6 Best Foods for Rheumatoid Arthritis

In this blog post, we’ll look at the best foods for rheumatoid arthritis that can help reduce your symptoms and make living with rheumatoid arthritis a little easier.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you know how difficult it can be to manage your symptoms. Fortunately, certain foods can help ease the pain, stiffness, and inflammation associated with this chronic condition. 

See also 12 Natural Nerve Pain Relief Methods and 14 Best Anti-Inflammatory Superfoods.

Read on to learn more!

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints, causing inflammation, pain, and stiffness. It primarily affects the hands, feet, and wrists.

It occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body tissues.

RA is a complex condition with no known cure yet, but advancements in medical treatments have significantly improved patients’ quality of life.

Its symptoms may come and go and can vary in severity, making it challenging to manage. 

While there is no cure for RA, there are ways to manage symptoms, including through diet and lifestyle changes.

Stages of rheumatoid arthritis

The Role of Diet in Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Diet plays a crucial role in managing RA, as certain foods can either worsen or alleviate the symptoms associated with this condition.

Here are some key points to consider when it comes to the role of diet in managing rheumatoid arthritis:

1. Anti-inflammatory Foods

Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet can help reduce inflammation associated with RA.

These foods include those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like nuts and seeds, since omega 3 can fight inflammation.

Other examples include fruits such as berries and cherries; vegetables like leafy greens; nuts and seeds; olive oil; and spices including turmeric and ginger.

2. Limit Your Omega-6 Fatty Acids

While omega-6 fatty acids have beneficial effects on inflammation, excessive consumption, such as from vegetable oils (like corn and soybean oil) may promote inflammation in the body.

Therefore, it’s important to maintain a balanced ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids by limiting seed oils and processed foods high in these oils.

3. Antioxidants

Antioxidants play a vital role in reducing oxidative stress caused by chronic inflammation in RA patients. including colorful fruits like berries, pomegranates, and grapes; vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli; legumes like black beans and lentils; and herbs like turmeric and ginger can provide a range of antioxidants that support joint health.

woman with rheumatoid arthritis holding a flower.

4. Gluten Sensitivity

Some individuals with rheumatoid arthritis may have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease leading to increased joint pain or discomfort after consuming gluten-containing products such as wheat-based bread or pasta.

So, identifying potential food sensitivities and adjusting your diet accordingly can help alleviate symptoms.

5. Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for managing RA, as excess weight puts additional stress on already inflamed joints.

A well-balanced diet that focuses on portion control, whole foods, and regular exercise can aid in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

6. Gut Health

Emerging evidence, also noted in the Arthritis Foundation, suggests that the gut microbiome may play a role in autoimmune diseases.

Consuming probiotic-rich foods like yogurt or fermented vegetables helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome, positively influencing the immune system and inflammation.

Fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables also support gut health.

7. Food Allergens

Certain individuals with RA may have food sensitivities or allergies that can trigger symptoms or worsen inflammation.

Common allergens include gluten (found in wheat), dairy products, eggs, and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers).

Best Foods for Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Identifying potential triggers through an elimination diet can help you identify your triggers so that you can avoid them.

On the other hand, adding anti-inflammatory ingredients to your diet can help alleviate your symptoms. So, let’s look at some of the best foods for rheumatoid arthritis!

1. Turmeric

Turmeric, also known as the “golden spice,” is a vibrant yellow spice that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. 

It contains a compound called curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. 

fresh turmeric root, ground turmeric, and turmeric capsules on a dark blue background

Studies have shown that curcumin can help reduce inflammation in the body, making it a great addition to the diet of someone with rheumatoid arthritis.

In a small study of 45 people with rheumatoid arthritis, 500 mg of curcumin supplements taken daily was shown to offer much improvement over a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug called diclofenac.

In different findings, a meta-analysis of 31 controlled trials found that turmeric and curcumin extract can effectively treat various autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and ulcerative colitis.

All these benefits are because curcumin can inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines, which are molecules that play a key role in the immune response and contribute to the inflammation seen in rheumatoid arthritis. 

By reducing the production of these cytokines, curcumin can help alleviate symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness.

Adding turmeric to your diet is easy. You can sprinkle it on roasted vegetables, add it to soups and stews, or add it to smoothies. 

You can also make a warm, comforting turmeric latte by mixing turmeric powder with your favorite plant-based milk and honey.

That being said, it’s important to note that the body does not easily absorb curcumin, so it’s often recommended to take it with black pepper, as the piperine in it has been shown to boost its absorption.

2. Dark Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are an excellent addition to any diet, especially for individuals who have rheumatoid arthritis. 

One of the key components of dark leafy greens is their high content of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, calcium, and magnesium. 

Vitamin K is particularly beneficial for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, as it has been shown to reduce inflammation and promote bone health. 

Leafy vegetables: chard, bok choi, spring onion and parsley with knife on wooden cutting board.

Dark leafy greens are also packed with antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin C. 

These antioxidants help protect the body from harmful free radicals contributing to inflammation and joint damage. 

There are numerous ways to incorporate dark leafy greens into your meals. You can add them to salads, stir-fries, smoothies, or even steam them as a side dish. 

The key is to consume them regularly to reap their benefits. Aim for at least two servings of dark leafy greens daily to maximize their anti-inflammatory properties.

Additionally, ginger supplements are available for those who prefer a more concentrated form or have difficulty consuming fresh ginger.

3. Garlic

Like ginger, garlic contains several compounds with potent anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Allicin and diallyl disulfide are two key sulfur compounds found in garlic that have been shown to inhibit inflammatory enzymes responsible for joint damage in RA patients.

garlic bulb and cloves on a wooden surface

Garlic is also rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids and organosulfur compounds, which neutralize harmful free radicals that contribute to tissue damage and joint inflammation.

Moreover, it has analgesic properties and may provide relief from the pain experienced by rheumatoid arthritis patients.

 Consuming or topically applying garlic-based preparations may help alleviate discomfort by reducing pain perception through various mechanisms.

Additionally, garlic has long been recognized for its ability to promote cardiovascular health by improving blood flow and reducing cholesterol levels. This enhanced circulation also benefits those with rheumatoid arthritis by facilitating nutrient delivery to affected joints while efficiently removing waste products.

4. Ginger

Ginger contains potent compounds called gingerols and shogaols that exhibit remarkable anti-inflammatory effects.

These compounds have shown the potential to reduce inflammatory markers associated with rheumatoid arthritis, thereby relieving joint pain and swelling.

Fresh sliced and whole ginger root and ground ginger on white wooden background; top view

In one randomized controlled trial, patients with active rheumatoid arthritis were divided into two groups. One group was put on 1.5 grams of ginger daily, while the second group was given a placebo. Blood samples were then taken at the beginning and the end of the study.

Results showed that ginger powder supplementation had a significant decline in various inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP).

By fighting inflammation, ginger can help alleviate the pain often experienced with rheumatoid arthritis. Consuming ginger or applying ginger oil topically on affected joints may help alleviate discomfort and improve overall mobility.

Additionally, studies suggest that regular consumption of ginger may contribute to improved joint function by reducing stiffness and increasing flexibility in people with rheumatoid arthritis. 

Incorporating fresh or dried ginger into your meals or trying out ginger supplements could potentially enhance your range of motion.

Finally, ginger is rich in antioxidants that combat free radicals known to exacerbate inflammation in the body, which plays a significant role in rheumatoid arthritis progression. 

By neutralizing these harmful molecules, antioxidants found in ginger promote cellular health while potentially slowing down the deterioration of joint tissues.

In terms of use, ginger is a versatile ingredient that can be easily incorporated into your daily diet. 

It can be added to various dishes, such as soups, stir-fries, smoothies, or brewed ginger tea. 

5. Berries

Berries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can help reduce inflammation. 

The high levels of vitamin C in berries have been linked to reducing the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, while the antioxidants in them have been shown to reduce inflammation in the joints.

Some of the best berries to include in your diet are blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. 

Fruits and berries summer background.

Blueberries are particularly high in antioxidants, including anthocyanins, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. 

Raspberries are also rich in antioxidants and have been linked to reducing inflammation.

In addition to being anti-inflammatory, berries are also low in calories and high in fiber, making them an excellent addition to any healthy diet. 

Try adding berries to your breakfast smoothie or topping your oatmeal with fresh berries for a delicious and nutritious start to your day. 

You can also enjoy berries as a healthy snack or add them to salads for a burst of flavor and nutrients. `  

6. Olive Oil

Olive oil is rich in healthy fats and contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. 

For instance, it’s a good source of monounsaturated fats that can help reduce inflammation and ease joint pain and stiffness. 

jar of olive oil with olives scattered around

One study even found that topical application of extra virgin olive oil could control inflammatory joint pains in patients with RA.

Additionally, olive oil is an excellent source of vitamin E, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. 

Use olive oil in place of other oils in cooking or use it as a salad dressing for a delicious and healthy way to manage your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

You can also apply it directly to painful joints to help relieve the symptoms.

Now that we have talked about some of the best foods for rheumatoid arthritis, let’s look at lifestyle changes for managing rheumatoid arthritis. 

Other Lifestyle Changes for Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis

In addition to consuming foods that can ease your symptoms, here are additional tips to help you manage rheumatoid arthritis effectively.

1. Regular Exercise

Engaging in low-impact exercises like swimming, cycling, or walking can help maintain joint flexibility and strengthen muscles surrounding affected joints.

Consult with a physical therapist or an exercise specialist who can design a customized program that suits your abilities and limitations.

2. Stress Reduction Techniques

Stress has been shown to contribute to increased inflammation levels in the body.

Explore various stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or journaling to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.

3. Adequate Rest

Fatigue is common among individuals with RA due to disrupted sleep patterns caused by pain or discomfort during the night. 

Prioritize quality sleep by establishing a consistent bedtime routine and creating an environment conducive to restful sleep – comfortable bedding, darkness or dim lighting conditions.

4. Assistive Devices

Using assistive devices like jar openers or reach grabbers helps minimize unnecessary strain on joints while performing everyday activities like opening jars or reaching objects placed on higher shelves.

5. Heat/Cold Therapy

Applying heat packs or warm showers can help alleviate joint stiffness and ease pain. 

On the other hand, cold packs or ice wrapped in a towel can reduce inflammation and numb painful areas.

6. Modify Workspaces        

If your job involves prolonged sitting or repetitive motions, consider making ergonomic adjustments to your workspace. 

Use supportive chairs, wrist rests, footrests, and position computer screens at eye level to minimize joint strain.

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Final Thoughts

So, what are the best foods for rheumatoid arthritis? While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, evidence suggests that incorporating anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds can help reduce inflammation and provide necessary nutrients for joint health.

Additionally, avoiding processed foods high in saturated fats and sugar may further contribute to symptom management.

It is also essential to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before making significant dietary changes, as they can provide personalized recommendations based on individual needs.

Ultimately, by adopting a balanced diet rich in nutrients and low in inflammatory triggers, individuals with rheumatoid arthritis can optimize their health and potentially enhance their quality of life.

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