Nutritional Recommendations for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Research do not have conclusive evidence to show that particular foods make rheumatoid arthritis symptoms worsen or decrease. Until there are data that supports the benefits of dietary manipulation in rheumatoid arthritis, patients with the condition are encouraged to follow a healthy, balanced diet that promotes a healthy weight. Good nutrition can influence the way a patient feels, how well they respond to treatments, and how they handle the effects of inflammation.
Rheumatoid arthritis is among the chronic diseases that seems more responsive to dietary changes. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis should eat well-balanced, healthy diet that include food groups and nutrients that play a role in tissue resistance and repair. This includes proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
In chronic inflammation like rheumatoid arthritis, the production of certain substances in the body increases resting metabolic rate and protein breakdown. This leaves the patient with the challenge of increasing both calorie and protein intake in order to meet the nutritional requirements of the increased metabolic rate. For this reason, people with rheumatoid arthritis are encouraged to eat more protein than those individuals who do not have the disease. Protein on the anti-inflammatory diet should come from plant based sources as much as possible, with the exception of fish and reduced fat dairy. Whey protein supplements are also a good choice. Good sources of protein include:
People with rheumatoid arthritis may be at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Among the common deficiencies in patients with RA, are folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin B6.
Folic acid is also known as vitamin B9 or folacin. This vitamin plays a significant role in maintaining body function. It is needed for the production and maintenance of new cells. Folate deficiency may lead to anemia and this further leads to fatigue and weakness. Food sources of folic acid include:
- green leafy vegetables
- dried beans
- enriched breads and cereals
- grain products
Aside from food sources, folic acid is also available as a dietary supplement. folic acid from the foods you eat, you can also take it as a dietary supplement.
Read more on Folic Acid
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a water soluble vitamin. The body needs this vitamin for growth and tissue repair. It helps in the formation of collagen, a protein used to make skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C promotes wound healing, as well as repair and maintenance of cartilage, bones and teeth. The body does not have the ability to manufacture Vitamin C. For this reason, it is important to include vitamin C-containing foods in the diet.
Research shows that people who ate the least amount of fruits and vegetables were twice as likely to develop inflammation in the joints compared with those who ate the most. According to the investigators of this study, this may be attributed to the antioxidant properties of vitamin C. Below are some of the food items that are rich in Vitamin C:
- red sweet pepper
- kiwi fruit
- grapefruit juice
- brussel sprouts
Vitamin D is a compound that acts like a hormone in the body. It is needed in the metabolism of calcium which is crucial for maintaining healthy bones and preventing problems such as osteoporosis. Vitamin D also appears to be an important regulator of immune function. Epidemiologic studies show that patients with rheumatoid arthritis had low serum levels of Vitamin D and its metabolites. Another study that suggests the potential benefits of Vitamin D is published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. This research shows that women who got less than 200 international units (IU) of vitamin D in their daily diets were 33% more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than women who got more.
Most people meet their vitamin D needs through sun exposure. Vitamin D is can also found in the following food items:
- fatty fish such as herring, kipper, mackerel, tuna, salmon
- fish roe
- egg yolk
- Vitamin D fortified foods such as cereals, breads, margarine, fruit and chocolate beverages
- fish liver oil
Read more on Vitamin D
Vitamin B6s a water-soluble vitamin that has three related chemicals, namely: pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine. Vitamin B6 carries out a wide variety of functions in the body. It is a component of enzymes that help in protein and fat metabolism. Vitamin B6 is essential for normal brain development and function. It also helps the immune system to work efficiently.
Low levels of vitamin B6 have been linked to rheumatoid arthritis. Based on some studies, people with rheumatoid arthritis may need more vitamin B6 than those who do not have the disease because chronic inflammation may lower B6 levels. Vitamin B6 is found in various food items including:
- beef liver
- brown rice
- wheat germ
Omega 3 fatty acids
Foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids may benefit patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Research show that these essential fatty acids help in regulating both acute and chronic inflammation. Some small studies have found that fish oil --one of the food sources of Omega 3-- helps reduce symptoms of RA, including joint pain and morning stiffness. One study suggests that people with rheumatoid arthritis who take fish oil may be able to lower their dose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Although fish oil can relieve some symptoms, it does not appear to slow the progression of RA. Below are some of the foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids:
- cold water fishes such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and herring
- Fish oil
- Soybeans and soybean oil
- Walnuts and walnut oil
- Fresh avocado and avocado oil
Foods & nutrition encyclopedia, Volume 1 by Audrey H. Ensminger
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