Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious disease. It’s called an autoimmune disease because its symptoms are brought about by the body’s defensive antibodies attacking its own tissues.
In RA, they attack the synovium, a fluid-filled capsule that surrounds the joints, causing inflammation and often, severe pain. As it destroys these tissues, RA may eventually cause joint deformation and disability.
But RA is also systemic. It affects the entire body, sometimes attacking organs like the heart and lungs, the eyes, other soft tissues such as the tendons and ligaments, and even the veins.
The good news is that it’s treatable. Modern medicine has developed several types of medications that, while they cannot cure this incurable disease, can slow its progress to a crawl and help to relieve pain and stiffness.
There are several simple lifestyle changes that can have a beneficial effect regarding rheumatoid arthritis as well. These include a healthy diet to keep body weight under control, stopping smoking and getting adequate, gentle exercise to build and maintain muscle mass in weight-bearing joints and to preserve range of motion.
In my previous post I wrote about the controversy over nightshade foods as to whether they cause increased disease activity. Now I’d like to talk about foods that can be beneficial.
First up is extra-virgin olive oil. It’s rich in oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid that keeps inflammation down. It doesn’t hurt that EVOO is also considered a “good” fat to use if you’re trying to keep your cholesterol levels under control. It also tastes really good.
Certain types of fish, like salmon, tuna or bass are also beneficial—they’re packed with omega-3 fatty acid. The anti-inflammatory activity of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial. These are also wise fish choices for healthy weight loss or maintenance.
Eat several servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Many of them have anti-inflammatory properties, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re generally low in calories and high in nutrition. Green tea can have an anti-inflammatory effect, too. It’s also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Nuts and seeds like almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds help to reduce inflammation and have the added benefit of providing healthy fats in your diet.
Herbs and spices flavor up food and help reduce inflammation, too. Ginger and turmeric are particularly good for that, and garlic is wonderful. Low-fat dairy foods are rich in bone-building calcium, which is vital in regards to RA. Whole-grain breads, brown rice and other products made with whole grains provide fiber and help to keep your blood-sugar (glycemic) level under control.
For more information about treating your RA naturally through the foods you eat, check out this Healthline slideshow.