What Foods Cause Swelling?

foods that cause inflammation

You are what you eat! Did you know there are certain foods that will increase inflammation throughout the body? So while you may not be exactly what you eat, your body is affected by what you eat.

If you suffer from chronic pain, have arthritis, or have noticed an increase in swelling or pain, you may want to look at your diet.

What Foods Cause Swelling?

The following list of foods are not necessarily surprising as they all are responsible for other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and more. Here is a list and explanation of some of the main foods that cause inflammation in the body.


sugary foods

Have a sweet tooth? Sorry to tell you, but it may be time to put down the candy bar! Inflammation in the body is measured by an inflammatory marker referred to as CRP, or C-reactive protein.

When we consumer sugar, our blood sugar rises and our body produces larger numbers of cytokines. Cytokines are an inflammatory protein and while some are good to help combat inflammation (anti-inflammatories), sugar releases pro-inflammatory cytokines.

According to healthline.com, “A study of 29 healthy people found that consuming only 40 grams of added sugar from just one 375-ml can of soda per day led to an increase in inflammatory markers, insulin resistance and LDL cholesterol. These people tended to gain more weight, too.”


alcoholic drinks

An occasional drink is fine! But, when you start to consume alcohol in excess, your body reacts by producing more CRP, leading to more inflammation throughout the body. Alcohol consumption is also responsible for an increase in uric acid (which causes gout) and leukocytes.

Additionally, large amounts of alcohol can also cause problems with the colon leading to a condition called “leaky gut.” With leaky gut, the bacteria and toxins typically contained in the intestines leaks through the intestinal wall and into the blood stream. This “leak” leads to widespread inflammation.

Red or Processed Meat

red meat

There are several compounds that occur in the body that cause inflammation including advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. Red and processed meat contain more of these compounds than other meats leading to increased inflammation.

Red and processed meat both contain high levels of saturated fat. According to American Heart Association, “From a chemical standpoint, saturated fats are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules.” High levels of saturated fat can lead to inflammation. While small amounts in your diet are on a regular basis are ok, it is recommended to limit saturated fat or find alternative options.

So while we may like our bacon, ham, beef jerky, hot dogs, sausage, steak, burgers, and ham, it may be time to find an alternative.

Dairy Products


Back to the saturated fats mentioned in red or processed meat. Dairy products like butter, milk, cream, yogurt, or cheese all have saturated fat which we now know causes inflammation.

However, according to the Arthritis Foundation, a study generated in 2017 concluded that unless allergic to cow’s milk, dairy has anti-inflammatory effects.

So while the evidence is contrasting, it may be best to try and elimination diet to see what your body reacts to. Think Whole30! You remove food from your diet and eat clean, then slowly introduce food groups one at a time to see what works and what doesn’t work for your body.

Fried Foods

french fries

We’ve all head that fried food can clog our arteries, but it can do more than just that!

Like red meats, fried foods contain higher levels of AGEs, which, as mentioned above, lead to inflammation in the body. AGEs form when food products are cooked at high temperatures or are fried. According to a study done at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, when we cut out processed and fried foods from our diets, our body’s see a reduction in inflammation and natural defenses are restored. (https://www.mountsinai.org/about/newsroom/2009/study-shows-that-reducing-processed-and-fried-food-intake-lowers-related-health-risks-and-restores-bodys-defenses)

Furthermore, the vegetable oils that are typically used to fry food have high concentration of omega-6 which is known to be a inflammatory fat. Oils to avoid include corn, soy, peanut, sunflower, grape seed, and vegetable oil.


Asian food

If you’ve ever been to an Asian food restaurant, you’ve probably heard of MSG. MSG stands for monosodium glutamate and it is generally used as an additive to enhance flavor. According to one study, “[The] injection of monosodium glutamate (MSG) in ICR mice leads to the development of significant inflammation, central obesity, and type 2 diabetes.” MSG is not limited to just Asian food, but can also be found in salad dressings, prepared soups, deli meats, soy sauce, packaged foods, and more.

A change of our diet can be difficult! However, start off slow. Start by reducing the amount of certain foods you have that cause inflammation and work towards what works for you. If you’re out with family and want a burger and fries, fine. Just avoid having a burger and fries at your next meal, if possible.

Every small thing you can do to help your body counts. We are here to cheer you on as you work towards a healthier, happier, less-inflamed you!

Want to know some foods you should be eating? Check out our blog post here.

#antiinflammatoryfoods #inflammatoryfoods #inflammation

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