There are over 100 different types of arthritis, all of which can cause different degrees of pain and swelling in the joints. According to "Arthritis Today," the same inflammation that causes arthritis can lead to other health problems as well. To help prevent inflamed joints, monitor dietary habits that may promote inflammation, such as consuming trans fats, refined carbohydrates and dairy.
Trans fats are, in general, very inflammatory substances, according to a study published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in December 2004. The study connected trans fatty acids strongly to systemic inflammation in patients with heart disease. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide notes that these unhealthy fats should be swapped out for anti-inflammatory fats, including polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil and omega-3 fats from fish. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases notes that to maintain healthy joints, trans fats should be consumed in amounts "as low as possible."
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, or PCRM, notes that dairy is a principal offender in causing arthritis. This is due to milk proteins -- but not milk fats -- which makes low-fat and nonfat milk no less damaging than regular milk. According to the PCRM, many people notice an improvement in their symptoms when they avoid dairy. Not all sources agree on dairy being inflammatory, however. A meta-analysis published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in April 2013 found that dairy did not adversely affect biomarkers of inflammation. Still, for those who are experiencing joint pain, eliminating dairy may be worth a try.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that diets high in simple sugars, including fructose and sucrose, can contribute to chronic inflammation. According to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, a rise in blood sugar caused by refined carbohydrates, including white bread, white rice and french fries, can increase levels of inflammatory messengers known as cytokines. CNN Health notes that high levels of cytokines could potentially lead to arthritis as well as cataracts, heart disease and poor memory. Whole grains, on the other hand, can inhibit the production of cytokines, according to the Harvard health guide.
The PCRM notes 12 foods that are "major arthritis triggers." These include dairy, meat, corn, wheat, oats, rye, eggs, citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, coffee and nuts. All of these foods may not present problems for every individual, though it may be beneficial to temporarily eliminate and "test" these items if you have joint pain. The PCRM reports on a 1989 survey in which over 1,000 arthritis patients indicated that the foods that most commonly worsen arthritis pain are red meat, sugar, fat, salt, caffeine and nightshade plants, such as tomatoes and eggplant.
- MedlinePlus: Joint Pain
- MedlinePlus: Gout
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Trans Fatty Acids and Systemic Inflammation in Heart Failure
- Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: What You Eat Can Fuel or Cool Inflammation, a Key Driver of Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Other Chronic Conditions
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Foods and Arthritis
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Impact of Dairy Products on Biomarkers of Inflammation: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Nutritional Intervention Studies in Overweight and Obese Adults
- CNN Health: When Food Causes You Pain
- Arthritis Today: Inflammation and Foods That Fight It
- USDA Agricultural Research Service: Inflammation -- Bad or Good
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: Healthy Joints Matter