Unfortunately, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has no cure yet, but it is treatable condition. Some treatment options are available to help control and prevent it from worsening. How about diet? In fact, there is no specific RA diet. However, some foods may contribute to help improve or worsen the symptoms. Which ones you need to avoid? The answer may vary!
Eating right may have much more contribution than what we think in some people with RA. However, mostly a healthy and well-balanced diet can be the correct prescription.
We know well that the body weight plays a role in affecting the amount of pressure that hits the joints. The more pounds of weight we have, the more strain we put on the joints. In other words, being obese can make the joints work harder than usual.
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In fact, obesity is one of main risk factors for osteoarthritis (OA), an arthritis associated with wear & tear of cartilage in the joint as the age. OA itself is the most common arthritis form.
Obesity is also considered bad for RA. It is not only bad for the joint, but also can worsen the risk of RA complications such as heart problem and hypertension. Overall, it’s important to maintain your weight as well if you have RA.
And your diet will play a key role to help keep your weight under control! Your diet should be balance, especially in the calorie counts.
Controlling weight is not the single issue of diet related to RA. Some experts think that certain foods have essential properties to help control the disease, too.
For instance, there are some foods that can act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent or have certain essential property that may help treat RA. The following are some of these foods:
- Omega-3 fatty acids (commonly found in fatty fish such as salmon). These healthy fats are inflammation fighter.
- Some colorful fruits and veggies (their potent antioxidants contents such as flavonoids and carotenoids can be essential for inflammation-fighting diet).
- Whole grain (it may help lower C-reactive protein, an inflammation marker).
- Olive oil (it may help provide a calm effect on the inflammation of arthritis).
- See also other good foods for arthritis in here!
In addition, most experts agree that Mediterranean diet is good for most people, including for those with RA. This healthy diet is traditionally rich in veggies, fruits, and healthy fats (fatty fish like tuna & salmon).
Another thing you need to remember about diet for RA is variety. Each food has unique properties that give a number of different benefits. So, aim to have diet with a variety of healthy foods!
Some sufferers with RA are more sensitive to certain foods, while others find no any problem with their diet. But in general, the following is list of some bad foods to avoid.
The link between alcohol and RA is still debatable. Some studies that analyze the effect of alcohol in people with RA find conflicting results. Even according to a study in 2010, drinking alcohol in the right amount (maybe in moderation) might help reduce the risk of RA.
On the other hand, some experts think that some medications for RA and high consumption of alcohol can be a great combination to cause liver damage.
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For instance, methotrexate is a common medicine for RA and it is metabolized in the liver. And your liver also plays a key role to eliminate alcohol.
Methotrexate is not the only one. Other pain relievers for RA can make the liver work harder, too. All these things are considered bad for the health of the liver.
So, should you stop drinking alcohol if you have RA?
If you do concern about this issue, talk to your doctor! Each doctor (rheumatologist) can have different opinion about the safe amount of drinking alcohol for their patients with RA. But in general, if you drink – drink only in moderation!
Pay attention on foods high in calories!
Since controlling weight is very important in all kinds of arthritis (including RA), foods high in calories should go into the list of foods you need to restrict. You may not need to skip all of them since some are healthy, too.
For examples; peanut butter, avocados, or even some fruits such as bananas are high in calories. However, they also contain some essential nutrients like protein and healthy fats.
Just make sure that the amount of calories you get from your diet is equivalent to the amount you burn through your physical activity! And make any food you eat in moderation since all good things could be bad if you eat them too much!
How about dairy products?
In some cases, eating dairy products may trigger the flare-up of their RA. It seems that there is certain protein in the dairy products that may have an effect in some people with RA.
Not all sufferers are sensitive to dairy products. However if you have RA and intolerance to milk, it is not bad idea to restrict or even avoid these foods.
If you need to avoid them, just make sure that you dietary calcium is not affected. Dairy products are good sources for calcium, but they are not the only one! Soy products (like tofu & soy milk), almond milks, or even some veggies (such as broccoli, cooked greens, and spinach) contain some calcium, too.
And if your RA has nothing to do with dairy products, you should be safe to eat them. But it’d be better choose some low in fat!
Should you avoid gluten?
The same thing goes for gluten, a specific protein that can be found in certain grains. The effect of eating gluten in people with RA can vary, too. Typically, those with both gluten sensitivity and RA will experience the most significant impact.
On the other hand, sufferers with RA and don’t have gluten intolerance, they should be safe to eat gluten moderately. A blood test can help diagnose whether or not you have gluten sensitivity.
There is a health condition called celiac disease. If you have it, you can have an extreme form of gluten intolerance. Eating gluten could trigger gastrointestinal symptoms or even inflammation in your joint that could be almost similar to what happen in RA.
Both RA and celiac disease are related to the abnormality of immune system. But they have different antibody profiles. However, people with celiac disease are more likely to have other autoimmune disorders such as RA and lupus – though this link is not fully understood yet.
Meats high in saturated fats
Typically, meats are not only high in calories but also high in both saturated fats and cholesterol. Saturated fat itself plays a key role in increasing bad cholesterol (LDL) – even its impact on your LDL is greater than your dietary cholesterol.
RA is a systemic condition. Systemic means it can affect other parts of the body, even some that have nothing to do with joint problem.
For example, poorly-controlled RA is linked to the increased risks of atherosclerosis, heart problems, and high blood pressure, as noted before. And diet high in saturated fats can make these risks even worse!
Furthermore, saturated fats could trigger the production of more pro-inflammatory chemicals. And you know well that if you have arthritis, your body is at inflammatory state or more sensitive to any excess inflammation.
- Coffee or other caffeinated beverages! Too much consumption of caffeine may be bad for some people with RA. But the effect of caffeine on RA is not clear yet. In general, even though you have RA, you should still be safe to drink it as long as in moderation – or if you do concern about the safe amount of caffeine you can take, talk to your doctor!
- Be careful on soda or sugar-sweetened beverages! They are not only rich in calories, but some are also rich in artificial flavors and refined sugars that could worsen the inflammation of your RA.
- See also other bad foods for arthritis in here!
Again, the link between what you eat and RA is a controversial one. And if diet does have an effect on your RA, it is also not always easy to find specific food you need to avoid because the bad foods for RA can vary from sufferer to sufferer.
One of common ways to identify the trigger-foods is with elimination diet. With this approach, you need to eliminate a suspected food trigger for several days or even weeks, and then see the effect on your RA.
In general, there is nothing wrong with elimination diet as long as your daily nutrition and energy requirements are still being met. However to keep safe, work with your doctor!
If you do love using home remedies and lifestyle approaches to control your rheumatoid arthritis, diet alone is not enough. See also other natural treatments in this section!