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A distinguished rheumatologist revealed some surprising dietary culprits that may exacerbate arthritis symptoms. It’s crucial to understand that the impact of these foods can differ markedly from one individual to another and even fluctuate in the same person over time. To navigate this complex relationship, Dr. Mahmud emphasises the importance of meticulous symptom tracking alongside dietary monitoring. While avoiding highly processed foods and refined sugars is broadly advisable, other nutritional adjustments should be tailored based on personal experiences and reactions to specific foods.

Arthritis is a group of conditions affecting joints and soft tissues. It can cause pain, inflammation, swelling, stiffness, loss of function, disability, and, in some cases, reduced life expectancy.

Dr Taher Mahmud, Co-Founder and Director of the London Osteoporosis Clinic, noted that diet is frequently underestimated in treatment plans. He believes that individuals with the condition can significantly improve their lives by implementing minor adjustments.

Dr Mahmud said, ‘For those with arthritis, the treatment goal is to eliminate pain and inflammation and restore joint function’.

Foods to avoid for arthritis, according to Dr Mahmud:

Foods that you should avoid if you have arthritis

Nightshade Vegetables

Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, and aubergines, contain solanine, which some believe may exacerbate arthritis pain and inflammation. While scientific evidence is mixed, experimenting with reducing these vegetables can help determine if they affect your symptoms.

Processed and Red Meats

Processed meats (like sausages and deli meats) and red meats are high in saturated fats and advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which can promote inflammation. Observing how your body responds to these foods can be enlightening.

Sugary Foods and Drinks

High sugar intake is linked to increased inflammation in the body. So, cutting back on sugary foods and beverages, including soft drinks, candies, and baked goods, might help reduce arthritis flare-ups.

Dairy Products

For some individuals, dairy products can contribute to arthritis symptoms due to the type of protein they contain, which may irritate the tissue around the joints. Experimenting with dairy-free alternatives can help identify if dairy triggers you.

Refined Carbohydrates

Foods high in refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, and pastries, can also contribute to inflammation. Opting for whole-grain alternatives may offer relief and additional health benefits.

Gluten-Containing Foods

Although not everyone is sensitive to gluten, individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may experience increased inflammation when consuming gluten. Trying a gluten-free diet for a period could provide insights into its effects on your arthritis symptoms.

Types of Arthritis

There are two main types of arthritis – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Millions of Brits suffer from the pain and restrictions which arthritis causes, and for which there is no cure. 

Osteoarthritis Arthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease in which the cartilage in the joint breaks down over time, leading to joint pain, tenderness, and stiffness. Movement can become difficult as it develops, and sufferers may need help with basic activities, particularly when it affects the hands. Other common areas include the spine, knees, and hips. 

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type in the UK and most often develops in people in their mid-40s and older.  However, it can occur at any age due to an injury or if someone has a family history of the condition. 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is less common than osteoarthritis. It usually begins between 30 and 50, and women are more likely to be affected than men. In RA, the body’s immune system targets affected joints, leading to pain and swelling. 

‘Depending on individual circumstances, restricting consumption of these foods or, better yet, eliminating them, can help symptoms,’ Dr Mahmud continued.

Dr. Taher Mahmud, A leading consultant Rheumatologist at London Osteoporosis Clinic

Dr Taher Mahmud is the Co-Founder and Director of the London Osteoporosis Clinic. Dr Mahmud trained at King’s College Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital, and Guy’s Hospital and has extensive experience as an Honorary Consultant at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath and as Lead for Osteoporosis and Consultant Rheumatologist at Tunbridge Wells Hospital NHS Trust.

He is committed to improving patient outcomes and eradicating osteoporosis-related suffering through his interests in holistic osteoporosis treatments, bone health advocacy, and patient feedback. Dr Mahmud’s MD and MSc research focused on drug side effects, and he leads LOC with compassion and innovation.