Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you know how painful it can be. The condition is characterized by swollen and painful joints, and it can strike anyone at any age.
RA is different from osteoarthritis, which is the natural wearing down of joints with age. RA occurs when your own immune system attacks your joints. The underlying cause of the attack is unknown, but the result is painful swelling, stiffness, and inflammation in your joints.
RA and Your Diet
RA cannot be cured because no one knows the cause of the disease. Traditional treatment for the disease involves using painkillers, anti-inflammatory medications as well as medications that suppress the immune system. However, these treatments can have negative side effects.
More people with RA are beginning to turn to alternative treatments, including changes in diet. Foods that reduce inflammation throughout your body could reduce the pain and swelling in your joints.
Load Up on Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Some of the anti-inflammatory foods are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Add fatty fish like mackerel, herring, salmon, and tuna to your diet, or take a fish oil supplement.
If fish is not your favorite food, try eating more nuts like walnuts and almonds. You can also grind up flax seeds to add to your cereal, yogurt, or baked goods. Chia seeds are also high in omega-3s.
Antioxidants, compounds that can destroy damaging free radicals, may also reduce inflammation. Studies have shown that a diet rich in antioxidants may reduce the pain and inflammation in joints affected by RA.
Some important dietary antioxidants are vitamins A, C, and E, as well as the mineral selenium. Include more of these in your daily diet by eating fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, and by drinking green tea.
Fill Up on Fiber
Research has shown that foods high in fiber may reduce the amount of C-reactive protein (CRP) in your blood. CRP is a marker that indicates the level of inflammation in your body.
Get more fiber in your diet with foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts. Strawberries, in particular, seem to reduce CRP while adding fiber to your diet. You can eat them fresh or frozen.
Don’t Forget Your Flavonoids
Flavonoids are compounds that are only made by plants. They make their way into our diets when we eat fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids may reduce inflammation in your body and could help reduce your RA pain and swelling.
Foods that are particularly high in flavonoids include berries, green tea, grapes, broccoli, and soy. Chocolate is also high in flavonoids, but stick with dark chocolate that has a high percentage of cacao and is low in sugar.
Spice up Meals
Certain spices, although they might feel inflammatory, actually reduce inflammation in the body. Turmeric, common in Indian food, contains a compound called curcumin that has anti-inflammatory properties. It is related to ginger, which may have a similar effect.
Capsaicin, the compound found in chili peppers, also helps to reduce inflammation in the body. According to National Institutes of Health, capsaicin is also known to be an effective pain reliever.
The Mediterranean Diet
Certain diets are naturally high in anti-inflammatory foods, such as the Mediterranean diet. Native people from the Mediterranean region have long eaten a diet based on plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil. They eat little red meat and instead get more protein from fish. They also drink red wine regularly.
The Paleo Diet
Trendy among dieters today is the paleo diet, which advocates eating the same foods our cavemen ancestors did. This means eating plenty of meat, vegetables, and fruits, while avoiding cultivated grains, sugars, dairy, and processed foods. Like other trendy diets, this one is high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
The diet does promote the consumption of certain foods that reduce inflammation, like fruits and vegetables, but it also includes more red meat, which may have the opposite effect. Consult with your doctor before trying this diet.
Avoid Trigger Foods
While including foods that reduce inflammation, you should also try to avoid foods that cause inflammation to increase. Foods that may trigger inflammation include processed carbohydrates like white flour and white sugar, as well as saturated and trans fats, such as those found in fried foods, red meat, and dairy.
Drink More Alcohol?
Perhaps a controversial suggestion, drinking alcohol in moderation may actually reduce your inflammation. Alcohol has been shown to drop CRP levels, but if you drink too much, it can have the opposite effect. Discuss it with your doctor before you increase your alcohol consumption.
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December 13). Natural Anti-Inflammatory Agents for Pain Relief. Surg. Neurol. Int., 2010; 1: 80. Retrieved July 30, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3011108/
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● The RA Diet: Anti-Inflammatory and Nutritious. (2009, August 12). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved July 30, 2013, from http://www.clevelandclinicwellness.com/conditions/rheumatoidarthritis/Pages/TheRADietAntiinflammatoryandNutritious.aspx
● Rheumatoid Arthritis. (2013, July 27). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 30, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/rheumatoid-arthritis/DS00020
● What You Eat Can Fuel or Cool Inflammation, a Key Driver of Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Other Chronic Conditions. (n.d.). Harvard Medical School. Retrieved July 30, 2013, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/What-you-eat-can-fuel-or-cool-inflammation-a-key-driver-of-heart-disease-diabetes-and-other-chronic-conditions.shtml