Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Maulishree Jhawer
Article Reviewed by Dietitian  on Nov 21, 2014
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Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Studies show that patients with rheumatoid arthritis may benefit from excluding "suspect" foods that are identified with an elimination diet. By learning to eliminate certain food items you can avoid foods that can "trigger" inflammation in joints. Then, after a period of time of avoidance one can slowly reintroduce the suspect foods back into the diet without increased pain and stiffness.

Saturated fats and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Saturated fats may increase inflammation in the body. Foods high in saturated fats such as cream, ghee, butter, margarine may increase inflammatory chemicals in the body called prostaglandins. They cause inflammation, pain, swelling, and joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis. Meat contains high amounts of arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid which gets converted to inflammatory prostaglandins in the body. A vegetarian diet is said to improve the condition.

Omega-6 and Omega 3 Fatty Acid and RA

Omega-6 fatty acids are present in vegetable oils that contain linoleic acid. They are corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, wheat germ oil, and sesame oil. A typical diet has more omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3 fatty acids. Excessive amount of omega-6 fatty is proinflammatory. Ingesting Lesser amounts of omega-6 fatty acids and MORE of omega-3 fatty acids, may suppress inflammation.

Omega-3 fatty acids, are found in Soybean, mustard, rice bran, sesame oil, cold-water fish, walnuts, flax seeds, tofu, soyabean, flax seed oil. Oils containing omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) is present in fish and available as supplements. Studies show a direct relationship between increased DHA consumption and reduced C-reactive protein levels that causes inflammation.

Diet Rich in Fruits and Vegetables

It is often asked why is rheumatoid arthritis is less prevalent in Mediterranean countries. This is because their diet contains large amounts of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and fish high in omega-3 fatty acid. Hence a Mediterranean-type diet is benefs patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes are high in phytonutrients and bioflavanoids. Like vitamin C, E selenium, carotenoids these have disease-fighting properties. Sugar, salt and gas forming foods should be drastically cut down.

Supplements and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Folic acid and selenium are important where rheumatoid arthritis is concerned. Supplementing with folic acid helps to handle some side effects of methotrexate. Selenium helps to fight free radicals. Supplementing the diet with bone-boosting calcium and vitamin D is important, especially if one is taking take corticosteroids that cause bone loss.

Weight loss and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Extra weight puts added stress on joints. One should look toward losing weight if overweight. Exercise helps to keep the weight under control. One should never overdo an exercise. Swimming and the stationary bike are said to be great options since they do not stress the joints as much as other weight-bearing exercises.

Although nutritional approaches are the best option, people still rely on prescription medications to manage their arthritis. Drugs used to treat arthritis have serious drawbacks and should be taken with care. In addition to these medications, physicians nowadays recommend surgery for patients with severely damaged joints. In this case, joint replacement may be recommended as a last resort.

The goal should be to provide nutrients to help rebuild damaged bone and cartilage. Any nutrient supplement should be taken on advice of a qualified physician.

References:

  1. Bethesda, MD. Arthritis, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 2009.
  2. Arthritis Foundation. Atlanta, 2009.
  3. Osteoarthritis, Life Extension
  4. You are what you eat: New theories about Rheumatoid Arthritis. Elizabeth Tracey, MS. Webmed health news.

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