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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.
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The Mediterranean Diet

One diet that is showing some promise for people with RA is also one of the tastiest. The Mediterranean diet is loaded with fruits and vegetables and includes healthy non-saturated fats (like olive oil and canola oil), nuts, whole grains, herbs and spices (instead of salt and butter), and heart-healthy fish (instead of red meat).

Eating fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna may double your benefit. They help protect against heart disease, which is a risk when you have RA. And the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, in addition to being heart healthy, also may help fight inflammation. If that isn't enough, the Mediterranean diet can also help you maintain a proper weight, which takes pressure off your joints.

"The best data we have is that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants is good for RA," says Nathan Wei, MD, clinical director of the Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center of Maryland. "The Mediterranean diet is high in both, and it's also good for people who want to be careful about weight gain. Of course, it's also important to couple the diet with exercise."

Supplements and RA

Herbal remedies and dietary supplements are often touted to relieve RA pain. And some may indeed help. But keep in mind that no herb or supplements can "cure" RA, and there's no evidence that they can actually stop the disease from progressing, as certain prescription medications (called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or DMARDs) can.

Supplements are not regulated the way drugs are by the FDA, so it's hard to know exactly what's in them. And they can interact with prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Always talk to your doctor about what supplements may be helpful -- or harmful -- for you.

Here are some that may help:

Fish oil. Scientific studies of fish oil or other omega-3 fatty acid supplements show promise in treating RA symptoms such as painful joints and morning stiffness, according to the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).  People with RA who take fish oil may sometimes be able to cut back on some of the other medications, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Fish oil may also help lower your risk of heart disease. Keep in mind that fish oil can cause stomach upset and some types of fish oils increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you also take blood-thinning medication.

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