Arthritis: different inflammatory states
Arthritis is the medical term that defines the presence of inflammation in one or more joints. There are different forms of arthritis, with specific causes and characteristics. Arthritis is a common health condition that causes pain and damage to joints, bones and other parts of the body depending on the type. Osteoarthritis, for example, which is non-inflammatory, is the most common, although there are more than 100 types. In fact, up to 40% of men and 47% of women may be diagnosed with osteoarthritis during their lifetime. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis are also inflammatory conditions that are considered autoimmune diseases. Gout is another common type of inflammatory arthritis.
Most of the symptoms that signal the onset of arthritis involve the joints of the human body.
Typical manifestations of joint inflammation are:
- Joint stiffness
- Joint swelling
- Redness and warmth
- Reduced ability to move
There are forms of arthritis that also affect non-articular anatomical areas, such as the skin, eyes, respiratory system, or lymph node system.
Arthritis: what to avoid at the table
A diet that includes certain foods and excludes others can reduce the severity of symptoms in people with inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as improve their overall quality of life.
Sugar intake should be limited regardless of the body’s inflammatory state, but especially in cases of arthritis. Added sugars are found in caramels, carbonated beverages, ice cream and numerous other foods, including less obvious ones such as barbecue sauce, ketchup or hamburger bread. Sugary soda and desserts are the foods that most frequently can worsen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. In addition, they can significantly increase the risk of joint inflammation.
Red and processed meats
Some research links red and processed meat to inflammation, which can increase arthritis symptoms. For example, diets high in red and processed meat cause high levels of inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP) and homocysteine. Clinical evidence has shown that red meat commonly worsens the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In contrast, vegan-based diets that exclude red meat improve arthritis symptoms.
Gluten is a group of proteins in wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Some research links it to increased inflammation and suggests how a gluten-free diet can significantly relieve arthritis symptoms. In addition, people with celiac disease run a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Similarly, individuals with autoimmune diseases such as RA have a significantly higher prevalence of celiac disease than the general population.
Gluten-free cheeses here
Processed and processed foods
Ultra-processed products such as fast food, breakfast cereals, and baked goods are typically high in refined grains, added sugars, preservatives, and other potentially inflammatory ingredients, which can worsen arthritis symptoms. Western diets rich in particularly processed foods may increase the risk of RA by contributing to inflammation and risk factors such as obesity. In addition, in a study of 56 people with rheumatoid arthritis, those who ate higher amounts of ultra-processed foods showed increased risk factors for heart disease, including higher levels of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), a long-term marker of blood glucose control. Therefore, processed foods can worsen overall health and increase the risk of other diseases.
Because alcohol can worsen arthritis symptoms, anyone with inflammatory arthritis should limit or avoid it. Individuals with axial spondyloarthritis – inflammatory arthritis that primarily affects the spinal cord and sacroiliac (SI) joints – who consume alcohol in excessive amounts, for example, have increased spinal structural damage. Alcohol intake can increase the frequency and severity of gout attacks and the risk of osteoarthritis.
Omega 6 intake
Diets high in omega-6 fats and low in omega-3 fats can cause worsening symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While these fats are necessary for health, the imbalanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in most Western diets can increase the risk of inflammation. The proper balance between omega-6 and omega-3, which should be set at a ratio of 5:1, is critical for the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system, particularly as we age and the onset of related diseases. Reducing intake of foods rich in omega-6 fats, such as vegetable oils, nuts and oil seeds, while increasing intake of foods rich in omega-3s, such as oily fish or salmon, can improve arthritis symptoms.
People with arthritis should observe a low-salt diet. Salt-rich foods include shrimp, canned soup, pizza, some cheeses, processed meats and numerous other processed products.
A low-salt diet reduces the severity of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and manifestations compared to a high-salt diet. This is most evident in the lower risk of cartilage breakdown and bone destruction, as well as lower inflammatory markers.
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are molecules created through reactions between sugars and proteins or fats. They exist naturally in raw animal foods and are formed through certain methods of cooking. High-protein, high-fat animal foods that are fried, roasted, grilled, or seared are among the richest food sources of AGEs. These include bacon, pan-fried or grilled steak, roasted or fried chicken and grilled hot dogs, French fries, margarine and mayonnaise. When AGEs accumulate in high amounts in the body, oxidative stress and inflammation can occur. Oxidative stress and AGE formation are linked to disease progression in people with arthritis.