Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease--the body mistakenly attacks its own cells, causes inflammation, joint swelling, fatigue, pain and limited range of motion. There is really no official diet to follow for this condition. However, doctors who practice both standard and alternative medicine agree that there are certain foods that can aggravate and alleviate the condition.
There are several different kinds of fats present in our food and they have different effects on our bodies. Fats and the inflammation that occurs in our bodies are very connected. Since rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition, it is important to pay attention to the kinds of fats in the diet.
Omega 3 fats are well known for their ability to decrease inflammation in the body. Adequate amounts of these fats can help relieve symptoms of this condition. Eat two or three servings of cold water fish weekly, such as salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel and sardines. If you do not eat fish, take 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil daily and/or regularly consume foods like walnuts, soybeans and tofu. Canola and olive oil are also good oils to cook with.
Do your best to limit consumption of saturated fats and Omega 6 fats. They activate prostaglandins, which are chemicals in the body that activate the inflammatory response. Omega 6 fats are present in vegetable oils that contain linoleic acid and include sunflower, corn, soybean, wheat germ and sesame oil. It is not necessary to completely avoid these oils and foods that contain them but it is important to consume them less frequently and up the consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids. Saturated fats are found in meat, other animal products and anything that is labeled "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oil on food labels. It is important to note that meat also contains a substance called arachidonic acid, which converts to inflammatory chemicals in the body.
The Elimination Diet
There appears to be a close link between allergy and autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Many doctors suggest trying the elimination diet, where common allergens are eliminated one at a time and reintroduced into the diet. This can help determine if certain foods aggravate the condition. To do this, eliminate one group of food at a time for two months, keep a food diary or some sort of record of your condition during this time and then reintroduce the food to see what happens. The groups of food include milk and all milk products, all sugar except natural fruit, citrus fruits and then all nightshade vegetables, which include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, pepper, paprika and chilies.
Other Dietary Suggestions
Avoid white breads, pasta, and flour. Try to eat as many whole, fresh foods as possible. Black currants are high in substances that ease inflammation. Take a good multi-vitamin to be make up for any lack of proper nutrients in the diet.
- Natural Health, Natural Medicine;Andrew Weil M.D.;1998
- University of Maryland Medical Center
- Prescription for Herbal Healing;Phyllis Balch;2002
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