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Can Your Diet Help Relieve Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you’re always on the lookout for ways to manage your symptoms. While there’s no diet proven to ease the pain, stiffness, and fatigue that go with the disease, some foods can help lower inflammation. And because these foods are good for you, they may help you feel better overall.

Does the Mediterranean Diet Help?

The traditional Mediterranean diet is loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, beans, and fish. A study that followed women who ate this way for 6 months found they had less joint pain and morning stiffness and better overall health than a group who didn’t.

Why? These foods have compounds that keep inflammation in check. Veggies, beans, and whole grains are high in fiber. Fish has omega-3 fatty acids -- salmon, herring, sardines, and anchovies have the most. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week.

The diet also relies on olive oil, a healthy fat, to take the place of whole dairy products like butter. That’s good for people with RA, because olive oil can also lower amounts of the chemicals that cause inflammation. It works much the same way as ibuprofen does.

The fruits and vegetables in the Mediterranean diet are full of antioxidants that also help ward off inflammation. Look for deep or bright colors. Think blueberries, blackberries, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, oranges, broccoli, and melons.

Will Going Gluten-Free Relieve Joint Pain?

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. This prevents you from absorbing some nutrients.

How does this relate to RA? Joint pain and inflammation are also common symptoms of gluten sensitivity. But the evidence doesn't show that avoiding gluten will improve RA.

Before you decide to cut out gluten, talk to your doctor or a dietitian. Gluten-free foods can be low in fiber and may lack key nutrients. They can also be high in fat and calories.

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