What you put on your plate may help you manage your RA symptoms. Although no diet is a disease cure, some foods do help lower inflammation throughout your body.
Which diet is best for you? You might want to start with one of the world’s oldest ways of eating, which has stood the test of time.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is as healthy as it gets. It’s loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, beans, and fish.
These foods have natural chemicals that keep inflammation in check. Veggies, beans, and whole grains are high in fiber. Fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, or healthy fats. Fatty fish, like salmon, herring, sardines, and anchovies, have the most.
This diet also relies on olive oil, another healthy fat, to take the place of full-fat dairy products like butter. That’s good for people with RA, because olive oil can also lower levels of the chemicals that cause inflammation. The fruits and vegetables in the diet are full of antioxidants that also help curb inflammation. Deep or bright colors usually mean that produce has higher antioxidant levels -- think blueberries, blackberries, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, oranges, broccoli, and melons.
In one study, women who ate this way for 6 months found they had less joint pain and morning stiffness, and better overall health, than those who didn’t.
To change things up, add some turmeric or ginger. These spices aren’t part of the Mediterranean diet, but they naturally lower inflammation. If you take blood thinners, check with your doctor first, since turmeric can prevent blood from clotting.
And although red wine is a Mediterranean classic, check with your doctor to see if it’s OK for you to drink. If you take methotrexate, you should avoid alcohol, because of the chance of liver damage.
Should You Go Gluten-Free?
If you decide to give up gluten, RA shouldn’t be the reason. There’s no evidence that avoiding gluten will improve RA or its symptoms.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, as well as many packaged and restaurant foods. If you have celiac disease and eat gluten, your small intestine gets inflamed, so you can’t absorb some nutrients. RA is separate from that, and it has different causes.
If you want to ditch gluten, talk to your doctor or a dietitian for tips so you get all the nutrients you need.