Can diet or food choices affect rheumatoid arthritis?

The cause and cure of rheumatoid arthritis are still unknown. However, there is believed to be some benefit in eating a diet high in plant and fish oils. And avoiding red meat may help reduce inflammation. Infrequently, persons afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis will report that eating a specific food has aggravated their symptoms. In such cases, doctors recommend the elimination of the offending food from the diet.

John La Puma
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
Our ChefMD team researched this (and 39 other conditions) for the Big Book of Culinary Medicine ( Extra virgin olive oil, cold water marine fish and vitamin D containing foods and supplements appear to be of value in many cases.

Rheumatoid arthritis appears to be one of the conditions most amenable to dietary change, with several anti-inflammatory diets being successful: a vegan diet, a vegetarian diet and a Cretan diet. 

These diets can sometimes be difficult to follow, yet adherence to them appears to improve pain especially: see, for example,
Lona Sandon
Nutrition & Dietetics

What you choose to eat can help you live better with RA.  As a registered dietitian/nutritionist who has lived with RA for nearly 20 years and dug through the research literature, I recommend a mostly plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats found in foods such as salmon, tuna, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

RA doesn't just affect your joints.  RA can lead to loss of lean muscle tissue and loss of bone.  Choosing a diet with enough lean protein and essenital nutrients for bone health (calcium, vitmins D & K2, magnesium) is essential for living well with RA. Aim to get your nutrition from mostly whole foods.  When it comes to bone health, you may need a supplement to help prevent bone loss long-term.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.