatory chemicals. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in oils (corn, vegetable, soy, peanut, safflower, sunflower, and grapeseed), mayonnaise, and salad dressings. 
  • Refined Carbohydrates
    • Refined carbohydrates include white flour products (breads, rolls, crackers), white rice, white potatoes (instant mashed potatoes, or French fries), and cereals, and can stimulate the production of advanced glycation end (AGE) products that increase inflammation.
  • MSG
    • Mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor-enhancing food additive that can trigger two important pathways of chronic inflammation. MSG is commonly found in prepared Asian foods and soy sauce, fast foods, prepared soups and soup mixes, salad dressings, and deli meats. 
  • Gluten and Casein
    • Some people are sensitive to gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye, or casein, found in dairy products, and may find relief by avoiding them. 
  • Aspartame
    • Aspartame is an artificial sweetener and in people who are sensitive to this chemical, the immune system may react by attacking the chemical which can trigger an inflammatory response. 
  • Alcohol
    • Excessive alcohol use weakens liver function and can cause inflammation.