Will Any Foods Help Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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Anti-inflammatory foods like fresh fruits are an important part of an anti-inflammatory diet. Lori Sparkia

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects various joints—mostly in the hands and feet. It's an autoimmune disorder, which means your immune system gets a bit confused and attacks your own tissues. The exact cause isn't known, and nobody has proven that any particular foods cause rheumatoid arthritis or make the symptoms worse.

Some people with rheumatoid arthritis claim to feel better if they avoid foods that come from the nightshade family of plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant.

You can avoid these foods for a while to see if your symptoms improve, just be sure to replace them with other nutritious foods.

There are some foods that you should avoid because they aren't good for anybody. Stay away from foods that are high in trans fats that are still found in some snack foods and stick margarine. It may help to cut back on saturated fat from dairy products and red meats, too. Replace the red meat with healthier fish and seafood, and choose canola or olive oil instead of butter. Cut back on added sugars by avoiding candy, sweets, and pastries.

If you're sensitive to sodium, it might be helpful to cut back on salty foods and processed foods. If you're not sure about how much sodium is okay for you to consume, you should speak with your doctor.

Are There Any Options for Helping Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The evidence isn't all that clear that any particular foods will help reduce the inflammation, but eating a healthy anti-inflammatory diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, healthy fats, and calcium sources is good for overall health and a terrific way to watch your weight.

Specifically, research shows that omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce inflammation. You'll find omega-3 fatty acids in foods such as fish, walnuts, soy, canola oil, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds.

Also, eating fruits and vegetables may help to prevent rheumatoid arthritis. A study from the Mayo Clinic showed that women who ate diets higher in fruits and vegetables were less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than women who ate typical Western diets.

That same study didn't show that eating fruits and vegetables would improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis when women already had the disorder. But, since most people don't eat anywhere near enough fruits and veggies, I think that increasing your intake of colorful fruits and vegetables is an easy way to improve your diet instantly.

Sources

Calder PC. "n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases." Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jun;83(6 Suppl):1505S-1519S. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/83/6/S1505.long.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations — United States, 2013." http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6426a1.htm.

Cerhan JR, Saag KG, Merlino LA, Mikuls TR, Criswell LA. "Antioxidant micronutrients and risk of rheumatoid arthritis in a cohort of older women." Am J Epidemiol. 2003 Feb 15;157(4):345-54. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/157/4/345.long/

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