Arthritis: The food triggers for inflammation from gluten to aspartame – expert

“Some arthritis specialists believe following an anti-inflammatory diet can help patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis,” said Dr Deborah Lee, from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy. The expert explained that while you might not associate your joints with your gut, the health of the two might be linked.

As diet plays an important role for your gut health, certain food ingredients could also be triggering your arthritis inflammation.

Three culprits that could be stirring up trouble are gluten, carbohydrates and aspartame.


Gluten is found inside wheat, barley, rye and oats. This ingredient is in everything from bread to cakes.

Although gluten might be in all of your favourite treats, some arthritis patients report relief when avoiding it.

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Dr Lee said: “In a 2007 study, Podas and colleagues randomised 30 patients with rheumatoid arthritis to either an elemental diet (gluten-free), or 15 mg per day of prednisolone.

“After two weeks, the degree of improvement was similar in both groups, thus showing that diet can be an effective way to manage arthritis symptoms.”

The Arthritis Foundation also notes that some people with the joint condition might also suffer from either coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity.

In this case, you need to adopt a gluten-free diet anyway. However, there are plenty of gluten-free options available in supermarkets nowadays.



Closely linked to gluten, the likes of white flour and cereals could be problematic for the joint condition.

The Arthritis Foundation reports that specifically refined carbohydrates could be stimulating inflammation.

Dr Lee said: “In a 2020 study in the journal Pain Medicine, 21 subjects suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee were assigned to either a low fat, a low carbohydrate diet, or a control diet.

“After 12 weeks the greatest reduction in pain, and unpleasantness in functional tasks, was reported by those on the low carbohydrate diet.”

The expert recommended alternatives to carbs including meat, fish, eggs and poultry, leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds and olive oil.


Often found in sweetened drinks, aspartame is an artificial sweetener.

This intense sugary flavour is found in more than 4,000 products around the world, according to the arthritis charity.

Dr Lee said: “Although regarded as safe for consumption, a recent 2017 review concluded that aspartame, even consumed at recommended levels, can increase oxidative stress and increase inflammation.

“As a rule, alternative sweeteners are recommended in arthritis, such as stevia, a natural plant-derived sweetener from the chrysanthemum family.”

The Arthritis Foundation adds that studies on aspartame are mixed and the impact on those with autoimmune disease is unknown.

However, if your body recognises it as a foreign substance, it will attack it, which can leave you with an inflammatory response.

The charity concludes: “Cutting back on foods that promote inflammation, increasing the proportion of fruits and vegetables in your diet, making fish your main protein and getting more omega-3s are important to improving your diet for arthritis.”

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