Joint pain is a common health problem that can often cause discomfort and inflammation or soreness in any of the joints in the body. It can either be acute or chronic and can vary in severity. Arthritis and gout tend to be two main causes of joint pain. But it can also result from muscle strains, broken or dislocated bones, bursitis, fibromyalgia, leukemia, and lupus.
1. Processed and red meat
Processed and red meat contain chemicals such as nitrates and purines, both of which increase inflammation and pain in the body. Processed foods are also high in toxins. They contain AGEs – advanced glycation end products – causing inflammation.
A 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences noted that a red meat-derived glycan promotes the development of systematic inflammation and cancer progression. What’s more, another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found a connection between red meat consumption and biomarkers of inflammation.
Alternative: Consume more vegetables and food rich in fiber.
2. Refined and artificial sugars
Consuming high amounts of sugar can also increase the level of AGEs in the body, causing inflammation. Sugar also triggers the release of inflammatory agents called cytokines in the body. Excess sugar intake also leads to weight gain, which puts more pressure on your joints and increases pain.
In a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that regular consumption of soda increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women, independent of other dietary and lifestyle factors. Avoid sweetened beverages, pre-sweetened cereals, fruit drinks, pastries, candy, and snacks.
Alternative: Opt for natural sweeteners like stevia or honey.
3. Dairy products
Dairy products may also contribute to joint pain. The high level of protein casein found in dairy products has been found to trigger inflammation and pain. A report by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that this type of protein may also irritate the tissue around the joints.
Saturated fats in full-fat dairy products, like milk, butter, and cheese, have also been shown to trigger inflammation, causing pain in the joints. Avoid pasteurized dairy when suffering from joint pain or any other type of chronic pain.
Alternative: Opt for soy milk, almond milk, tofu, margarine, and other non-dairy products.
4. Corn oil
Corn oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which may cause the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals. According to a study published in 2012, in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, an increase in omega-6 fatty acid intake could potentiate inflammatory diseases. Rather than eliminating products high in omega-6 completely from your diet, consume products such as safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, and peanut oil, as well as mayonnaise, in moderation.
Alternative: While keeping the aforementioned products to a minimum, increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in foods such as olive oil, nuts, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds.
5. Refined grains and flour
Refined grains and flour contain high-glycemic-index foods that trigger the production of AGEs, stimulating inflammation. According to a 2013 study published in Nutrients, consuming wheat products or cereal grains daily can cause chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Such grains are also devoid of fiber and B vitamins. Consuming these products regularly can also increase the risk of degenerative diseases like cancer, coronary heart disease, and diabetes.
Alternative: Opt for whole-grain products or almond and coconut flour.
Consuming eggs regularly can increase swelling and joint pain. Eggs, especially the yolks, contain arachidonic acid that leads to the production of prostaglandins, which can trigger inflammation in the body. Eggs also contain saturated fat which can contribute to both inflammation and pain.
Alternative: If you enjoy eating eggs for breakfast, skip the yolk from time to time and consume just the egg whites.
7. Whey Protein
Whey protein has also been found to cause inflammation and joint pain due to the gluten and casein content. Casein is a type of protein that can cause the production of uric acid in the body – too much of which can lead to pain and inflammation. Joint pain that arises from uric acid has been found to cause gout, which can be severe and cause lasting damage to the joints.
In addition, people who are sensitive to gluten can suffer from chronic inflammation and widespread pain. A study conducted in 2013 and published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, notes that a gluten-free diet reduces inflammation and insulin resistance.
Alternative: Opt for healthy sources of lean protein such as beans, nuts, and seeds.
8. Refined salts
If you suffer from joint pain, refined salt is an ingredient you should avoid. Refined salts do not contain natural minerals such as phosphorous that your body requires to function properly. Limiting your refined salt intake may also reduce calcium loss from your bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Alternative: Switch to sea salt or pink Himalayan salt and try to minimize cooking with salt. Watch out for processed foods that contain excessive salt and other preservatives to increase their shelf life.
9. Foods containing MSG (monosodium glutamate)
MSG is a flavor enhancing food additive with preservative properties that are most commonly found in packaged foods such as frozen snacks, frozen dinners, canned and frozen Chinese food, salad dressings and potato chips. MSG is an artificial additive that has been found to trigger inflammation and pain within the body. It is particularly harmful to people who already suffer from inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Alternative: Eat fresh, home-made foods and use organic products where necessary, avoiding artificial flavor enhancers.
Consuming alcoholic drinks and beer regularly is not ideal for your joints. Consuming beer regularly has been linked to an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Beer is also high in purine, which the body converts to uric acid, causing inflammation. Beer also contains gluten which is best to avoid when you suffer from joint pain.