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RA and Your Diet

How to eat to curb joint inflammation, increase bone and heart health, and feel better all over.

Do Some Foods Cause Joint Inflammation? continued...

"Some patients say that certain types of food seem to make their RA worse," says Tracey Robinson, MD, a rheumatologist in Redwood City, Calif., and clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. "It may be highly processed foods with a lot of chemicals, foods that are very fatty, red meat, or milk products. It tends to be very individual."

Although no diet can cure RA, research has shown some evidence of a link between certain foods and inflammation. For example, eating a lot of saturated fats (such as bacon, steak, and butter) can increase the chemicals in the body that are responsible for inflammation, pain, and swelling in the joints. Even so, many people with RA don't have any food problems.

Even McNeil and Lubbers say that they aren't sure if their "trigger" foods are really guilty of causing inflammation or whether it just seems that way.

"It's difficult to draw a conclusion about virtually anything that you do because the disease waxes and wanes so much," says McNeil.

Getting Rid of Problem Foods

If you think certain foods are making your RA worse, try eliminating them from your diet. The only real way to tell if the foods are at fault is to add them back in, slowly and one at a time, to see if your RA flares when you start eating a particular food again. For example, McNeil says she found that she feels better when she doesn't eat commercially produced red meat.

Eliminating foods from your diet is generally safe as long as you don't cut out whole food groups, say medical experts. But it can be hard to stick with an elimination diet. If you want to try it, your doctor or a registered dietitian can help you.

Robinson says she doesn't give blanket diet recommendations to her patients with RA. "But if a person finds that eliminating certain foods seems helpful, I encourage them to try it as long as they still maintain good nutrition, calcium intake, and vitamins," she says.

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