Rheumatoid arthritis diet – is it a fact or a myth? Is there a valid reason for patients who are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis to follow a specific diet or consume certain foods to treat the medical condition?
There are claims from various sectors about certain diet and specific food items that can alleviate the pain, fatigue and stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The truth is that there is no special diet that can cure this disease but symptomatic relief can be achieved in some individuals.
Importance of Diet in Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
Eating certain foods and excluding certain foods in our diet can significantly help those who have rheumatoid arthritis relieve the inflammation, pain and stiffness that is triggered by the condition. However, the Arthritis Foundation has come up with their official statement that there is no specific diet for rheumatoid arthritis, and no one can ever make reference or attribution to one as being an “arthritis diet.”
However, if you are able to identify or find certain foods that aggravate the symptoms of RA or certain foods that help you mitigate the symptoms of the disease, then it makes sense for you to make the necessary adjustments in your diet.
A recent study has shown that 30 to 40 percent of men and women who are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis can benefit from the exclusion of certain foods that are suspected of aggravating the medical condition. Such elimination diet will help you get rid of the “trigger” food items.
Some Fats and the Aggravation of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Can some fats trigger or cause inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis? The answer is yes. The consumption of food items that are high in saturated fats can trigger inflammation. Examples of foods that are high in saturated fats include cream, butter, steak and bacon. These foods contain prostaglandins, which are chemicals that can trigger swelling, pain, inflammation and even severe damage to the joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
Additionally, there are a good number of researches that confirm the presence of high levels of arachidonic acid in meat. Arachidonic acid is a type of fatty acid which is converted into inflammation-triggering prostaglandins. There are various studies which show that a vegetarian diet can significantly mitigate the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, although there are also several cases where such special diet did not provide any beneficial effects to patients who are suffering from this chronic disease.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Omega-6 fatty acids are present in vegetable oils that are high linoleic acid. This type of vegetable oils includes soybean oil, corn oil, wheat germ oil, sesame oil and sunflower oil.
Diets that are excessively high in Omega-6 fatty acids increase the risk of an individual of having cardiovascular diseases and cancer. It can also trigger inflammation and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. On the other hand, the reduction of Omega-6 fatty acids in the diet and increase in the consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids can bring relief and alleviate the swelling, pain and stiffness of the joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Several studies have shown that the reduction in the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids can significantly suppress the inflammation and lower the risk of getting the disease.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are indications that Omega-3 fatty acids have sufficient anti-inflammatory effect on the body. This polyunsaturated fat is present in nuts, cold-water fish and other foods. The marine variant of the fatty acid contains DHA and EPA, which are essential substances known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies have established the significant anti-inflammatory characteristic of Omega-3 fatty acid, suggesting positive effects when used by those who are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
Studies on the marine variant of Omega-3 fatty acids involving human subjects have yielded consistent results confirming the direct relationship between the diminished levels of C-reactive proteins and the increased levels of DHA consumption, and this simply suggests reduced inflammation.
Ideal Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis
The most popular sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are the cold-water fish like trout, tuna and salmon. There are also certain types of plants which are also good sources of these polyunsaturated fats and these include canola oil, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, soybean products, tofu and walnuts.
In a report that was released by the American College of Rheumatology, it was established that there is a significant effect of marine Omega-3 fatty acid in reducing the tenderness and pain in the joints affected by RA. The positive effects may not be immediately apparent and it may even take several months before one can observe significant improvement in the condition of arthritic patients.
Role of Mediterranean-Type Diet in Controlling RA
There are several studies that strongly suggest the beneficial effects of a Mediterranean-type diet in mitigating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. These diets are typically high in Vitamin C and are laden with fresh vegetables and proteins. In fact, such claims are bolstered by the general observation of low incidence of RA in some countries in the Mediterranean including Italy and Greece.
Grain, legumes, fruits and vegetables are known to have higher levels of phytonutrients. These are the essential components of our diet that possess disease-fighting properties and antioxidants like Vitamins C and E, carotenoids and selenium. A plant-based diet is also laden with bioflavonoids. These are compounds present in plants which are known for their superior anti-viral, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties.
Can Diet work as a Cure?
While there are numerous incontrovertible evidences that establish the beneficial effects of certain foods and diets in preventing and mitigating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, health experts are stressing that such foods and diets should not be treated as a “cure” or even as a primary treatment mode for rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis diets should only serve to complement the appropriate treatment for the disease. Among the primary treatment modes for this chronic condition are the natural arthritis medications that provide instant relief and are side effect free.