Does the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Work for RA?
What Is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet is sometimes called the “caveman” diet. This is because it focuses on foods our ancestors ate in the Paleolithic era. The diet includes lean meats and seafood. It also incorporates plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. On the Paleo diet, you can eat seeds and nuts, but not peanuts. All oils consumed are plant- and nut-based. The diet excludes dairy, grains, starches (even starchy vegetables), legumes, beans, fatty meats, trans fat, sugars, salt, and processed foods.
What Is the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol?
The Paleo autoimmune protocol operates on the assumption that grains, legumes, and dairy are linked to the development of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The protocol calls for the elimination of certain foods from your diet. Those foods include grains, breads, potatoes, beans, and dairy. In addition, people with autoimmune diseases are advised to eliminate eggs, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, nuts, and seeds. Spices, such as curries, paprika, and chili powder, are also eliminated. After 30 days, you should be able to determine if eliminating these foods helps you to feel better.
Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis
The foods you eat have a direct impact on your health. Research shows that diet plays an important role in RA, a form of inflammatory arthritis. According to Harvard Medical School, inflammation is the body’s response to irritants, including highly processed and high-fat foods. By slowly reintroducing some of the eliminated foods into your diet, you may be able to pinpoint specific ingredients that trigger symptoms.
The Problem with Processed Foods
The highly refined carbohydrates found in “white” foods like white bread, white rice, and white potatoes may increase inflammation associated with RA. Foods and beverages that are high in sugar may also lead to inflammation. Processed foods contain large amounts of salt, preservatives, and other additives. Cutting down on your intake of processed and fried foods can reduce inflammation, according to Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Reducing or eliminating these foods entirely may actually help raise your body’s natural defenses.
Fruits and Vegetables
We know that fruits and vegetables contain natural anti-inflammatory properties. A diet rich in fresh produce may be helpful in reducing symptoms of RA and may even help prevent RA from developing in the first place. In addition, many vegetables contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids and almost no saturated fats. Fresh produce is not only potentially helpful for RA, it also helps improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Protein, Fat, Oil
Protein helps to build and maintain muscles. People with RA should try to get about 30 percent of dietary calories from protein, with no more than 20 percent coming from fat, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That fits in with the Paleo diet’s focus on lean meats. Fatty fish contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are thought to reduce inflammation throughout the body. When choosing oils, avoid those containing saturated fats and trans fats. Olive oil is healthier and contains anti-inflammatory properties as well.
While the Paleo autoimmune protocol calls for eliminating nuts and seeds, not all experts agree. Harvard Medical School, for instance, says that walnuts, peanuts, almonds, and other nuts and seeds can actually ease inflammation. The Paleo autoimmune protocol also eliminates grains. However, the Cleveland Clinic recommends that people with RA eat a balanced diet that includes whole grains. It is wise to keep in mind that food sensitivities vary from person to person. What triggers symptoms for some may not pose problems for others.
Paleo Autoimmune Protocol and RA
Eating well is vital to your overall health. If you plan to eliminate entire food groups from your diet, you must take great care to make sure you aren’t deficient in important nutrients. If you have RA, it may be well worth the effort to determine whether specific foods or food groups contribute to your symptoms. Consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian before making drastic dietary changes. If you plan to follow the Paleo autoimmune protocol, tell your doctor. Keeping your doctor in the loop helps ensure that any changes in your condition can be properly addressed.
- Foods and Arthritis. (n.d.). Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Retrieved October 9, 2013, from http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/foods-and-arthritis
- Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart. (2010, December 21). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 10, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/omega-3/HB00087
- Paleo For Autoimmunity. (n.d.). Robb Wolf, former research biochemist and author of The Paleo Solution – The Original Human Diet. Retrieved October 9, 2013, from http://robbwolf.com/what-is-the-paleo-diet/meal-plans-shopping-guides
- Patient Education: 10 Frequently Asked Questions about Rheumatoid Arthritis. (n.d.). Harvard Medical School. Retrieved October 9, 2013, from http://cme.med.harvard.edu/cmeups/pdf/patienteducation.pdf
- Study Shows That Reducing Processed and Fried Food Intake Lowers Related Health Risks and Restores Body's Defenses. (2009, November 4). Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Retrieved October 9, 2013, from http://icahn.mssm.edu/about-us/news-and-events/study-shows-that-reducing-processed-and-fried-food-intake-lowers-related-health-risks-and-restores-bodys-defenses
- The RA Diet: Anti-Inflammatory and Nutritious. (2009, August 12). Cleveland Clinic Wellness. Retrieved October 10, 2013, from http://www.clevelandclinicwellness.com/conditions/rheumatoidarthritis/Pages/TheRADietAntiinflammatoryandNutritious.aspx
- What is the paleo diet? (n.d.). Robb Wolf, former research biochemist and author of The Paleo Solution – The Original Human Diet. Retrieved October 9, 2013, from http://robbwolf.com/what-is-the-paleo-diet
- What You Eat Can Fuel or Cool Inflammation, a Key Driver of Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Other Chronic Conditions. (2007, February). Harvard Medical School. Retrieved October 10, 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