Arthritis is a common health condition involving chronic inflammation in your joints. It causes pain and damage to joints, bones, and other body parts depending on the type (1).
Research shows that dietary interventions, such as eliminating certain foods and beverages, may reduce symptom severity in people with inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Here are foods and beverages to avoid if you have arthritis.
Added sugars – You should limit your sugar intake no matter what, but especially if you have arthritis. Added sugars are found in candy, soda, ice cream, and numerous other foods, including less obvious items like barbecue sauce. High blood sugar levels are a universal mechanism for disease progression, and arthritis is no exception.
Gluten-containing foods – Gluten is a group of proteins in wheat, barley and rye. Some research links it to increased inflammation and suggests that going gluten-free may ease arthritis symptoms (2).
Highly processed foods – Ultra-processed items like fast food, breakfast cereal, and baked goods are typically high in refined grains, added sugar, starches, preservatives, and other potentially inflammatory ingredients, all of which may worsen arthritis symptoms. Processed foods may worsen your overall health by elevating your blood sugar and increasing your risk of other diseases.
Alcohol – As alcohol may worsen arthritis symptoms, anyone with inflammatory arthritis should restrict or avoid it. Chronic alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of osteoarthritis, though not all studies have found a significant link (3).
Certain vegetable oils – Diets high in omega-6 fats and low in omega-3 fats may worsen symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (4). These fats are necessary for health. However, the imbalanced ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s in most Western diets may increase inflammation (5). Reducing your intake of foods high in omega-6 fats, such as vegetable oils, while increasing your intake of omega-3-rich foods like fatty fish may improve arthritis symptoms (6).
Foods high in sodium – Cutting back on sodium may be a good choice for people with arthritis. Foods high in sodium include many medications and supplements, along with preserved and canned foods such as soup, pizza, certain cheeses, processed meats, and numerous other processed items. Researchers have suggested that high sodium intake may be a risk factor for autoimmune diseases like inflammatory arthritis (7). Reducing your salt intake doesn’t necessarily address these other forms of sodium, so careful attention to the nutrition and ingredient labels can help you choose more wisely.
If you have arthritis, a healthy diet and lifestyle can reduce your symptoms. Keep in mind that lifestyle factors like your activity level, body weight, and smoking status are also vital to managing arthritis.