What Foods Make Rheumatoid Arthritis Worse?

Medically Reviewed on 7/20/2021

7 Types of Food and Alcohol To Avoid with RA

Rheumatoid arthritis diet
While researchers have yet to find a specific diet for rheumatoid arthritis, evidence suggests that certain foods can trigger your RA symptoms and make them worse. Here are the foods to cut from your diet if you have rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of chronic inflammatory arthritis that is associated with flares and remissions. Flares are the times when you experience the signs and symptoms of RA, and remissions are periods when those signs and symptoms disappear.

Researchers have not yet found a specific diet for rheumatoid arthritis, but some evidence suggests that certain foods can trigger your RA symptoms and make them worse. Foods that are likely to increase the inflammation in your body and cause weight gain fall under this category, which includes:

Red meat and dairy products

  • Daily consumption of red meat, though high in protein, is also high in saturated fats, which are bad for your rheumatoid arthritis. Saturated fats can cause inflammation, increase your uric acid levels and contribute to weight gain. The same is true for full-fat dairy products, including milk.

Sugary foods and foods containing refined (white) flour

  • Sugar present in sweetened drinks and sodas, desserts and pastries, as well as foods containing refined flour, such as white bread, pasta and white rice, are also not your friend when it comes to RA.
  • Processed foods and ready-to-eat foods or foods that can be prepared instantly within a few minutes are often loaded with sugar and refined flour. They can cause spikes in your blood sugar level and trigger the production of cytokines, which are pro-inflammatory chemicals that can worsen your RA symptoms.
  • Besides this, a diet of these foods can also cause you to gain weight and put more pressure on your joints, especially your knee joints. Make sure you read the nutrition facts and ingredients labels on these packaged or processed foods.

Fried or grilled foods

  • Frying, roasting or grilling foods (especially meat) at high temperatures for consumption can raise the levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in the blood.
  • AGEs are found in people with inflammatory arthritis and hence, are associated with increased inflammation in the body. Dietary AGEs are found in fried or grilled forms of beef, pork and fish and even leaner cuts of chicken when cooked with dry heat.
  • Fried foods are also high in oils (fat) and can contribute to obesity.

Foods containing Omega-6 fatty acids

  • Consumption of foods containing Omega-6 fatty acids more than foods containing omega-3 fatty acids increases your chances of joint inflammation and weight gain.
  • Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils, such as corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean and cottonseed oils. They are also present in cookies, crackers and cake mix.

Gluten-containing foods

  • Though not much research exists about foods containing gluten (a sticky protein) being bad for RA, doctors may still recommend cutting them from your diet if they worsen your RA symptoms.
  • Avoid grains, such as wheat, rye and barley, from your diet and see if that works for you.

Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)

  • MSG is a chemical ingredient that acts as a flavoring agent in soy sauce used in Asian cuisines. Foods that contain this ingredient are known to aggravate the inflammation in the body.

Alcohol

  • There are mixed studies concerning the impact of alcohol drinking on RA. Drinking in moderation is OK, but an excessive alcohol intake can trigger the inflammatory process in your body and worsen your RA.

Work with a registered nutritionist to find out replacement options for these foods and learn what works best for you.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/20/2021
References
Arthritis Foundation. Foods That Can Help RA Symptoms. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/treatment/treatment-plan/tracking-your-health/foods-that-can-help-ra-symptoms

CreakyJoints. Foods to Avoid with Arthritis. https://creakyjoints.org/education/arthritis-diet/foods-to-avoid/

Skoczynska M, Swierkot J. The Role of Diet in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Reumatologia. 2018;56(4):259-267. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30237632/