Eating Habits to Avoid if You Have Arthritis, Says Science

Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, the hallmarks of arthritis, can really slow you down. Unfortunately, more than 58 million American adults experience some type of doctor-diagnosed arthritis that limits their activities.

When you experience a reduced range of motion that comes with arthritis—you know, sore knees that make running impossible or stiff shoulders that cause you to sink not swim—it’s easy to become inactive and gain weight, which can even make symptoms worse.

Anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly prescribed to arthritis patients to offer instant relief, but there’s something else you can try that will likely benefit your joints and your overall health: changing your diet to eliminate eating habits associated with causing the inflammation throughout your body that exacerbates arthritis symptoms.

While there aren’t many large-scale studies specifically on diet and arthritis, research has shown that certain types of foods can trigger chronic inflammation in the body over time. This low-grade inflammation, an immune response that’s constantly engaged, can damage healthy cells and organs leading to diseases like arthritis as well as diabetes and heart disease.

Don’t go looking for a specific food that will decrease your arthritis pain, however. Look at your pattern of eating, suggests Elaine Husni, MD, MPH, director of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Center at Cleveland Clinic.

“We want to encourage well-balanced, nutrient-dense food groups,” says Dr. Husni, who is also a medical board member of the Arthritis Foundation. In other words, eat a variety of plant-based foods and work on eliminating these inflammation-producing, arthritis-promoting eating habits below. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, check out 20 Foods That Can Make Arthritis Worse.


Ultra-processed foods that last for weeks are typically loaded with inflammation-producing preservatives. Think chips, cookies, baked goods, and other highly processed packaged foods. Avoid them. Instead, eat food that rots.

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