How Does Diet Affect RA?
If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you probably take a combination of prescription and over-the-counter medications to manage the disease process and the symptoms you suffer from.
However, there are also other things you can do that could lessen your symptoms.
Although there is no cure for RA, there are several studies that indicate a link between diet and the inflammation that worsens RA symptoms.
Certain foods may improve symptoms, whereas certain foods may worsen symptoms.
Foods to Avoid With Rheumatoid Arthritis
According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are several foods that you should avoid or decrease from your rheumatoid arthritis diet. Not only do they increase inflammation, but they can increase the risk for other chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
Below, you’ll discover what types of foods to avoid with RA.
Foods High in Sugar
If you have a nightly ice cream habit, frequent the donut shop, and have a tough time passing up the candy dish at work, it may be time to decrease your intake.
However, if you’re willing to try a sugar substitute, you’re in luck!
There are a variety of options available: stevia, aspartame, and sucralose are all non-caloric options. Caloric sweeteners include maple syrup, agave, and honey.
Foods High in Salt
Excess salt can also increase inflammation.
The recommended amount of sodium for the average American is 2,300mg, but people with comorbid conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and hypertension should limit their sodium to 1,500mg per day. However, the average American eats upwards of 3,400mg of sodium per day.
Is there another reason to avoid sodium?
If you’re on a corticosteroid to treat your RA, it is likely that the medication will cause the body to retain the sodium, so experts agree it may be helpful to limit sodium intake to 1,500mg per day.
Not All Fats Are Created Equal
Dietary fat has been a hot-button topic over the past several years. Historically, fat has been demonized. However, it has been recognized that certain fats are not “bad guys.”
Certain fats are not good for inflammation. These fats include saturated fats, trans fats, and omega-6 fatty acids.
Saturated fats are the type of fats found in animals, such as cheese, butter, and meat. They can raise total and LDL cholesterol. Take note, saturated fat does not need to be cut out of the diet completely, but it should comprise no more than 10 percent of the total calorie intake. However, coconut oil is a plant-based saturated fat and may be the exception, and recent studies indicate that it has anti-inflammatory properties.
We hear “omega fatty acids” and automatically assume it is a “good fat.” However, there are two types: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and certain nuts, whereas omega-6 fatty acids are found in oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil, and vegetable oil. Large intake of these types of fatty acids can increase inflammation.
Trans fats should be avoided at all costs. They are found naturally in tiny amounts in certain foods and can be unavoidable, but is also found in commercial baked goods, margarine, and fried foods. Trans fats not only increase total cholesterol and LDL, but they also decrease HDL.
The Bottom Line…
This is not a full list of foods to avoid with rheumatoid arthritis. They are simply guidelines that could reduce inflammation that worsens RA symptoms. Always follow the recommendations of your physician.