Foods to avoid if you have rheumatoid arthritis

Updated at: Oct 27, 2015
Foods to avoid if you have rheumatoid arthritis

While there is no rheumatoid arthritis diet, researchers suggest that avoiding some foods that may trigger joint pain can manage pain better. Take a look at what those food options are and what alternatives you could opt for.

Ariba Khaliq
Rheumatoid ArthritisWritten by: Ariba KhaliqPublished at: Apr 16, 2015

There are many medicines to treat rheumatoid arthritis but you can try some simpler ways to cut down rheumatoid arthritis pain, like diet modification. Though the research on the effect of diet on rheumatoid arthritis is still inconclusive, Experts recommend that it is best to cut down common foods that trigger RA symptoms to see if it helps your joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Patients may have different tolerance for various foods, so it's not possible to advocate a single diet across the board. But here are five foods usually described to worsen arthritis symptoms.

Dairy Products

Symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis may flare in response to specific proteins found in dairy products. Some RA patients who are intolerant to milk are believed to have antibodies to milk proteins. This is done by your body in order to protect itself from what it mistakenly perceives as a harmful substance. The antibodies, instead attack other parts of the body. It is, therefore, advised to cut down intake of dairy products to see if that help reduce your symptoms of RA.  Try soy, rice or almond milk in place of dairy products.


Cut Back on Meat

Switching to vegetarian diet may help improve your RA symptoms. Well, this is mainly because consumption of meat is linked to higher fat and calorie intake. And you are not supposed to eat a unhealthy diet especially when you have RA. The fats present in meat are more easily metabolized into pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body. These inflammatory chemicals may be good for fighting an infection but they can also lead to painful inflammation and swelling in the joints. Try to include more protein sources in your diet.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet


Avoid Gluten

Recent researches have shown that people with RA may also have celiac disease, which is triggered by gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains that gives dough a chewy texture. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten may cause immune reaction in the small intestine causing bloating and diarrhoea. In some people, the inflammatory reaction may extend to the joints and aggravates RA symptoms.  As per the study published in the Oxford Journal of Rheumatology, 41 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients respond positively to a gluten-free vegan diet. However, before trying a gluten-free diet, we suggest you get tested for celiac disease.


Forego Refined Sugar and Sweets

While certain carbohydrates are an essential part of our diets, refined sugars and sweets are not, as much as we may enjoy them. Refined sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup, are empty calories devoid of any nutrients. Cutting down on refined sugar is even more important for people with rheumatoid arthritis because the chronic inflammation in RA impairs the body's ability to break down sweets. Risk for cardiovascular disease is also high for people living with RA, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol is crucial.

Diet for Rheumatoid Arthritis


Don't Drink Coffee or Other Caffeinated Beverages

America is powered by caffeine: More than 150 million people drink coffee in the United States, and average consumption is more than three cups daily, according to the National Coffee Association. The health effects of coffee are controversial, especially in regard to rheumatoid arthritis. Large population studies show conflicting results and are inconclusive. However, coffee drinking was linked to the development of anti-CCP positive RA, a specific subtype of RA, according to a study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism. While research is still ongoing, you may want to consider tossing that coffee mug as your own experiment.

It's time to kick that morning donut and coffee habit. Cut down on the amount of fried and processed foods you consume, and include more vegetables and fruits in your diet.

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