Rheumatoid arthritis patients require a stable, healthy diet for a number of different reasons. Patients may succumb to their chronic pain and inflammation, remain undernourished, or develop medical complications without an appropriate rheumatoid arthritis diet.
Maintaining a healthy diet is an important part of protecting your overall health, managing weight, improving energy levels, and boosting your immune system. While it alone can’t treat your symptoms, the right diet for rheumatoid arthritis can certainly go a long way in helping you feel better overall.
Though there is no conclusive link between diet and rheumatoid arthritis, studies have shown that the type of inflammation experienced in rheumatoid arthritis could be connected to certain foods. Some autoimmune conditions that produce inflammation are attributed to processed foods or foods cooked at higher temperatures. In some people, they are not able to digest these foods and as a result, it causes autoimmune symptoms like inflammation.
On the other hand, by increasing consumption of foods that are considered to be anti-inflammatory, such as fruits, veggies, and omega-3 fatty acids, inflammatory symptoms may improve and possibly lead to fewer flare-ups.
A healthy diet should consist of mainly plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. To improve your diet for rheumatoid arthritis you should eat more of these foods, and limit the amount of lean meats or any kinds of processed foods you consume.
Here are some of the best diets to follow for helping to reduce rheumatoid arthritis inflammation and improve overall health:
Also known as the “caveman diet”, the paleo diet follows a diet closest to nature such as meat, fruit, and vegetables. They also reduce or eliminate their consumption of processed foods and cultivated grains. Because this diet includes a lot of fruits and vegetables, it may be recommended as a diet for rheumatoid arthritis. However, it does also include red meat, which can possibly cause inflammation. If you’re interested in the paleo diet, talk to your doctor first and make any necessary modifications.
The Mediterranean diet is the diet that resembles the foods that people have historically eaten in the Mediterranean region. This diet is high in some of the foods considered to be anti-inflammatory. While it consists mainly of fruits and vegetables, the Mediterranean diet also includes lots of whole grains and extra-virgin olive oil. They also opt for more fatty fish rather than red meat as part of their daily diet.
Celiac disease is another autoimmune disorder, which causes inflammation due to consuming gluten. Gluten is a protein found in certain grains like wheat, barley, and rye and is removed from someone’s diet if they have celiac disease.
Many people with celiac disease also experience symptoms similar to rheumatoid arthritis symptoms such as sore and painful joints, fatigue, depression, and anemia. By following a gluten-free diet, many rheumatoid arthritis patients have reported a decrease in inflammation.
Because having autoimmune disorder increases the likelihood of having another, some doctors suggest being tested for celiac disease if you’ve already been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are often at a higher risk of malnutrition for multiple reasons. Firstly, weight loss is a common symptom in rheumatoid arthritis patients. It’s thought to be due to the autoimmune condition itself producing inflammatory responses that cause an increase in metabolic rate. This means that the body quickly breaks down food which can lead to the weight loss. Rather than it being healthy weight loss, it’s instead weight loss that can potentially leave the patient undernourished.
Secondly, many patients taking the common disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) called methotrexate, have been known to have a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals. Many rheumatoid arthritis medications produce side effects such as stomach ulcers and other digestive concerns which can make it difficult to eat.
These conditions combined with weight loss further compound the problems of malnourishment in patients. Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies in rheumatoid arthritis include a lack of the following vitamins and minerals:
A proper diet for rheumatoid arthritis that is rich in these vitamins and minerals is important for keeping patients healthy.
Additionally, many rheumatoid arthritis patients are at risk of developing osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones caused by a calcium or vitamin D deficiency. Rheumatoid arthritis patients should be aware of this potential risk and ensure their diet accounts for this deficiency.
While it’s always best to receive nutrients through food, in some cases it may be necessary to take supplements. Certain supplements may be able to provide additional nutrition to patients who aren’t receiving enough through their diet alone.
Always speak to your doctor or rheumatologist before taking any nutritional supplements. It isn’t always certain how a variety of medications will interact with each other. To reduce the risk of further symptoms or complications, your doctors will be able to advise if supplements are right for your unique case.
Adhering to a specific diet like paleo, Mediterranean, or gluten-free can often be challenging and overwhelming for some patients. The most important thing in staying healthy and managing your diet for rheumatoid arthritis is to do your best at eating more of the good foods, and eliminating most of the bad foods.
Here are some tips to follow for a better rheumatoid arthritis diet:
If you’re concerned about your diet or want to know more ways to improve your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms through healthy eating, consult your physician for support on making the best decisions for your condition.