Busting 5 Myths About Your Diet and Arthritis

From gin-soaked raisins to gelatin

5 Myths About Diet and Arthritis

By: Scott Burg, DO

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When you experience the chronic pain of arthritis, you want answers. You’ll take any advice you can get to find relief from flare-ups.

I understand that, of course. But unfortunately, there is no shortage of bad advice out there — especially when it comes to diet. Myths are abundant and persistent, traveling by word of mouth despite a lack of evidence to support them.

Below, let’s take a look at a few of these myths related to osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Gout is a bit different, as I’ve discussed in the past.

“If you’ve been avoiding these fruits and vegetables simply out of fear of something you heard, you can add them back to your plate.”

Scott Burg, DO

Department of Rheumatologic and Immunologic Disease

Myth 1: Nightshades are the enemy

Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers — these and other nightshades have a bad reputation when it comes to arthritis. But for most people with arthritis, they haven’t earned that reputation.

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There is no substantial evidence to suggest that nightshades make arthritis flare-ups worse. Anecdotally, if certain foods in this category cause problems for you, you can continue to avoid them. There is some evidence suggesting a connection between food allergies and rheumatoid arthritis, and specific foods may affect individuals in different ways.

However, if you’ve been avoiding these fruits and vegetables simply out of fear of something you heard, you can add them back to your plate.

Myth 2: You should drop dairy from your diet

If you are lactose intolerant or have a specific allergy to dairy, then it makes sense to limit your intake. Otherwise, dairy is not likely to make your arthritis worse. Studies have not supported the idea that eliminating dairy from your diet will reduce your risk of developing arthritis or ease your symptoms if you have it.

In fact, if you take dairy out of your diet, you reduce your intake not only of calcium but also of vitamin D. This matters. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium for bone health and a reduced risk of osteoporosis, and it also plays a critical role in preventing inflammation.

Myth 3: Eating gin-soaked raisins will ease your symptoms

This may actually ease your pain — but that’s just the alcohol working.

This myth stems from people long touting the healing properties of the juniper berries used to create gin. On top of that, many believe the sulfur in raisins eases joint pain. But the amounts you would typically ingest are so small they can’t have a real impact on your joints, and no evidence supports this old wives’ tale.

Myth 4: Eating a low-acid diet will help you avoid flare-ups

The thinking goes like this: Avoid foods such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, which are high in acid, and you’ll minimize pain and flare-ups.

There’s a major problem with this thinking: Any food or drink you take into your body gets balanced once it hits your stomach. Your digestive system adjusts when things are either too acidic or too basic. Your stomach basically neutralizes any supposed benefit you would get from eating a lower acid diet for arthritis.

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On top of that, vitamin C also has an anti-inflammatory effect, and citrus fruits are a great place to get it.

[Tweet “Nightshades, raisins and gelatin? Sort #arthritis diet myths from facts.”]

Myth 5: Eating gelatin strengthens your joints

This myth assumes gelatin — an animal product found in that jiggly but sugary dessert Jell-O — helps repair worn cartilage around joints.

But scientific studies on gelatin supplements have been controversial and extremely limited. As for foods that contain gelatin, the likelihood of their collagen-containing benefits making their way from your bowl to your joints is extremely low.

The bottom line with all of these myths is simple: If you have a known food allergy or a clear reason to avoid certain foods, then avoid them. But don’t let myths prevent you from eating otherwise healthy foods or cause you to eat questionable ones.

In my next post, I’ll offer tips for altering your diet to improve arthritis symptoms — everything from losing weight to reduce stress on your joints to lowering your risk of inflammation.

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