Can Foods Trigger Arthritis Pain?

Are there foods that can cause arthritis pain to be worse? If you are overweight and affected with one of the symptoms of arthritis (pain, limited range of motion, others), the answer is yes: Unhealthy food choices may be contributing to the extra pounds stressing your joints and causing pain (arthralgia). Additionally, if you have been diagnosed with gouty arthritis—foods high in purines such as bacon, liver, turkey or even alcohol may cause a flare-up—or reactive arthritis (due to an infection from bacteria in contaminated food), the answer may also be yes. While genetics, autoimmune disorders and injury are the most likely causes of pain from most other types of arthritis, sometimes there is no clear reason. Arthritis is a general term used to describe more than 100 medical conditions with a common theme: They all affect the areas of our bodies where two or more bones meet, known as the joints. While some forms cause a local reaction that is limited to one joint in a specific region of the body (osteoarthritis, tendonitis, others), other forms of arthritis (systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, rheumatoid) may cause inflammation, joint stiffness, pain and swelling of several or more joints. Additionally, these forms have the potential to affect other areas of the body (skin, heart, lungs, blood vessels, others) and cause symptoms such as fever, circulatory disorders, swollen glands, anemia, fatigue and unintentional weight loss.  

Getting back to your question, I need to add a personal caveat. Over the years I have learned to really listen to my patients and have realized that not all results can be explained by scientific studies. That being said, some of my patients found a definite link between the kinds of food they ate (highly refined simple carbohydrates in breads, pastries and more, fatty foods), as well as type of drinks (alcohol, sugary drinks, others) with increased flares of their arthritic or accompanying body symptoms. Some have noticed an improvement (decrease in arthritic symptom flares or occurrences) when consuming a more nutritious and well-balanced diet (oily fish such as salmon that contain omega 3 fatty acids, as well as a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), in addition to drinking healthier beverages such as water or other non-alcoholic or low-sugar or sugar-free drinks. While I cannot prove whether the positive changes were due to the cyclical nature of the symptoms of arthritis or to a better diet, it just reinforces the fact that we need to listen to our bodies, fuel up with foods containing more nutritious and healthier ingredients, as well as make positive lifestyle changes to ensure we are giving ourselves the best chance in the fight against any illness or disease.
Lastly, it is important to schedule regular check-ups with your family doctor, internist or rheumatologist. They work with you to prevent or decrease the arthritic pain, potential joint destruction, or other body system concerns that may accompany your form of arthritis. Their suggestions may include a combination of medication, physical therapy and lifestyle changes including better nutrition. This last one helps to ensure your body is getting the needed amount of vitamins and minerals to help in its’ battle against your arthritis. It would also be good to meet with a registered dietician to ensure you are getting the most up to date nutritional advice on your road to healthier living.

Reader P. G.
Department of Shalya Tantra,
IPGT & R Gujrat Ayurved University,