When you suffer from an arthritis flair-up, or from joint pain generally, your immune system is responding to a stimulus the body deems harmful. This sort of response is known as inflammation, explains the U.S. Library of Medicine. Certain foods kick the immune system into overdrive, stimulating an inflammatory response. Other foods, on the other hand, act as anti-inflammatories and depress or protect against inflammation.
Dairy is often targeted as the number one trigger of arthritic inflammation and general joint pain. The Physicians Committee claims dairy protein is the main culprit and cites several anecdotes in which arthritis patients found relief from their most painful symptoms when they changed their diets to eliminate all dairy products, including yogurt and skim milk.
However, some scientists say the dairy-joint pain connection is no more than a myth. An 2014 article published in the medical journal, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, analyzed 52 clinical trials testing the dairy-joint pain connection. The researchers concluded, when dairy triggers inflammation, it is not the dairy protein, but rather the saturated flat that aggravates the immune system.
Widely published health author and practitioner of integrated medicine in London Dr. John Briffa explains in a blog post, the need to change the way we talk about dairy in terms of joint pain. At present, the two are most often viewed as a casual relationship, meaning it is assumed that because dairy and joint pain are linked, dairy must necessarily cause joint pain. The problem is not with dairy itself, but rather with a person’s specific level of sensitivity towards dairy products. Seventy-five percent of people worldwide have an intolerance toward dairy products, according to The Food Intolerance Institute of Australia. This is an astounding figure, and while some suffer from bloating, diarrhea, and headache, others experience inflammation in the joints and on the skin.
In fact, of a list of eight foods that cause inflammation, dairy is not once mentioned by The Arthritis Foundation. Sugar, saturated fats, and trans fats are at the top of the no-go list. Surprisingly, omega-6 fatty acids (which are otherwise fantastically good for your health) are also on the list. Less shocking, are refined carbohydrates, MSG, gluten, and aspartame.
When considering the best diet to combat your arthritis and joint pain, focus on eating a Mediterranean diet of fish, vegetables, and olive oil, as recommended by The Arthritis Foundation. The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, sardines, anchovies and other cold water fish actively fight inflammation, as do colorful berries and vegetables like spinach and kale.