Foods that relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
Medications including pain relievers, steroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Some of these drugs soothe painful symptoms of RA, while others, especially the DMARDs, can help slow down or stop the course of the disease and reduce structural damage.
By lowering inflammation in the body, specific foods may help treat symptoms of RA, too.
"Regular consumption of specific dietary fibers, vegetables, fruits and spices, as well as the elimination of components that cause inflammation and damage, can help patients to manage the effects of rheumatoid arthritis," said autoimmune disease expert Bhawna Gupta, PhD, assistant biotechnology professor at KIIT University in Odisha, India.
"Supporting disease management through food and diet does not pose any harmful side effects and is relatively cheap and easy,” she added.
For a study published Frontiers in Nutrition, Gupta and colleagues analyzed and evaluated current scientific knowledge about specific foods and dietary interventions shown to have long-term effects in reducing inflammation and the potential progression of RA.
Dried plums, blueberries and pomegranates, whole grains, ginger and turmeric, olive oil, and green tea were found to lower circulating inflammatory cytokines (immune system chemicals linked to rheumatoid arthritis symptoms), lessen joint pain and stiffness, and also help the body detoxify harmful chemicals.
The research team also noted people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis may find symptom relief by reducing or eliminating meat and alcohol, not smoking, and adding probiotics to their diets. Eating Mediterranean and vegan diets can also be helpful for some patients, the researchers concluded.
"Our review focused on specific dietary components and phytochemicals from foods that have a proven beneficial effect on rheumatoid arthritis," Gupta said. "Doctors, physicians, and dieticians can use our study to summarize current proven knowledge on the links between certain foods and rheumatoid arthritis. Knowing the nutritional and medicinal requirements of their patients, they can then tailor this information for the betterment of their health."
In the future, pharmaceutical companies may use the mounting evidence that certain foods have anti-inflammatory effects to formulate nutraceuticals to help treat RA, Gupta added.
It’s important to remember that standard therapy, however, treats diet as adjunct therapy, not a replacement for treatment.
March 27, 2020
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA