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5 Foods That Flare Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arthritis sufferers know the many triggers that bring on flares. A flare is when your symptoms increase dramatically over a period of three to five days, resulting in increased joint pain, swelling, and fatigue. While most sufferers know what triggers their flares, there are hidden triggers they may not be aware of, and in an unlikely spot for them to look – their diet. Many foods can cause arthritis flares, and many of them are common in the American diet. Let's take a look at five foods commonly eaten in a typical American diet plan:

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Fried Foods and Processed Meats

Fried foods and processed meats have been linked with the production of C-reactive proteins. This is the marker doctors use to determine inflammation levels in the body. High levels of inflammation trigger arthritic symptoms, by producing a cytokines response. Cytokines are the body's first defense against an inflammatory attack, and they will increase your RA symptoms. Reducing the amount of fried foods and processed meats, such as hot dogs or frozen meals, will help reduce the number of cytokines your body manufactures to meet an inflammatory attack. Foods you fry at home are not as bad for you as fried foods you purchase from a restaurant. This is due to the oils. When you fry at home, you pour out fresh, unheated oil to use in the frying process, whereas a restaurant reuses its frying oil all day. Heating denatures oil, resulting in an unhealthy frying medium. One-time use is ok; multiple uses are not.

Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates, such as those found in white bread, are high on the glycemic index. High-glycemic index foods result in an increase in advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in the body. This is turn results in more cytokines being produced, and as discussed above, results in more inflammation in the body. Any food high on the glycemic index scale, if consumed without proteins or fats to lower the glycemic effect, will increase your blood sugar and AGE levels. Refined carbohydrates are particularly bad, because the base carbohydrate has had all of the fiber processed out. Fiber is good for arthritic patients, so go with a whole-grain approach.


Sugar is also high on the glycemic index scale. Consumption of sugars results in the formation of AGEs, resulting in the production of cytokines. It's also a roller-coaster ride for your blood sugar levels, resulting in pre-diabetes or type II diabetes. If you crave something sweet, eat it with a protein, to reduce its effects on your blood sugar levels, and be aware it may cause a flare of your arthritic condition. Making your own sweets is a good alternative to giving them up; it's easy to bake an apple or pear with a cinnamon-sugar topping, and these dishes will satisfy your sweet tooth without blowing your blood sugar levels or increasing your AGE level.


Dairy products contain the protein casein, which has been shown to irritate joint tissue in some people. This irritation may lead to an arthritic flare. You can purchase dairy products approved for use in kosher homes – look for the 'Parve' indicator on the container. These products are casein-free, and are acceptable dairy substitutes.

Salt and Preservatives

Excessive salt in your diet may contribute to arthritic joint flares. Notice the term 'excessive' here – salt is essential for your body's metabolic processes, and reducing the level of your salt intake to a low level may compromise your health. Salt is used as a preservative, to increase the shelf life of processed foods. Buying your foods in the fresh state and cooking them yourself, with a moderate amount of salt, will keep your sodium levels at a normal level and reduce your RA flares.

There is an age-old adage: you are what you eat. Its age doesn't affect its truth – what you put into your body for fuel makes a difference in how your body performs. You wouldn't put cheap gas in your car and expect to win the Indy 500 race, would you? It's the same with the food you put in your body. When you have a chronic condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, you need to pay special attention to your diet. Foods that are not a problem for a healthy individual may cause significant flares in you. Follow an anti-inflammatory diet to help keep your arthritis under control.

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