By: Sasha de Beausset de Aparicio, B.A., M.Sc.
Joint pain is a common health problem that can affect your range of motion, strength and overall well-being. Joint pain can affect one or many joints, and it is usually caused by injury or by arthritis, a condition that causes pain, inflammation and stiffness in the joints.
If you detect joint pain and don’t do anything to change your habits or lifestyle, it is likely that the pain, stiffness and inflammation will get worse over time.
One of the things you can do to reduce joint pain is change your diet. There are certain foods that may be promoting or worsening your joint pain.
In this article, we will briefly explain the main cause of joint pain, and then discuss five foods that science says you should avoid if you are experiencing joint pain.
What Causes Joint Pain?
When you have either arthritis or pain in your joints due to injury, what causes the actual pain is usually tissue inflammation. Inflammation is a normal response of the body to help itself heal, but when it is present over a long period of time, inflammation is no longer helpful, and instead becomes a chronic condition.
In some cases, though it isn’t common, there is damage to the bone or cartilage, and further intervention beyond taking anti-inflammatories, changes in diet, exercise and physical therapy is needed.
What Are the Most Common Types and Causes of Joint Pain?
Some of the most common types of joint pain include:
- Knee pain: Your knee is a very vulnerable joint because it supports the full weight of your body. People who are overweight are particularly susceptible to knee pain.
- Inflammation of the joint lining: This is usually caused by injury, and normally isn’t chronic.
- Gout: A type of arthritis often caused by increased levels of uric acid in the blood.
- Fractures: even after the healing, fractures can still cause joint pain if they didn’t heal correctly or fully, or if the healing process wasn’t accompanied by physical therapy.
- Arthritis: The types of arthritis are many, including reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and Osgood-Schlatter’s disease, among others.
- Medications: Some medications actually have a joint pain as a negative side effect.
- Viral infections: Some viral infections, including hepatitis and rubella, can cause joint pain.
- Other less common causes: lupus, sclerodoma and Behcet’s syndrome, among others.
Which Foods Worsen Joint Pain?
Everything we eat contains components that directly affect the cells in our bodies. In some cases, they promote proper functioning, while in other cases they can cause cell damage or dysfunction. In the case of joint pain caused by inflammation, foods that worsen joint pain are those that trigger inflammation, usually occurring in areas we cannot detect with the naked eye.
To help alleviate joint pain, talk to your physician about removing these foods from your diet.
Food Group #1: Corn, Sunflower, Safflower, Soybean and Cottonseed Oils
Generally, unsaturated fats are considered to be better for your health. However, not all unsaturated fats are created equally. Omega-3 fatty acids help to fight inflammation, but Omega-6 fatty acids, which are often found together with some Omega-3s, can actually trigger inflammation, making your pain worse.
Food #2: High-Sugar Foods
These include sugary sodas, some breakfast cereals, candy and baked goods. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that the consumption of too much sugar, particularly from sugar-sweetened beverages, is associated with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis. This is because high-sugar diets can trigger the release of inflammatory messengers, called “cytokines.” The negative effect goes beyond joint pain, and can also increase the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Food #3: Cheese
Saturated fats consumed in the diet trigger inflammation that can worsen joint pain. In the American diet, pizza and cheese are the top sources of saturated fat. Avoid cheese and other sources of saturated fat to reduce joint pain caused by inflammation.
Food #4: Processed Snack and Fast Foods
Snack foods like cookies, donuts and frozen breakfast products often contain trans fats (even when they say they don’t). Trans fats trigger systematic inflammation that may have negative health effects that go way beyond your joints.
Food #5: White Bread
White bread is made from refined flour, which is a source of simple carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates may be just as bad (or worse!) than fats when it comes to triggering chronic conditions, including inflammation. White bread, as well as white rice, white potatoes and many other cereals are high glycemic index foods, which fuel the production of end products that simulate inflammation.
Conclusion: What Can You Do to Prevent Joint Pain?
One of the easiest things you can do to help reduce joint pain is to modify your diet to exclude these foods that may be causing or worsening your condition.
Note that if you have joint pain as a result of an injury, it is possible that the discomfort is caused by a healing issue after the trauma. You can prevent and treat this sort of joint pain with physical therapy as prescribed by a medical practitioner.
If you are experiencing joint pain, talk to your doctor to identify the cause and decide whether modifying your diet is a good option for you.