Arthritis is a common health condition that involves chronic inflammation of your joints. Depending on the type, it can cause pain and damage to joints, bones, and other parts of the body ( 1Trusted Source ).
Non-inflammatory osteoarthritis is the most common, but there are over 100 types. In fact, up to 40 percent of men and 47 percent of women will be diagnosed with osteoarthritis during their lifetime ( 1Trusted Source ).
Meanwhile, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis are inflammatory diseases that are considered autoimmune diseases. Gout is another common type of inflammatory arthritis ( 1Trusted Source ).
Research shows that dietary interventions, such as avoiding certain foods and beverages, can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life in people with inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Here are 8 foods and drinks to avoid if you have arthritis.
- Added sugar
You should limit your sugar intake anyway, but especially if you have arthritis. Added sugars can be found in candy, soda, ice cream, and many other foods, including less obvious items such as barbecue sauce.
A study of 217 people with rheumatoid arthritis found that among 20 foods, sugary sodas and sweets made RA symptoms worse (2).
Additionally, sugary drinks like soda can significantly increase your risk of developing arthritis.
For example, in a study of 1,209 adults between the ages of 20 and 30, those who drank five or more fructose-sweetened beverages per week were three times more likely to develop arthritis than those who did not consume fructose-sweetened beverages ( 3Trusted Source ).
Furthermore, a large study of nearly 200,000 women linked regular consumption of sugar-sweetened soda to an increased risk of RA ( 4Trusted Source ).
- Processed and red meat
Some studies have linked red and processed meat to inflammation, which can increase arthritis symptoms.
For example, diets high in processed and red meat show higher levels of inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP), and homocysteine (5, 6).
The aforementioned study of 217 people with RA found that red meat made RA symptoms worse. Additionally, a study in 25,630 people found that high consumption of red meat may be a risk factor for inflammatory arthritis ( 2Trusted Source , 7Trusted Source ).
Conversely, a plant-based diet that excludes red meat has been shown to improve arthritis symptoms ( 5Trusted Source ).
- Foods containing gluten
Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Some studies have linked it to increased inflammation, and gluten-free diet may ease arthritis symptoms ( 8 , 9 ).
Furthermore, people with celiac disease have a higher risk of developing RA. Similarly, the prevalence of celiac disease in people with autoimmune diseases such as RA is much higher than in the general population ( 10 , 11Trusted Source ).
A 1-year study in 66 people with RA found that a gluten-free, vegan diet reduced disease activity and improved inflammation ( 9Trusted Source , 12Trusted Source ).
Although these findings are promising, more research is needed to confirm whether a gluten-free diet alone is beneficial for people with arthritis.
- Highly processed foods
Highly processed foods such as fast food, breakfast cereals, and baked goods often contain refined grains, added sugars, preservatives, and other inflammatory substances that can worsen arthritis symptoms.
Studies have shown that a Western diet high in processed foods increases the risk of RA by contributing to risk factors such as inflammation and obesity (13, 14).
What’s more, a study of 56 people with RA found that those who ate high amounts of highly processed foods had increased risk factors for heart disease, including higher levels of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), an indicator of long-term blood sugar control ( 15Trusted Source ). source).
Therefore, processed foods can damage your health and increase your risk of other diseases.
Alcohol can make arthritis symptoms worse, so anyone with inflammatory arthritis should limit or avoid it.
A study of 278 people with axial spondyloarthritis found that inflammatory arthritis of the spine and SI joint was associated with increased damage to spinal structures ( 16Trusted Source ).
Studies have shown that alcohol consumption increases the frequency and severity of gout (