What would a diet for RA look like?
Is there a diet healthy for Rheumatoid Arthritis? Diet seems to be one way we can impact our health for the good. If you read the last blog post with the crazy medicine cabinet, you know that there is not a Rheumatoid Arthritis diet cure. However, we examined three key questions about a diet for RA. We’re looking for things we can eat which can make our symptoms better or improve our long-term health. You’ll want to read that post too if you missed it.
So what kinds of things should an RA diet include or exclude? How can you know what foods or supplements help you? What kind of special diet needs do you have because of RA?
Ten RA diet tips
- You could ask your primary care doctor to include lab tests which check for any deficiencies. These can be caused by either Rheumatoid Arthritis or by RA medicines. Ask him to go over the results with you. Get yourself a copy of your lab results and look up anything that is flagged. Ask for recommendations for changes or supplements you should add to your diet. Some supplements can be prescribed which means they will be a more reliable dose than over the counter. Things which showed up for me include iron and B-12.
- Whether or not you are at a healthy weight now, determine to eat as healthy as possible as a priority which may eventually lead to a healthier weight for you.
- If you are suspicious that any specific foods are either helping or hurting your Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms, keep a food diary and show it to your rheumatologist. If a certain food is a definite problem, consider seeing an allergist or immunologist for evaluation.
- Add antioxidant-rich foods to combat inflammation or free radicals, thought to be a worse problem for those living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. There are hundreds of these foods. Check out the lists in RA Kitchen here. Or look for lists online like this one on About.com or this one at Cleveland Clinic and foods that are brightly colored. Some top antioxidant foods are berries, broccoli, red grapes, garlic, teas, beans, carrots, whole grains, or even popcorn.
- There are actually many different antioxidants. One called quercetin is thought hinder tumor necrosis factor (TNF); that is what Humira does. Some of the best foods for quercetin are onions, kale, leeks, cherry tomatoes, cocoa powder, apricots broccoli, berries, and apples with skin.
- Pay careful attention to types of fats. Choose as many healthy fats as possible, especially foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids. Some rich sources are flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, cloves, cold water fish like salmon, and sardines. Here is a list on Nutrition Data which gives amounts of Omega-3 in dozens of foods. Both flaxseed oil and fish oil are available in capsule form. An MSNBC nutritionist is a real fan: “Omega-3s actually work to decrease inflammation by suppressing the production of cytokines and enzymes that erode cartilage. More than a dozen studies have demonstrated that omega-3 fish oils can reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.” Omega-3 also promotes heart health and fights the effects of Sjogren’s syndrome.
- I read that one should not take more than 1000 mg. per day of fish oil without asking your doctor about drug interactions. A potent supplement should be considered a medicine as well as a food. The body does not distinguish between pharmaceuticals and natural remedies. Fish oil has caused blood thinning like NSAIDs do.
- Add more beta-carotene to your diet. One study showed that RA’ers have 29% lower beta-carotene than the general population. Their conclusion: “These findings support those of a previous study that low antioxidant status is a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis.” I don’t believe that this means deficiency, if it exists, is due to our diet. It is possible that beta-carotene becomes deficient as the body tries to fight the effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Many people with dietary deficiencies do not get RA. Two foods rich in both beta cryptoxanthin & beta carotene are pumpkin and apricots. Others include greens, carrots, beets, parsley, paprika, and sweet potato.
- Fight back against osteoporosis with calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium.
- Consider adding ingredients to your diet which are reputed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Although some of them may be unproven, they are harmless in moderate amounts. They don’t replace treatments that fight the disease, but I think of them as natural Advil if they give me any benefit. Some popular ones to include in the Rheumatoid Arthritis diet include, garlic, turmeric, ginger, dark chocolate, and various teas. Here’s one good list of anti-inflammatory foods.
This list is full of links to more lists that will keep us busy trying to eat healthy this year. I am collecting recipes and tips which incorporate these foods and others on the RA Kitchen pages. What about you? What are your favorite tricks for a healthy Rheumatoid Arthritis diet?
- 3 Key Questions About a Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet
- Rheumatoid Arthritis and the Kitchen, Part 2
- Ultrasound for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Part 1
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment: Are Natural Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis Better?