Different groups are divided on the best foods for the purpose of managing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). On one side, different studies suggest that eating a balanced diet helps in the management of RA symptoms as well as the general health of the patient. On the other hand, The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease (NIAMS) differ with these results. NIAMS suggests that consumption of just enough calories, proteins and calcium nutrients is the best way to manage RA. Despite the difference of opinion on this issue, there is no perfect rheumatoid arthritis diet that could work for all RA patients.
In any case, every individual is different in his or her own way. Following this guideline on what to eat and avoid in RA management as you determine the best diet for you. However, do not make huge changes to your diet without some advice from your doctor.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet: Foods to Eat
1. Mediterranean-Style Diet
Mediterranean-style food includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods have two main components: antioxidants and phytonutrients. These components are quite beneficial to RA patients. Mediterranean-style foods also include the use of olive oil and nuts which have unsaturated fats. This type of fats is healthy and ensures patient’s cholesterol levels is at a healthy level and hence reduces the chances of suffering from a cardiovascular disease. In addition, this diet for rheumatoid arthritis enhances slimming. With reduced weight, RA patients’ joints suffer from lesser strain.
Fatty acids that contain omega-3s have always been praised because of heart related benefits. Omega-3s are also some of the anti-inflammatory foods for arthritis. They have evidently reduced stiffness of joints and pain due to arthritis. Omega-3s can be found in either of two sources. Fish that live in cold water are the first known sources of the fatty acids. These fishes include salmon, herring and tuna. Secondly, this type of nutrients can be found in flaxseed, walnuts, as well as tofu. However, you should not presume that fish oil supplements will provide these benefits. Actually, they might lead to unwanted negative effects for interacting with RA drugs.
Another good food for rheumatoid arthritis diet is antioxidants. By including antioxidants in a diet, an RA patient gains three main advantages: damage of free radicals, reduction of inflammation, and relieve of pain. Good examples of antioxidants are vitamins such as A, C and E, and mineral selenium. Foods rich in these nutrients include fruits, nuts, green tea, as well as fresh vegetables.
Inflammation levels are measured in terms of C-reactive proteins (CRP) within a person’s blood. Foods with high quantities of fibre reduce CRP and hence reduce inflammation. You should consume more fibre by eating foods such as strawberries (frozen or fresh), fresh vegetables, and whole grains.
Flavonoids should be included as part of a diet for rheumatoid arthritis because of their advantages. They reduce inflammation, pain due to RA and swelling. Only plants can naturally produce flavonoids. Therefore, for you to add them to your system, you should consume foods such as berries, grapes, and broccoli. If you love chocolate, then you are also adding flavonoids into your diet especially when eating the dark ones.
Spices that contain either curcumin or capsaicin compounds are very helpful in reducing inflammation. Cucurmin can be found in spices such as turmeric and ginger. On the other hand, capsaicin can be found in chilli peppers. It not only reduces inflammation but also effectively reduces pain.
6. The Paleo Diet
Paleo diet involves consumption of foods believed to have been consumed by the early man. These foods usually include meat, vegetables and fruits. However, the diet does not involve consumption of grains, sugary foods, dairy products or any processed food product. The advantage of this diet is that it contains high levels of proteins and low levels of carbohydrates. Paleo is considered a rheumatoid arthritis diet because it reduces inflammation. Unfortunately, foods such as red meat can worsen RA’s condition. Therefore, it is important to discuss with a doctor prior to the start of using Paleo diet.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet: Foods to Avoid
Some patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis react negatively to dairy products’ proteins. These patients produce antibodies with the presumption that these proteins are harmful to the body. Unfortunately, these antibodies do not attack just the dairy product’s proteins and they might attack other parts of the body, which worsens RA symptoms. In order to reduce this risk, consume dairy alternatives such as soy and almond milk.
As you try to manage RA, you should reduce the amount of meat you consume. The reasons for this reduction are twofold. One, meat consumption adds more fats and calories into the body and this is quite unhealthy. Two, fats from meat are broken down into chemicals that favour inflammation. Doctors advise patients suffering from RA to avoid including plant sources of proteins in his rheumatoid arthritis diet. These sources of proteins include beans and soy.
Gluten is a type of protein. It can be found in wheat or similar grains, which make dough chewy. This protein also triggers a disease called celiac, which is quite common in RA patients. A person suffering from celiac should not consume gluten. Otherwise he will suffer from a small intestinal reaction leading to bloating and diarrhoea. Moreover, this protein could also lead to inflammation of joints for a person suffering from celiac. A study has also found that RA patients had their condition improve significantly for eating gluten-free diets.
4. Coffee or Other Caffeinated Beverages
Millions of Americans consume coffee on a daily basis, drinking an average of three cups every day. Studies on effects of coffee on RA are not only conflicting but also inconclusive. However, it is better to be safe than sorry. One study found out that coffee leads to a subtype of RA called anti-CCP positive RA. Therefore, it is safe to avoid drinking of coffee rather than to regret later.
One doctor gave an analogy for high consumption of sugars. He likened it to having excessive rain in a small pond; the flood would definitely damage the pond’s surroundings. In the body, sugars have three disadvantages: increasing acidity levels, increasing high blood pressure chances, and favouring inflammation. In addition, high sugar levels inhibit the normal functionality of white blood cells, lowering a person’s immunity level. In order to be safe from these risks, reduce consumption of refined sugars. You can use alternatives such as honey.
In order to learn more ways of how to manage rheumatoid arthritis, watch a video: