Avoid This Common Source Of Protein If You Have Joint Pain

Joint pain can easily disrupt your quality of life. Whether it's pain in your knees, shoulders, or hips, it can be enough to have you crawl back into bed. Joint pain is more common if you have a previous injury, you overuse certain joints through work or exercise, or you're overweight. Your mental health can also make your joints ache, particularly for people with depression or anxiety. Over time, the wear and tear of your joints can result in osteoarthritis. Some people develop joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis (via Cleveland Clinic).

While you can treat temporary joint pain with topical gels or anti-inflammatory drugs, people with chronic pain can help manage their condition through their diet. Foods like fatty fish, green tea, avocados, and dark leafy greens are rich in antioxidants and omega-3s to support your immune system and ease inflammation, according to Maryland Orthopedic Specialists. On the other hand, some foods can trigger inflammation. If you enjoy milk and other dairy products, the saturated fat and casein protein can also aggravate your joint pain (per NASA Bone & Joint Specialists).

Why dairy products might aggravate inflammation

Medical News Today says that certain foods in your diet promote inflammation that can make joint pain worse. Butter, margarine, and some cheeses are high in inflammatory compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Although a certain level of AGEs is always in your body, high levels of AGEs can damage your cells and tissues.

Saturated fats found in full-fat milk, cheese, and butter could contribute to arthritis flare-ups. A 2015 review in Advanced in Nutrition notes that saturated fats in foods act like endotoxins in your bloodstream, which activate your body's natural defense cells and cause a temporary inflammatory reaction. Some people with joint pain might need to avoid dairy because they might have a sensitivity to casein, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Casein is the main protein found in dairy products.

However, the Arthritis Foundation says the research on the overall impact of dairy on joint pain is mixed. A 2017 review in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition shows that consuming dairy products can reduce inflammation. Similarly, a 2019 article in the European Journal of Nutrition found a higher intake of full-fat dairy and Dutch cheese, particularly semi-hard cheeses, was linked to a lower likelihood of having knee osteoarthritis.

Other foods to avoid if you have joint pain

While the effect of dairy on joint pain is still under debate, Arthritis-Health says to avoid processed foods such as packaged baked goods and prepackaged meals. Many of these processed foods have trans fats, which are known for their pro-inflammatory properties. Although a certain amount of omega-6 fatty acids can be beneficial, they can also trigger inflammation if consumed in excess. Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in most meats and vegetable oils made from corn, peanuts, and sunflower. You might also aggravate joint pain if your diet is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. Sugar releases certain proteins that promote inflammation, and refined carbs (as well as sugar) can quickly spike your glucose levels to aggravate inflammation.

What types of foods cool inflammation? A 2021 article in Nutrients found that people with long-standing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) reported less pain and showed improvements in their physical and mental health when they avoided meat, dairy, gluten, and lactose in their diets. According to a 2018 review in Autoimmunity Reviews, eating foods rich in long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, found in fish and fish oil, can potentially reduce the risk of RA because these fats have anti-inflammatory properties.