Are There Certain Foods That Cause Muscle and Joint Pain?

A man feeling joint pain
Image Credit: kosmos111/iStock/Getty Images

Although research has not proven conclusively that particular foods can increase or decrease the muscle and joint pain of rheumatoid arthritis, people who suffer from joint pain often experience gastrointestinal imbalances associated with inflammation and allergens. It is important to pinpoint food sensitivities and problem foods specific to your body if you have digestive problems and joint pain.

Video of the Day

Inflammation-Fueling Foods

Fried chicken with fries
Image Credit: Ju-Lee/iStock/Getty Images

Although it is wise to request a blood test from your doctor to ascertain which foods are causing you health problems, you can check your diet to see if certain foods commonly associated with inflammation are causing you joint pain.


Fried foods and fast food, prepackaged meals, white flour, processed grains and all forms of sugar, raw or refined, can cause muscle and joint pain. Sugar is stressful, and blood sugar spikes can promote inflammation. Most fats can also contribute to inflammatory pain. These include the partially hydrogenated trans fats in potato chips, processed baked goods and margarine. Also potentially inflammatory are vegetable oils such as safflower oil, corn oil, soy-based oils, sunflower oil and the saturated fats in fatty meats, lard and butter.

Alan Goldhamer, osteopathic physician at the TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa, California, reports that animal protein and animal fat are the major dietary promoters of arthritic pain. If you eat red meat, your immune system considers the protein to be an antigen and manufactures antibodies to fight it, forming antigen complexes. The immune system usually eliminates these from the body. In people sensitive to animal protein, these antigen complexes are not eliminated and can be packed into various tissues and joints around the body, causing inflammation.


Nightshade Vegetables

Fresh tomatoes on a wooden table
Image Credit: mnbb/iStock/Getty Images

Nightshade vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, paprika and ingredients in some hot sauces are thought to increase inflammation because they contain an alkaloid called solanine that can build up calcium deposits in tissues. Norman F. Childers, author of "The Nightshades and Health," reports that in particular the consumption of tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes can cause arthritic pain and stiffness and suggests abstaining from these for a month to determine whether it alleviates arthritic symptoms.


Foods High in Purines

A glass of beer in a pub
Image Credit: Valentyn Volkov/iStock/Getty Images

Foods high in purines, or chemical compounds forming uric acid as they break down, can cause an excess of uric acid that is crystallized and deposited in joints and tissues in the body, causing joint pain in a condition known as gout. Foods to be avoided if you do suffer from muscle and joint pain include liver, sweetbreads, kidneys, brains, broths and gravies. Venison, veal, bacon and turkey are high in purines, as are game meats, mincemeats and meat extracts.


Rich in purines are also some seafoods such as herring, mackerel, mussels, anchovies, codfish, haddock, trout, scallops and sardines. Thought to also contribute to muscle and joint pain are several vegetables high in purines, such as mushrooms, spinach, peas, asparagus and dried beans like favas and garbanzos. Drinking alcohol can also raise uric levels in the body, especially beer because its malt content is rich in purines.


Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker.