Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease in which the lining of the joints becomes inflamed to such an extent that pain and inability to function are the result. Because the cells of the immune system play an important role in this chronic inflammatory process, Rheumatoid Arthritis is typically classified as an autoimmune disease.
The disease begins in cycles as symptoms first come and go, but eventually they become constant. Over time, the joints may become deformed and unable to move. In addition to causing a great deal of pain, Rheumatoid Arthritis also causes significant disability and interferes with normal living.
The good news is that dietary changes can help reduce the pain and may prevent much of the disability associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Some of your favorite foods, like steak and cookies may be Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) flare-ups. These sometimes debilitating aches and pains can be a reaction from the foods you are consuming. Though ever individual reacts to foods differently, and may be at a different stage of Rheumatoid Arthritis, there are general rules to follow as far as preventing flare-ups and food. Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, high-fiber grains and healthy fats, for example, are an across-the-board healthy suggestion for all people suffering from RA and can help reduce RA aches – in a matter of days! The key is to follow an anti-inflammatory diet (listed below), which helps most people avoid RA flares.
These animal products contain harmful saturated fat, and are extremely acidic to the body, which both increases inflammation in the body. After a single meal high in saturated fat, blood cells produce more inflammatory signals for several hours. For RA sufferers, that means joint and muscle pain, heartburn, fatigue and even acne.
Eat this instead: Love omelets? Whip one up with egg whites (the saturated fat is in the yolk).
Switch to skim milk. If you are not willing to give up meat completely, choose leaner cuts like flank, wild buffalo, and chicken breasts. For other sources of protein you, eat wild salmon or mackerel, which are rich in healthful omega-3 fatty acids.
These snacks and spreads contain trans-fatty acids (TFAs), oils that are chemically processed to make them more solid and stable. According to a 2004 Harvard Medical School study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a diet high in TFAs increases C-reactive protein, a marker doctors use to indicate the amount of inflammation in the blood. The study shows that TFA-rich foods have a profound effect on inflammatory markers, making them twice as dangerous as saturated fats. The body requires a lot more energy to break down trans-fats, which also creates inflammation. Be aware of TFAs in processed foods by reading the nutrition label.
Note* Even if a label proclaims zero trans-fats, it’s not necessarily free of them. Federal regulations allow products containing up to half a gram of trans-fat per serving to be labeled as “trans-fat free.” This means consumers can easily exceed the maximum daily recommended amount of trans-fats (1.11 grams) with just three pieces of toast spread with “trans-fat-free” margarine. Stay away from products that include partially hydrogenated oils on the ingredient list (a code for trans-fat content).
Eat this instead: Nuts and seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, a healthier fat that reduces levels of C-reactive protein, according to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Replace margarine with trans-fat-free spreads, such as Smart Balance Omega-3 Buttery Spread, which contains omega-3-rich flax-seed and fish oil.
These comfort foods rank high on the Glycemic Index (GI). They quickly break down into sugar, making insulin levels rise, which can cause inflammation. In fact, according to a 2008 Netherlands study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, each 10-point increase in a diet’s glycemic status is associated with a 29% rise in C-reactive protein. Eating something sugary with some protein will slow its breakdown into glucose (if you cannot resist the urge for a treat).
Eat this instead: By replacing white bread, potatoes and rice with moderate servings of whole-grain bread, sweet potatoes and brown rice, you’re eating on the lower end of the GI index. Plus, you’re adding more fiber to your diet, which fights inflammation, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Some foods trigger food-intolerance reactions, such as bloating, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and headaches. If you have food sensitivities, your immune system creates antibodies every time you eat them, causing an inflammation cycle. To prevent this, eliminate foods that disturb your gastrointestinal tract.
Eat this instead: Because intolerance differs by person, find out your food allergies first, and then pick healthier substitutes.
-Cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel and halibut for their beneficial omega 3 fatty acids.
-Shrimp, sunflower seeds, eggs and (provided no dairy allergy is present) vitamin-D fortified milk products for their vitamin D.
-Organically grown fruits and vegetables
-Extra virgin olive oil
-Dairy, if allergies are suspected or confirmed
-Wheat, if allergies are suspected or confirmed
-Meat, particularly high-fat cuts
-Saturated fats, including trans-fats and partially hydrogenated oils
Sources: WebMD.com, mayoclinic.com, arthritis.org, medicinenet.com