Eat a Healthy Diet
There is no perfect plan to help people with RA feel better, but eating a variety of healthy foods is good for your overall well-being and weight. You might try the Mediterranean diet, which features foods such as fish, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that help lower inflammation.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna, trout, and other cold-water fish can help fight inflammation, so they're good for people with RA. Omega-3s in fish and fish oil help ease aching joints and morning stiffness. Try adding about two 3-ounce servings of fish to your diet each week.
Think About Supplements
If fish isn't your thing, omega-3 supplements may help ease morning stiffness. They could even help you cut back on anti-inflammatory meds. Borage seed oil may also help relieve pain along with your RA meds. Always talk to your doctor about any supplements you take.
Switch to Healthy Fats
Saturated fats -- those found in butter and red meat, for example -- are linked with inflammation. So it's a good idea to limit those and get your fats from healthier sources, like nuts and avocados. Instead of butter, try olive oil, which may lower pain and inflammation.
Work In Whole Grains
Fiber is good for your digestion, and it can also help ease your inflammation. Look for breads, crackers, and cereals that list "whole grain" or "whole wheat" as the first ingredient.
Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
Most fruits and veggies are full of antioxidants, which boost your immune system and may help fight inflammation. Antioxidant-rich fruits include prunes, raisins, and berries. Best veggies include kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts. Don't forget fresh, leafy greens. They're a great source of both fiber and folic acid. If you take methotrexate, folic acid can help ease some of the drug's side effects.
Cook Up Some Beans
Beans are another tasty way to get fiber and protein in your diet. Fiber can help ease inflammation caused by your RA, and protein can help keep the muscles that support your joints strong. Beans are an excellent, meat-free source of protein. Enjoy them in chili, as a side dish, or whipped into a healthy dip like hummus.
Don't Forget Calcium
Calcium and vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium, are important when you have rheumatoid arthritis. They can help prevent the bone loss that can come with taking corticosteroids for your RA. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are good sources. If dairy isn't part of your diet, there are food options: beef liver and egg yolks for vitamin D, leafy greens for calcium, and fatty fish and fortified foods (orange juice, cereal) for both. Supplements may be an easier way to get the recommended amounts, though.
Think About Nightshades
Some people think that veggies from the nightshade family -- tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and some peppers -- worsen RA symptoms. But there's no proof that they do. If you think a specific food is making your RA worse, don't eat it for at least 2 weeks, and see what happens when you add it back.
Spice Things Up
Spices like turmeric and ginger may help ease inflammation. You can add them when you're cooking. If you're taking blood thinners, talk to your doctor first. The spices may make bleeding more likely.
Drink Green Tea
Green tea may ease inflammation and joint damage from rheumatoid arthritis. Plus, tea -- green, black, white, and oolong -- is filled with polyphenols, which are antioxidants that boost your immune system. You'll still need your medication, but tea is a good drink choice.
Work With an Expert
Your doctor or dietitian can help you fine-tune your diet and decide if you need supplements. A dietitian can also help create a meal plan that takes into consideration your medications and your lifestyle, so you'll be more likely to stick with it.