It’s relatively common knowledge that diet plays a huge part in your lifetime risk of developing cancer. But new research indicates that it might also factor into the occurrence of arthritis. The root cause of this painful joint condition has not been fully understood in the past, but it has often been linked to wear and tear. People who have physically demanding jobs or are obese seemed to be at higher risk.
But now it appears that the balance of bacteria living in your gut, which is influenced directly by diet, can be an inciting factor in the development of arthritis. In turn, the chronic inflammation and lower activity level found in arthritis patients can lead to the development of cancer.
In mouse studies, researchers noted that obese mice tended to have more harmful bacteria in their guts than lean mice. The bacteria led directly to chronic inflammation and progressive joint deterioration. When the gut biome was shifted toward a healthier balance of good bacteria, the joint damage was halted and often reversed.
Researchers think a high-fat Western diet, nicknamed the “cheeseburger and milkshake” diet, could be the culprit. More research in humans is necessary, but in the meantime, avoiding the following 7 foods will reduce both your risk of cancer and your arthritis pain. At the end, we’ll share a supplement that could work in concert with a healthy diet to balance your gut biome even more!
1. Processed Meat
Processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and lunch meat are preserved with carcinogenic chemicals called nitrates and nitrites. Even naturally smoked meats take on dangerous tar during the preservation process. And to make matters worse, foods that develop char marks during cooking contain something called acrylamide.
Acrylamide has been directly linked to cancer. By some reports, eating charred meat increases your risk of deadly pancreatic cancer by 60%!
When it comes to arthritis, it’s the saturated fat in meat that can spark painful inflammation. However, that high cooking temperature also creates other byproducts that keep your joints swollen and painful.
2. Refined Carbs
Refined grains have been processed so heavily that pretty much all of the health value of the original whole grain is destroyed. That means that eating products like white bread, flour tortillas, and baked goodies delivers a blast of carbs that immediately break down to sugar in your system. This increases the cytokines and other pro-inflammatory compounds in your bloodstream, leading to arthritis pain.
Sugar is also cancer’s favorite food, so having a chronically high blood sugar level can make it easier for cancer to spread. Instead, switch to much healthier whole-grain options for your bread, cereal, pasta, and rice.
3. Hydrogenated Oils
The concern with hydrogenated oils for both cancer and arthritis comes from their hefty level of omega 6 fatty acids. We do need some omega-6 in our diet to facilitate healthy growth and development. However, the goal is to achieve the right balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. We don’t need nearly as much omega-6, yet we tend to get more of it.
Hydrogenated oils appear in most commercially baked cookies, cakes, breads, and crackers. Almost all processed foods contain at least a little bit of it. At home, you can rely on healthier olive, soy, or canola oil. Because too much omega-6 has been linked to both cancer and arthritis, perhaps it’s time to start learning more home-baked recipes.
Salt is a critical nutrient that we can’t entirely avoid. In conjunction with potassium, it plays a huge role in regulating kidney function and blood pressure. But it is very easy to get too much due to the crazy high levels found in processed foods. Even sweet foods contain a ton of salt.
Chronic overconsumption of salt has been linked to a higher risk of stomach cancer, as well as dangerously high blood pressure. It also tends to inflame joints and spark arthritis pain. The more meals you can cook at home from fresh ingredients, the less salt you’ll eat overall.
Though not technically a food, tobacco is something that people put into their bodies habitually. The link between cancer and tobacco use is well established. Turns out, tobacco can also exacerbate arthritis and make it more difficult to treat. Studies have shown that smokers have a higher risk for rheumatoid arthritis.
Tobacco is also known to degrade joints, bones, and connective tissue. Not only does smoking cause painful symptoms, it makes treatment for arthritis less effective and it can create additional complications if you ever need surgery. Basically, tobacco injures every part of your body that it touches. That could mean cancer, arthritis, or both.
6. Dairy Products
Dairy products are tricky to place in a risk category, because they don’t affect everyone the same way. Milk and foods made from milk (cheese, yogurt) contain a type of protein that may irritate the tissues that surround your joints. But this is not true for all people. And studies have shown that dairy can increase your risk of certain types of cancer, like prostate, but actually decrease your risk of others, like colorectal.
If you have arthritis, experiment with avoiding dairy to see if your pain levels decrease. In the end, you may want to simply moderate your intake of dairy products, because they do have some healthy benefits, like calcium and protein. You can also replace the protein in dairy with foods like quinoa, lentils, nut butters, tofu, and beans. Spinach and other dark leafy greens contain a good amount of calcium.
7. Added Sugars
Probably the number one most dangerous element of our “cheeseburgers and milkshakes” diet is added sugar. Eating sugar causes the production of something called advanced glycation end products (or AGEs). This happens when protein or fat in the body interacts with sugar.
AGEs are responsible for all manner of bodily ills, including arthritis and cancer, but also heart disease, diabetes, and accelerated aging. Another potentially deadly complication of eating too much sugar is a high level of cytokines in the blood – these are the body’s inflammatory messengers.
In the end, healthy eating is recommended to lower your risk of all kinds of disease. We are just beginning to understand the link between arthritis and cancer, especially the way the health of our digestive system plays into everything. The easiest way to get back on the right dietary track is to cook fresh food at home as often as possible. Quit smoking, too, of course.
To push the benefits further, you may try a prebiotic supplement called oligofructose. Neither humans nor rats can directly digest oligofructose, but it serves as an excellent source of nutrition for the good bacteria that lives in your gut.
Supporting this helpful bacteria allows it to overcome some of the bad and achieve a healthier balance. Oligofructose can be found naturally in onions, bananas, garlic, and whole wheat, but you can also purchase supplements.