Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet Plan

May 20, 2019
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

In Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), the immune system attacks the synovium (fluid between the joints). This leads to an inflammatory immune response that causes pain, joint deformity, and disability as it progresses. The exact cause of RA remains unknown, but genetics and health of the gut bacteria appear to play a strong role.

If your loved one has rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you want to do whatever you can to help. When it comes to managing the symptoms associated with RA, one of the most important things you can do to help is ensure they eat the best diet to help ease the effects of rheumatoid arthritis.

Although there is no cure for RA, several studies show a connection between certain foods and dietary supplements and the inflammation that characterizes the autoimmune condition.

Learn more about rheumatoid arthritis diet best practices here.

The 9 Best Foods for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The following list covers nine of the best foods for Rheumatoid Arthritis:

1. Fatty Fish

Different types of fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, and mackerel are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects. In fact, in one small study, 33 participants ate either fatty fish, lean fish, or lean meat four times each week. After eight weeks, the group that consumed the fatty fish had decreased levels of specific compounds related to inflammation.

In another analysis of 17 studies, it was found that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements decreased joint pain intensity, the number of painful joints, and morning stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Fish is also high in vitamin D and can prevent vitamin D deficiency which has been shown to contribute to symptoms associated with RA.

2. Broccoli

We know that broccoli is one of the healthiest foods around, but this veggie packs even more of a punch as it has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. In one study, 1,005 women found that increasing their intake of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli was associated with a decrease in inflammation. One specific compound in broccoli, sulforaphane, has been shown to reduce the production of certain inflammatory markers that contribute to RA.

3. Spinach

Speaking of vegetables, spinach and other leafy greens such as brussels sprouts, kale, and bok choy are full of vitamins A, C, and K as well as components that may help decrease the inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Numerous studies have shown that the antioxidants, as well as the plant compounds in spinach, may relieve symptoms and help fight various diseases including RA.

4. Berries

Berries of all kinds are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, which have been shown to decrease inflammation in the body. In fact, in one study of nearly 40,000 women, participants that ate at least two servings of strawberries per week were 14% less likely to have increased levels of inflammatory markers in their blood. With so many varieties of berries out there, you have lots to choose from.

5. Garlic

Studies show that garlic has anti-inflammatory effects that may help decrease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Some research even shows that garlic can enhance the function of certain immune cells, which can strengthen the immune system and lessen symptoms of RA as a result.

6. Ginger

Ginger not only adds flavor to meals but may also help ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In one study, ginger was found to block the production of substances that promote inflammation in the body. Whether you consume fresh ginger, powdered ginger, or dried ginger, any form may reduce inflammation and reduce the symptoms of RA.

7. Olive Oil

Olive oil is another food that is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Increasing your intake of organic, cold-pressed olive oil may help ease the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. One study in particular found that when mice were fed extra virgin olive oil for six weeks, the development of arthritis decreased, and there was a significant reduction in joint swelling.

8. Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice is potent and packed with an array of nutrients, which may help reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. If you are interested in incorporating tart cherry juice into your diet, make sure to look for an unsweetened variety to avoid added sugar.

9.  Walnuts

Not only are walnuts nutrient-dense but they are packed with compounds that can help reduce the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which can help decrease the symptoms of this autoimmune condition.

4 Foods to Avoid with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Although there are lots of foods that can help to ease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, there are lots of foods to avoid or consume only in moderation as well.

1. Fats

Olive oil is great, but all oils are not created equal. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you should avoid vegetable oil. This is because vegetable oil tends to be loaded with trans-fat. Trans fats raise LDL, (bad cholesterol), while also reducing HDL, (good cholesterol). This not only increases inflammation and worsens RA symptoms, but it can increase the risk of heart disease.

2. Salt

Too much salt is never a good thing, but how much is too much? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who are 50 years old or older, or those who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease, should only consume half a teaspoon of sodium per day. People who don’t fall into that category should still limit their salt intake to less than 2,300 mg per day.

Cutting back on salt intake can be challenging, but you can start by taking small steps here and there. We recommend reading labels carefully and opting for low-sodium options when you can. If you prefer your food packed with flavor, try a salt substitute or spice things up by using a variety of herbs and spices, lemon juice, or vinegar to enhance flavor.

3. Sugar

Just like salt, we’d all be better off if we consumed less sugar. Not only does excess sugar consumption lead to weight gain but it can significantly increase inflammation in the body as well.  Fortunately, there are lots of ways to cut back on sugar. Today there are calorie-free sweeteners available like Stevia which is free of artificial chemicals. Although not calorie-free, you can try healthy sugar alternatives such as honey, agave, and pure maple syrup.

4. Alcohol

Many of us like to let loose every now and again and enjoy an alcoholic beverage. But too much alcohol can increase inflammation in the body. If you like to enjoy an alcoholic beverage here and there, be sure to do so in moderation.

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The 5 Best Supplements for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Sometimes it can be challenging to get enough of the nutrients we need to control rheumatoid arthritis symptoms from food alone. That’s where supplements come in. If you have rheumatoid arthritis here are some supplements to consider incorporating into your diet. Of course, before adding supplements, consult with your doctor first.

1. Capsaicin

Capsaicin temporarily reduces substance P in the body which is a pain transmitter. Thanks to Capsaicin’s pain-relieving properties, some individuals have experienced a 50% reduction in joint pain after three weeks of use. The supplement is available as a topical cream, gel, or patch.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric contains a chemical known as curcumin which has been shown to reduce joint pain and swelling by blocking inflammatory cytokines and enzymes.

3. Cat’s Claw

Cat’s Claw is an anti-inflammatory that inhibits tumor necrosis factor also known as TNF.  It also contains compounds that have been shown to benefit the immune system.

4. Fish Oil

We already know that omega-3 fatty acids are great when it comes to easing the symptoms of RA, but if you don’t like fatty fish, getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can be a challenge. Luckily, you can take fish oil pills daily which can significantly reduce the amount of tenderness and stiffness in the joints.

5. Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA)

Gamma Linoleic Acid, also known as GLA, is an omega-6 fatty acid that the body converts into anti-inflammatory chemicals. Some studies have shown that after taking GLA for six months, patients saw significant improvements in their symptoms.

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Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care Services

Diet can play a significant role in the severity of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Fortunately, there are foods that contain powerful components that may offer relief from this autoimmune condition as well as the inflammation that comes along with it.  With conventional treatment, and a nutritious diet full of healthy fats, whole grains, and whole foods, you can help your loved one live a healthier more comfortable life.

If you’re acting as a caregiver for a loved one, let us help you. At Care Options for Kids, we have an entire team of experienced caregivers who will ensure the wellbeing of your family member.

If you or an aging loved one are considering home health care services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today (888) 592-5855.