Skip These Foods to Avoid Knee Inflammation
Want Less Pain? Avoid or Reduce These Repeat Offenders
Let’s face it. A lot of us are brought to articles like this kicking and screaming… we really “don’t WANT to know” what foods we should be eliminating or reducing from our diets. It’s just so.. so restricting! And deep down in our being, as Americans, we are all about freedom. Freedom in all things; freedom to have lots of options when it comes to foods and drinks we enjoy…(and nobody, I mean NOBODY, is going to stop our fun… right??!).
Well, that is, until we start experiencing excruciating, chronic pain. Pain gets our attention, pain keeps us up at night, especially unrelenting pain that interferes with our ability to enjoy life.
Then, and usually only then, our outcry becomes, “tell me, please TELL ME what I have to do to make this stop…make this pain go away!” Yes, we’ll do anything. Which usually leads to a search on the computer, which leads us to articles like this, what to do to relieve pain.
This is where I’m going to say something unpopular. Pain is good and serves a purpose. Pain is trying to tell you that something is wrong or malfunctioning within your body. Yes, it’s a wake-up call, letting you know something needs to change, or else worse things may start happening. Pain can save you from more trouble later! And yes, it’s something we do not want.
So now, it becomes, “what can I do..?” You’re there. Pain talks, you listen. Can no longer ignore it. Meds, pills, shots have their limits. In all sincerity, when you reach your breaking point, you want a solution that lasts and the pain to be gone. Well, I’m glad you’re here. There’s good news for you. One part is that your body is made to heal itself. Yes, there are things you can do to HELP your own healing process! Unfortunately, on the flip-side, there are also things you might be doing to HINDER or halt your healing. This article serves to empower you; it’s all up to you.
In my previous article (What to Eat for Healthy Knees) we covered many of the most effective and powerful anti-inflammatory foods we can add to our diet that will greatly reduce or eliminate pain. As a follow-up I’m so thrilled to report that one of my very own students put that article into practice and noticed within two (2) weeks, her shoulder pain was GONE! She came to me so excited to report that what I shared with her was working, and she was so happy I could almost cry! True story. She had shared with me in recent weeks that her pain was making her wonder if she needed surgery. She really didn’t want to go that route. I suggested trying some simple changes to her diet, adding more anti-inflammatory foods and now here she is… weeks later and pain-free!
Doctors can no longer ignore the power of their patients’ diets. It’s not enough to keep prescribing pills. When it comes to overall health, food choices play powerful roles in everything from our mental state to pain levels to our regularity. Just as you wouldn’t put apple juice into an Audi R8 Spyder and expect it run well (!), certain “foods” can cause YOUR body to run poorly also.
So, what’s up with our food? Which foods or food ingredients may be causing or producing pain? And how can you make better choices in your diet, while still being able to enjoy your life? I know full well you’ll scoff at being resigned to a dull life of munching on carrot & celery sticks while your friends are gobbling up pizza & burgers with abandon.
Repeat Offenders (Frequently Eaten… with Consquences)
Before we get to the meat and potatoes here, so to speak, I wouldn’t want to skip this quick disclaimer — not all foods react the same way in all bodies. And even within the SAME body, the same food can affect you differently on different occasions. Confusing? Don’t stress. It’s just the truth. Many factors can affect digestion and reactions to food, from the time of day, to the speed at which you eat, even your emotions! Ever eat while angry or stressed? You know what I’m talking about. Suffice it to say, however, there are certain foods that have more negative effects overall, and with reliable frequency. These foods are basically repeat offenders — foods that we probably already realize are on that “hit list,” and it would be wise to reduce or eliminate them. So let’s proceed with that in mind. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for you, because you’re the one who has to deal with the outcomes and consequences.
Main Offenders of Inflammation (and other diseases)
Refined Sugar and Corn Syrup
Processed Desserts, Pastries, Sodas and Fruity Drinks, Candies, and many Energy Bars (beware). The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. It also triggers greater release of insulin, which over time can lead to insulin resistance and even Type II Diabetes. Sugar is an “anti-nutrient,” goes by many names, so look out for any word ending in “ose,” (fructose or sucrose) on ingredient labels. Please do not shy away from eating fruit, however, which are treasures of health because of all the vitamins, nutrients, fiber and other crucial cell-builders.
Saturated Fats from Meat & Dairy
Corn-fed Red Meat; Cheese, Milk, Cheap Candy Bars
Studies have shown that saturated fats trigger adipose (fat tissue) inflammation, which is an indicator for heart disease and also can worsen arthritis inflammation. Pizza, hamburgers, and cheese are some of the biggest sources of saturated fats in the average American diet, according to the National Cancer Institute. When eaten too often in large quantities, these types of foods cause the body’s pH level to become very acidic, which makes the body vulnerable to inflammation (especially gout), and can also lead to many aggressive diseases, even cancer.
Fast Foods, Fried Foods, Processed Snack Foods, Crackers, Cookies, Donuts, Margarines. Harvard School of Public Health researchers sounded the alarm about trans-fat in the early 1990s, as they discovered that denatured (altered), unhealthy fats caused systemic inflammation. It’s best to avoid foods made with these “partially hydrogenated oils.” Please beware!
Excess Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Oils such as Corn, Safflower, Grapeseed, Soy, Peanut, Vegetable; as well as Salad Dressings and Mayonnaise. Omega 6 Fatty Acids are needed for normal growth and development, but it’s the excess consumption of these that can cause the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals. A healthy balance between Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s is best. In general, it’s best to consume a healthy ratio of approximately 4:1 (Omega 3 vs. Omega 6).
White Flour Products (breads, rolls, crackers) White Rice, White Potatoes, and processed boxed Cereals. According to Scientific American, processed carbohydrates may beat fats in the escalating rates of obesity and other chronic conditions. These high-glycemic foods fuel the production of Advanced Glycation End (AGE) products that stimulate inflammation. This basically means these foods are causing degeneration and rapid aging of our cells! Not good.
Asian Foods, Soy Sauce, Store-bought Soups, Spice Packets, some Deli Meats.
Monosodium glutamate is a flavor-enhancing food additive, but it can come with some nasty side effects. This chemical can trigger two important pathways of chronic inflammation, and also adversely affect liver health. Some people even suffer from migraine headaches because of MSG.
Gluten and Casein
Gluten (Wheat, Barley, Rye, Breads & Cereals / Whole Grains);
Casein (Dairy Products). Some people are highly sensitive to gluten, and this substance can set off an autoimmune response that damages the small intestine, as well as aggravates joint pain such as arthritis. For people diagnosed with celiac disease, the pain can be so great, it becomes worthwhile to avoid gluten altogether. Casein in dairy products; for some it causes problems like gas, bloating.
Check food labels; this non-nutritive, intense artificial sweetener is found in more than 4000 products worldwide! While it’s “approved” by the FDA, studies on its effects are mixed, and the impact on people with autoimmune diseases are unknown. If you are sensitive to this chemical, your immune system may react to the “foreign substance” by attacking the chemical, which in return, will trigger an inflammatory response. Our bodies are highly intelligent (even when we’re… not). We may think we’re being smart going “sugar-free” but our bodies KNOW the difference between what is natural and what is artificial. We can’t trick it! Eat more fruit, reduce sugary foods overall. But if you want to use a sweetener on occasion, actual sugar from a sugar cane is better than toxic chemicals.
Back to the beginning… SUGAR. Sugar “grows” bacteria, causes high acidity, which in turn encourages disease. It’s just the facts. Should you abstain and have none? Have less? Have very little.? It’s all up to you, and what YOU find valuable. If you’re in pain, why cause more? Alcohol is a burden to the liver. Excessive amounts weaken liver function and can disrupt other multi-organ interactions and can cause inflammation. Sodas, colas — pretty much, just as bad. Sugar is a HUGE inflammation offender, I just cannot stress that enough. And all the evidence proves this. We can’t wish it away, we just have to deal with the facts, and hopefully learn to adjust as needed so we can live long, healthy, happy lives… finding “sweetness” in things other than food and drink.
Cutting back on foods and beverages that promote inflammation, increasing the proportion of fruits and vegetables in your diet, making nuts, fish and plant proteins your main sources of protein, and getting more omega-3s in your diet can make a big difference in reducing or eliminating your arthritis pain. The great thing is that this can work for you naturally, which is the best and longest-lasting way to do it, with no side effects!
My happy student can do it, so can you. Happy, healthy long life to you!
The X10 Meta-Blog
We call it a “Meta-Blog” because we step back and give you a broad perspective on all aspects of knee health, surgery and recovery.
In this one-of-a-kind blog we gather together great thinkers, doers, writers related to Knee Surgery, Recovery, Preparation, Care, Success and Failure. Meet physical therapists, coaches, surgeons, patients, and as many smart people as we can gather to create useful articles for you. Whether you have a surgery upcoming, in the rear-view mirror, or just want to take care of your knees to avoid surgery, you should find some value here.