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4 Foods Making Your Joint Pain Worse

Ease the frustration of chronic pain by limiting your consumption of these foods.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

If you experience regular joint pain or swelling, you know the excruciating frustration of a sudden flare-up. While there are multiple reasons someone can experience consistent joint pain, one of the most common reasons is arthritis.

You may think of arthritis as just one singular disease, but there are actually over 100 types of arthritis that someone can have, and these are all related to joint pain or joint disease.

While this is an incredibly frustrating illness to live with, there are ways to ease the pain and manage joint swelling flare-ups, and one of the ways you can do this is through your diet.

To learn more about the effect your diet has on arthritis symptoms, we talked with Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements about the worst foods to eat that can your joint pain worse.

Read on, and for more healthy eating tips check out 7 Best Breakfast Habits for Treating Arthritis.

Added sugars

sugary junk food

"Refined carbs and added sugars should be avoided or reduced in the arthritis patient's diet," says Best, "because these are highly inflammatory and can both trigger an arthritis flare or exacerbate the pain of a current flare up."

In a survey of rheumatoid arthritis patients, desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages were among the top items reported for making the participants' joint symptoms worse.

This doesn't mean you need to give up dessert forever, but it is a good idea to monitor how much added sugar you're consuming and maybe opt for natural sugars like fruit when you can.


assorted pastries and bread

For the average person who doesn't have arthritis, good-quality, gluten-containing foods can be completely fine and safe to consume. Unfortunately, for those suffering from consistent joint pain, gluten may be a contributing factor to their flare-ups.

Gluten and wheat-containing products have been found to lead to possibly lead to inflammation over time, and inflammation is directly related to joint pain and swelling. In a report published in the Open Rheumatology Journal, it was concluded that a plant-based, gluten-free diet had a positive impact on relieving arthritis symptoms and joint pain.

We are certainly not suggesting that just anyone goes gluten-free, though. Gluten-containing products can have levels of fiber that are helpful to people not living with arthritis or another autoimmune disease.

Processed food

fast food items

Highly-processed foods may be delicious and affordable, but this food comes packed full of negative side effects, including the ability to make joint pain and inflammation worse.

According to Autoimmunity Reviews, processed food is known to exacerbate arthritis symptoms by contributing to factors such as heavy weight gain and increased inflammation. Like anything on this list, we aren't suggesting you can never consume processed food again, but instead suggest limiting your consumption when you can in order to relieve your joint swelling.

4 Best Eating Habits to Reduce Chronic Pain

Red meat

Processed meats sausage hot dog red meat deli meat

Consistently switching out your red and processed meats for plant-based proteins may help reduce swelling and painful symptoms of arthritis. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, higher consumption of red meat was associated with more inflammation. Frontiers in Nutrition also concluded that dropping red meat and going plant-based can help relieve arthritis symptoms.

You don't have to say goodbye to any of these foods forever, but significantly reducing how much you consume will help ease joint pain and hopefully bring you some lasting relief.

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha