Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease where the body attacks its own tissues, particularly the tissues of the joints. One of the primary characteristics of RA that differs from osteoarthritis is RA affects the synovial membrane (the lining of a joint) causing swelling, pain, and eventually erosion of the bone material underneath. Over time, the erosion of the bone material can cause joints to become severely deformed and result in permanent physical disabilities and chronic pain.
Unfortunately, as an autoimmune disorder RA has no cure; however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t preventive measures that you can take to combat the severity and frequency of symptoms. In fact, several studies prove that there’s a connection between the foods we eat and RA symptoms. There are some food items that can contribute to inflammation while others may help to combat inflammation. By incorporating the right foods into your diet and eliminating others, you can better manage your RA symptoms and even reduce the need for conventional medications.
*Be sure to consult with your doctor before making any dietary or supplement changes to ensure there’s no risk of adverse reactions with your current medications.
Foods that Help Combat RA Symptoms
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
According to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, one of the most effective natural anti-inflammatories is omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that omega-3 rich fish oil helps to prevent morning stiffness and reduces inflammation in joints. Other food varieties that are the highest in omega-3 fatty acids include, nuts, seeds, and plant based oils. Use Tables 1 & 2 to identify which foods you can incorporate into your diet and the portions needed to hit your adequate intake recommendation for your age.
Studies show that people who eat a high fiber diet have lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood. CRP is an indicator of the amount of inflammation in the body. Foods that are naturally high in fiber also tend to contain numerous other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed for optimal joint health, such as vitamins C, D, E, B6, B12, folic acid, selenium, magnesium, zinc, and calcium. The USDA federal guidelines for adequate fiber intake is 38g/day for men ages 19-50 and 30g/day for men over 50. For women ages 19-50, the guidelines are 25g/day and 21g/day for women over 50. Use this list of high-fiber foods to see the fiber content per serving of your favorite foods that you can incorporate into your diet.
Now that you know what foods to incorporate into your diet to help combat inflammation, here is a list of foods to avoid that can contribute to inflammation:
- Refined wheat
- Saturated fats
- Trans fats
- White flour products
- Refined sugar
If you follow a diet with plenty of foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and high in fiber, you can have a much better chance of keeping your RA symptoms at bay. Most of the RA dietary guidelines are for foods that make up the Mediterranean diet, which also happens to exclude many of the food items that can contribute to inflammation. This diet helps reduce inflammation and is also a very heart healthy diet that may even help you to lose weight!
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