No matter your age, eating healthily is an important part of maintaining overall wellness. This is especially true for anyone living with one of the 117 forms of arthritis and related rheumatic disease. Of course, regular doctor visits, taking your medications and supplements as prescribed, proper rest, and an adequate amount of physical activity are all crucial pieces of the RA puzzle. However, another large part of maintaining better health with arthritis is eating well.
So, what SHOULD you eat if you have RA or a similar condition?
Ginger and turmeric are both recommended for rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of arthritis, too. They both contain anti-inflammatory properties, and an added bonus to ginger is that it can soothe nausea that is sometimes associated with certain medications. Garlic is also recommended for antibiotic and anti-inflammatory traits.
Something’s fishy….and if you have arthritis, it should be your diet! People who have arthritis or who are trying to prevent it should eat approximately three 6-ounce servings of cold-water fish per week. Try salmon, halibut, trout, white tuna or mackeral. Each packs more than 1,000 mg of fish oil (which you can also take as a supplement if your doctor recommends it.) One recent U.K. study showed that regular consumption of this amount of fish oil appears to halt cartilage-eating enzymes in 86% of people who are facing joint-replacement surgery. “Fish oil slows down cartilage degeneration and reduces factors that cause inflammation,” says lead researcher Bruce Caterson, Ph.D.
A new article in Arthritis Today Magazine points out that Rheumatoid Arthritis and Food Allergies may be linked, after all. A study found that there was a link between certain antibodies that were formed against particular foods (milk and egg products, certain meats) and the antibodies present when someone has rheumatoid arthritis. If your RA (or other condition) noticeably flares when eating certain foods, try first eliminating those specifics from your diet. If you are able to, and your doctor allows it, you could try the “Stone Age Diet” to try and manage your RA. This is comprised of ONLY fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish for one month. (Some people choose to eliminate meat altogether and go the pescetarian route – fruit, veggies, and seafood only.)
According to Dr. Brostoff who ran this study, he says that, “studies have shown that if a person is food-sensitive, this type of diet can help reduce morning stiffness and pain, improve range of motion and lower inflammatory mediators in the blood.” In his experiment, they found that more than one-third of people with RA felt better and had less morning stiffness on this “Stone Age” diet. He claims: “We had one or two patients who, after one or two months, were so much better they could go walking and do all the things they could do before,” he says.
Many have suggested fruits rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties such as cherries and blueberries. Often, people with inflammatory conditions are warned to stay away from “nightshade” or “solanum” foods like potatoes, capsicums, eggplant, and tomatoes. Starchy foods or foods high levels of saturated fat are discouraged. Some folks with RA go “gluten-free,” but one study showed that the gluten-free diet is not all that healthy for people to do by choice. It is a diet that can rob you of many nutrients and so one should only attempt this diet if a doctor recommends it, and, of course, if they have celiac disease or gluten intolerance in addition to their arthritis.
Parsley, spinach, alfalfa, and the herb ‘devil’s claw’ have shown to be a ‘prescription for wellness’ when it comes to dealing with rheumatoid arthritis. Reducing salt intake could also help with symptoms. Food won’t cure you of your RA but it can certainly help with the symptoms, and it can also help prevent the onset of another type of arthritis, OA or osteoarthritis.
Be careful, though. Not all types of arthritis are the same. If someone has gout, “healthy” foods that are high in purine could be a big “no-no,” as are foods high in uric acid. In fact, someone with gout likely wouldn’t do well on the “Stone Age” diet, for a 2004 study conducted by Dr. Hyon Choi showed that men eating the highest amounts of meat and fish actually had the highest incidence of gout. Those with gout should avoid alcohol. Other foods that should probably be avoided due to high purine content are yeasts, smelt, sardines, herring, mussels, sweetbread, anchovies, veal, mutton, bacon, liver, turkey, salmon, trout, and scallops – some of which are actually “good” for RA and OA.
Also remember if you have fibromyalgia that bananas are good for the muscles that may be tender, and if you have osteoporosis, you want to build up your bone health with calcium and vitamin D! Vitamin D can be found in foods OR just by getting extra sunshine each day!
An important thing to remember in all of this is that every person’s body is different, and so is every individual’s personal situation, as well as food allergies and intolerances, so be sure to talk to your doctor about what the healthiest diet will be for YOU!
Try to make healthy food choices that are low in fat, remembering that for any of these conditions, weight gain can exacerbate the affected areas of the body and make symptoms worse.
If you have questions about your diet, it would be best to ask your rheumatologist to refer you to a nutritionist or dietitian. You can also contact the Arthritis Foundation for more information!
Text the word MOVE to 50555 to give $5 to the Arthritis Foundation!
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Good introduction to the subject. It should be noted that no food contains meaningful qualities of vitamin D (even if you’re into eating piles of wild mushrooms every day), and everyone needs supplements in the winter. Many people need them around the year! Better get tested, absorption varies widely depending on the individual. I got very good blood levels with 125 mcg/5,000 IU a day, but a friend taking the very same product was still deficient after several months!
P.S. Dairy is a common migraine trigger. Could be immunogenic or because it upsets Mg/Ca balance. Elimination helped tremendously for me. Of course, it’s questionable whether anyone should eat dairy, it’s essentially junk food.
Very good article Ashley. I never associated gout with being a form of arthritis until I got it. I’m very fit and eat healthy, so what was I doing with “gout”? I found out that meat, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, beans and oatmeal are also high purine foods. One week I consumed large amounts of all of these along with some red wine and my body became wracked with pain. My feet hurt so bad which really isn’t good because I teach dance! I eliminated all high purine foods, ate a lot of cherries and drank even more water than I usually do and things went back to normal. Just to make sure I had gout, I ate those “bad” things again and was really sorry that I did! I appreciate all the research that you do…it’s very helpful. Thank you!
I have Osteoporosis and was advised to NOT eat white potatoes is