Have Joint Pain? 9 Foods That Could Be Causing It

May 23, 2023 15:16:26PM

You might have been told that joint pain is just a part of life and getting older, and that you should just accept it as the way it’s going to be. But, did you know that some of the causes could be within your control? 

Sometimes joint pain is due to natural deterioration, but other times your aches and pains can be a reaction to your environment—specifically, the food you eat. Understanding why your body feels the way it does can help you feel your best.

If you have unexpected joint pain, keep reading to learn how you can zero in on the cause, and possibly get some relief.

Keep reading with a sweet snack! Check out our ready-to-eats here.

What is Joint Pain?

Joint pain is discomfort where your bones hinge, and the sensation tends to increase when you move it. 

You might feel joint pain in one joint, such as a knee or knuckle, or feel it all over your body. It can vary in magnitude—some days you might feel like you’re 30 years older than you are; other times, it’s mild or you don’t notice it at all.

No matter what you’re feeling, it’s not fun, and you’re probably reading this to find out if there’s something you can do about it.

What Causes Joint Pain?

The common reasons for joint pain include injuries, aging, overuse, and arthritis. What might surprise you, though, is that inflammation throughout your body can cause joint pain, which could be caused by food, environment, or less-than-healthy habits. 

Here, we’ll focus on the one that’s easier to control: food. 

How Food Can Cause Joint Pain

You might wonder how food could cause pain in your ankles, when your ankles are nowhere near your digestive tract. That’s correct, but remember, your whole body is connected and the food you eat goes to every cell in your body. If a food causes a reaction, it can show up in a lot of different ways. 

But, I don’t have allergies!

It’s a common misconception that a reaction to food involves allergy symptoms like hives, itching, or swelling, but the kind of reaction that affects your joints isn’t an allergy. It’s an intolerance, and there’s a difference. 

As we get older, our bodies change, sometimes not for the better. Foods you once enjoyed your body may suddenly see as offensive. If you consume food your body doesn't like, your immune system activates, releasing proteins that can cause an inflammation response somewhere in your body—commonly, your joints. 

So, if you ate a big bowl of pasta and the next day you feel a little stiff or achy, you might look into a gluten intolerance. If you had a few grown-up beverages and the next day at the gym your grip strength seems off, you could have some alcohol aftereffects. 

It’s all individual, so pay attention to what you’ve been eating when you’re feeling less than 100%.

What Food Intolerances Can Cause Joint Pain?

Now that you know food could be contributing to joint pain, it's essential to know which foods are the most common offenders.

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Sugar
  • Refined Carbs
  • Alcohol
  • Histamine – found in fermented foods like cheeses and sauerkraut, and also in avocado, shellfish, and others
  • Caffeine 
  • Corn
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG), found in some processed meats and prepared foods

It is highly individual. You could tolerate the above ingredients well, or foods that are not on this list could be causing you problems. Work with a qualified medical professional to identify or rule out food intolerances. 

How to Tell if You Have a Food Intolerance

So you’re probably thinking about the foods you eat and wondering if you have a food intolerance. 

Since you likely eat a varied diet, it can be hard to connect a food with a symptom. To sleuth it out, you can use one of two methods to determine if you have any food intolerances—an elimination diet or food intolerance testing.

Elimination Diet

To tell if any of the most common offenders are affecting your body, eliminate all the top foods that could cause your body pain. Start with the list above, and if you suspect any other foods are causing issues, eliminate those too.

Don't eat any of these foods for three weeks. Then, once your body is clear of these foods, add one food back at a time. For example, introduce gluten back into your diet after six weeks, but nothing else on the list.

Do this for three to five days to see how your body reacts. If you noticed your joint pain disappeared during the elimination period, you abstained from those foods, and now it's back when you reintroduce gluten, you can guess that gluten might be an offending ingredient.

Of course, this method takes time and patience because you have to reintroduce one at a time. 

Food Intolerance Testing

You can try food intolerance testing if you want something more straightforward (and faster). 

Talk to your doctor about food intolerance testing. They can order the appropriate blood tests and pinpoint what foods your body may be reacting to.

Another option is at-home testing. Companies like EverlyWell offers an at-home test that checks IgG reactivity, an indicator of food intolerance, to 96 foods. It's a quick finger prick test that you mail in, and you'll get a rating on how your body reacts to each food.

How to Eliminate Joint Pain

Once you know the offending foods, eliminate them from your diet or limit your consumption of them. Other ways to manage joint pain include:

  • Movement. The more you move, the less likely it is to get stiff. Walk and stretch as often as possible, and you can work with a physical therapist if you have specific mobility concerns.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. The less weight on your joints, the easier it is on them. Keep a healthy weight for your age and height.
  • Watch your posture. Notice how you sit and stand, especially while using your phone or computer. Your posture can wreak havoc on your joints, making them sore.

Final Thoughts

If you’re tired of joint pain, consider looking at your diet. You may be intolerant to certain foods that you don’t realize. It’s a simple test or elimination diet to see what your body is reacting to, and it will make you feel better. While food may or may not be the cause, if it is, you could greatly reduce a lot of day-to-day soreness.

Taking care of your body means feeding it the foods it can tolerate. You may be less able to tolerate certain foods as you age, but you can fix that by knowing where to focus your diet and what to minimize.


*Doing home intolerance testing and elimination diet is not the same as seeing a doctor and readers should prioritize seeing the doctor.

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