If you have one of these five common conditions, here are the foods you should avoid…

Let’s say you’ve got arthritis…heartburn…heart disease…or some other common health problem.

You follow all your doctor’s suggestions, but you still don’t feel better. It could be that you’re not getting the right medication or other treatment, but there’s an even stronger possibility.

What often gets overlooked: Your diet. Far too many people sabotage their treatment—and actually make their health problems worse—by eating the wrong foods. Meanwhile, you could be helping yourself by eating certain foods that ease whatever is ailing you.

Common health problems that foods can worsen—or help…


Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis involve inflammation that causes joint pain and/or swelling.

What hurts: Refined carbohydrates (sugar, white bread, white rice and most pasta). They cause a spike in glucose (blood sugar) that leads to inflammation.

What helps: Raw, fresh ginger. It’s a potent inhibitor of prostaglandin and thromboxanes, inflammatory compounds involved in arthritis. And unlike anti-inflammatory medications, ginger doesn’t cause an upset stomach. Be sure to use fresh ginger—it’s better than powdered because it contains higher levels of active ingredients. For pain relief, you need to eat only about 10-g (about a quarter-inch slice) of raw, fresh ginger a day.

Smart idea: You can add raw ginger to any fresh fruit or vegetable juice with the help of a juice extractor. Ginger mixes well with carrot, apple, pear or pineapple juice. You also can grate fresh ginger and add it to any hot tea.


Everyone notices occasional changes in the way the heart beats at certain times—during exercise, for example. But persistent irregularities could be a sign of arrhythmias, potentially dangerous problems with the heart’s electrical system. The heart can skip beats or beat too slowly or too quickly—all of which can signal heart disease.

What hurts: Too much caffeine. Whether it’s in coffee, tea or chocolate, caffeine stimulates the heart to beat more quickly, which triggers arrhythmias in some people.

What helps: Berries. All types of berries, including cherries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, are rich in procyanidins, plant pigments that reduce arrhythmias and improve blood flow through the coronary arteries. Aim for one cup of fresh berries daily (frozen are fine, too).

Also helpful: Concentrated extracts made from hawthorn. This herb contains the same heart-healthy compounds as berries. In Germany, it is commonly used to treat arrhythmias and congestive heart failure. If you have heart problems, a hawthorn extract containing 10% procyanidins (100 mg to 200 mg three times daily) is often recommended. Hawthorn can interact with heart medications and other drugs, so check with your doctor before trying it.


Also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heartburn is usually caused by the upward surge of digestive juices from the stomach into the esophagus. People who suffer from frequent heartburn can get some relief with lifestyle changes, such as not overeating and staying upright for a few hours after eating. But most people with heartburn don’t pay enough attention to their diets.

What hurts: Alcohol and coffee are widely known to trigger heartburn. Many people, however, don’t consider the effects of chocolate, fried foods and carbonated drinks, which also may weaken the esophageal sphincter (the muscle that prevents acids from entering the esophagus) or increase the intra-abdominal pressure that pushes acids upward.

What helps: Fresh (not bottled) lemon juice—two to four ounces daily in water, tea or apple or carrot juices. Lemon contains D-limonene, an oil-based compound that helps prevent heartburn. Also, use the peel if you can. It’s an especially good source of D-limonene.


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss, but it (as well as cataracts) can often be prevented—or the effects—by eating carefully.

What hurts: Animal fat and processed foods. A study of 261 adults with AMD found that people who ate a lot of these foods were twice as likely to have a worsening of their eye disease compared with those who ate less of the foods. Animal fat also increases risk for high cholesterol, which has been linked to increased risk for cataracts.

What helps: Cold-water fish. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish can help prevent AMD and cataracts—or, if you already have one of these conditions, help prevent it from getting worse. Try to eat three to four weekly servings of cold-water fish, such as salmon or sardines.

Also helpful: Tomatoes, watermelon and other red fruits and vegetables (such as red peppers) that are high in lycopene. Green vegetables are also protective. Foods such as spinach and kale are high in lutein and other plant pigments that concentrate in the retina to help prevent eye disease.


Some 16 million Americans have rosacea, a chronic skin condition that causes bright-red facial flushing for at least 10 minutes per episode, along with bumps and pustules.

What hurts: Hot foods. “Hot” can mean temperature (a hot bowl of soup or a steaming cup of coffee or tea) or spicy (such as chili powder, cayenne or curry). Alcohol also tends to increase flushes.

What helps: If you have rosacea, ask your doctor to test you for H. pylori, the bacterium that causes most stomach ulcers and has been linked to rosacea. If you test positive, drink cabbage juice (eight to 12 ounces daily). It’s not the tastiest juice, but it inhibits the growth of H. pylori. Make your own cabbage juice in a juicer (add some apples and/or carrots to improve the taste). If you have thyroid problems, check with your doctor—fresh cabbage may interfere with thyroid function.