Rheumatoid Arthritis - Diet

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Rheumatoid arthritis diet, exercise, home remedies, and alternative medicine

Foods to avoid with RA

There is no special RA diet or diet "cure" for rheumatoid arthritis. One hundred years ago, it was touted that "night-shade" foods, such as tomatoes, would aggravate rheumatoid arthritis. This is no longer accepted as true. There are no specific foods or food groups that should be universally avoided by individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.

There is no evidence that gluten bothers rheumatoid arthritis. Nevertheless, for those who are definitely sensitive to gluten (wheat, barley, and rye), the gluten-free diet can prevent poor intestinal absorption of important nutrients because the small intestines can become inflamed in these individuals. Bowel inflammation can be detrimental for those also affected by rheumatoid arthritis if they become deficient in nutrients, such as vitamin D and folate.

Foods that fight RA inflammation

Nevertheless, there are some home remedies that may be helpful, although these are not considered as potent or effective as disease-modifying drugs. Fish oils, such as in salmon, and omega-3 fatty acids supplements have been shown to be beneficial in some short-term studies in rheumatoid arthritis. This suggests that there may be benefits by adding more fish to the diet, such as in the popular Mediterranean diet. The anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin in dietary turmeric, an ingredient in curry, may be beneficial in reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Supplements for RA

Supplements such as calcium and vitamin D are used to prevent osteoporosis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Folic acid is used as a supplement to prevent side effects of methotrexate treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Alcohol is minimized or avoided in rheumatoid arthritis patients taking methotrexate.

The benefits of cartilage preparations such as glucosamine and chondroitin for rheumatoid arthritis remain unproven. Symptomatic pain relief can often be achieved with oral acetaminophen (Tylenol) or over-the-counter topical preparations, which are rubbed into the skin. Antibiotics, in particular the tetracycline drug minocycline (Minocin), have been tried for rheumatoid arthritis recently in clinical trials. Early results have demonstrated mild to moderate improvement in the symptoms of arthritis. Minocycline has been shown to impede important mediator enzymes of tissue destruction, called metalloproteinases, in the laboratory as well as in humans.

Exercises and home remedies for RA

Because impact loading the joints can aggravate inflamed, active rheumatoid arthritis and also be difficult when joints have been injured in the past by the disease, it is important to customize activities and exercise programs according to each individual's capacity. Physical therapists can be helpful. Movement exercises that are less traumatic for the joints, including yoga and tai chi, can be beneficial in maintaining flexibility and strength as well as lead to an improved general sense of well-being.

Proper regular exercise is important in maintaining joint mobility and in strengthening the muscles around the joints. Swimming is particularly helpful because it allows exercise with minimal stress on the joints. Physical and occupational therapists are trained to provide specific exercise instructions and can offer splinting supports. For example, wrist and finger splints can be helpful in reducing inflammation and maintaining joint alignment. Devices such as canes, toilet seat raisers, and jar grippers can assist in the activities of daily living. Heat and cold applications are modalities that can ease symptoms before and after exercise.

Return to Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Jcubed, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: September 10

I have found that salt really brings me down. I am trying to eliminate foods with added salt.

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Comment from: sunshine, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: January 04

I have had rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for 5 years. Wild sockeye salmon gives me great relief as well as curcumin [turmeric]. I am on a gluten-free, dairy-free diet and I avoid night shade vegetables as well as meat and coffee. I have found that keeping my body alkaline is very helpful. I drink water with lemon. I also avoid corn. This diet keeps the symptoms under control.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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