Is there really a diet for rheumatoid arthritis?
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or are looking for a more natural way to manage your symptoms, you may be wondering about the possibilities of a special eating plan for rheumatoid arthritis. Does what you eat have an effect on how you feel? Can eating certain foods, or not eating others, really make a difference to your condition?
If you’ve already put the following questions to your doctor or rheumatologist, you’ve probably been told that, “No conclusive evidence exists to show that any particular foods have any beneficial or adverse effects on rheumatoid arthritis symptoms”. Not exactly helpful!
However there is mounting evidence that what you eat or don’t eat can make a tremendous difference to rheumatoid arthritis, or any other immune system disorder. Let’s look at it this way; any food you eat that disagrees with your digestive system will cause a reaction. Your body may be intolerant or even allergic to that particular food item and will react by producing IgE antibodies to “protect” you from that food.
Where does a rheumatoid arthritis diet fit in to all this?
At the moment the vast majority of science points towards the immune system as the trigger for rheumatoid arthritis. We already know that viruses and bacteria can trigger an immune response which can worsen or even cause inflammatory symptoms. If your digestive system reacts to a particular food, this may also trigger an immune response which can also increase inflammation in the digestive system.
The result of this inflammation and the IgE antibodies can set of a chain reaction in the body. In some people, these antibodies can bind together with certain proteins and form immune complexes in the gut. These can circulate throughout the body infiltrating every system, including the joints, where they may cause inflammation.
In light of this theory, any eating plan will exclude foods that your body tends to reject and include healthy nourishing foods which calm the inflammatory response. Dieticians will warn you of the dangers of completely cutting out certain food groups due to possibly missing out on vital nutrition. This advice is sound, but a good dietician can work around this as there is usually more than one food source for most of the nutrients that our bodies need.
What should a good diet for rheumatoid arthritis include and which foods should be left out? This depends on what food ingredients your body is intolerant or allergic to. The chief culprits are cow’s milk (casein) certain meats, wheat (gluten) and hen’s eggs. There is also a group of foods called “nightshades” which includes tomatoes, potatoes and bell peppers among others. These foods are considered acid forming and can contribute to flare ups in certain people.
The best diet for you will probably take some working out unless you are already aware of what foods you have problems with. If not you can have your blood tested for antibodies linked to a range of foods which will identify any allergies.
Foods to include in your planned diet are much the same as those recommended for any other healthy diet including vegetables (except potatoes), avocado, olive or coconut oil, fish and whole-grains. Try to cut down on vegetable oils, processed foods and completely cut out white flour and any type of sugar (yes, even honey and chocolate). Always take a quality fish oil or krill oil supplement as these contain Omega3 and are proven to relieve inflammation.
Here is a short video explaining why we should eat plant foods to combat inflammation.