The next time you bite into a juicy burger with cheese or a handful of fries in your mouth, do not be surprised if later you begin to feel pain in the joints. Some of the foods you eat can cause inflammation throughout the body and be the source of greater pain. If you have a rheumatic disease, you can suffer symptoms of outbreaks when you least expect it.
In conjunction with other medical treatments, many people with arthritis have found relief from joint pain and inflammation by eliminating certain foods from their diet. A 2002 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported that following a diet primarily based on plants can reduce the symptoms of rheumatic diseases in just four weeks.
Editor's Note: Medical article reviewed by George Krucik, MD.
Fat and dairy products are the two main food groups that aggravate the symptoms of inflammatory diseases.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)
What is rheumatism?
Rheumatism is probably the term your grandparents use to describe a "bone pain." This condition is now more commonly known as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that affects two million people in the United States, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
As with other autoimmune diseases, in RA the immune system mistakenly attacks by destroying the healthy tissue and the synovial membrane, a thin membrane that covers the joints. As a result, fluid builds up in the joints causing pain and aggressive inflammation in them, which can lead to detrimental disfigurement of the joints.
Allergy to food and rheumatism
Food allergies and rheumatic diseases go hand in hand with many people, according to Arthritis Today. The immune response in food allergies and RA are similar in that the body mistakes a harmless substance for a foreign invader and produces antibodies, which causes symptoms. Certain foods can trigger an allergic response in the intestines of rheumatoid arthritis patients, including:
• Cereal products • Cow's milk • Eggs • Pork
The relationship between fats, dairy products and arthritis
Following a low-fat, dairy-free diet may not be easy, but it could be the ticket to better health. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) explains that fat and dairy products are the two main food groups that aggravate the symptoms of inflammatory diseases.
Meats, especially red meat and other high-fat foods, such as fried foods, milk, cheese and other dairy products, can increase inflammation in some people.Foods high in sodium can also aggravate the symptoms of arthritis. Excess sodium leads to fluid retention in already inflamed joints. Caffeine can also worsen symptoms, according to the PCRM.
The truth about belladonna
Changing to a plant-based diet may reduce the number of rheumatic outbreaks but you will still need to pay attention to the foods you eat.
Plants in the belladonna family may increase symptoms in people who are sensitive to a substance called alkaloids. Alkaloids affect nerve and muscle function, as well as digestion. They can also cause the loss of calcium from the bones, which can worsen joint problems. Foods from the belladonna family include:
• Eggplant • Pepper (spicy and sweet) • White potatoes • Pimentos • Tomatillos • Cayenne pepper and paprika
Not all people with RA feel the effect of the belladonna, the content of alkaloids is lower in cooked form of these foods than when consumed raw. In addition, there are few clinical studies to support the claim that belladonna promote inflammation, most of the evidence is anecdotal. However, some people who suffer from arthritis do report fewer symptoms after the removal of the belladonna vegetables and spices from their diet.
What can I eat?
Accumulate fruits and vegetables on your plate to improve joint health. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis and other people with inflammatory diseases will benefit most from the antioxidants in the product. Keep your meat intake to a minimum, eat a diet primarily vegetarian or vegan to enjoy less inflammation in the joints.
Get rid of saturated fats in favor of healthy fats, which can be found in olive oil, avocados and nuts. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids have also shown impact on pain and inflammation. Try adding salmon, sardines, whole grains and garlic to your diet to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
If you think certain types of foods may be the triggers or exacerbate AR symptoms, perform a short-term test. Eliminate the trigger foods for at least a month before adding them back to your diet. This will help you determine what foods add to your joint pain.
Always talk about the main changes in your diet with your doctor. He can help you customize the meal plan that best suits your needs and ensures you get the vitamins and nutrients your body needs.
About the author
Erica Roth has a Master's degree in Library Science and is an independent writer on health and nutrition issues.