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Reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms by steering clear of these five common foods.

ByMedically Reviewed by Alexa Meara, MD
Last Updated:

RA Diet: 5 Foods to Avoid With Arthritis

It's time to kick that morning doughnut-and-coffee habit. Research shows that eating certain foods ‚ÄĒ like sugary snacks and desserts and certain caffeinated beverages ‚ÄĒ may worsen¬†rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

According to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis, affecting more than 1.3 million Americans. It is caused when the immune system (the body’s defense system) is not working properly.

Symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis may include:

  • Fatigue, fever, and weight loss
  • Joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings and after inactivity
  • Tender, warm, swollen joints

Early rheumatoid arthritis typically affects for 1 last update 2020/07/11 smaller joints first ‚ÄĒ including the joints that attach your fingers to your hands and your toes to your feet.Early rheumatoid arthritis typically affects smaller joints first ‚ÄĒ including the joints that attach your fingers to your hands and your toes to your feet.

rheumatoid arthritis feet hurthow to rheumatoid arthritis feet hurt for Over time, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may spread for 1 last update 2020/07/11 to the following joints and occur on both sides of your body:Over time, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may spread to the following joints and occur on both sides of your body:

  • Ankles
  • Elbows
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Shoulders
  • Wrists

There are many new drugs, even surgery, to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but don't ignore the simpler ways of reducing RA pain, like lifestyle measures (rest and exercise) and a healthy diet. Though the scientific research surrounding an RA diet and rheumatoid arthritis is still inconclusive, many highly trained doctors recommend avoiding certain foods to see if this helps your joint inflammation and pain.

For example, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats may help some with their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Because the fats in meat are more easily metabolized into pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body, some RA patients find that changing to a plant-based diet, including soy, helps to ease symptoms.

rheumatoid arthritis feet hurthow to rheumatoid arthritis feet hurt for Does coffee cause inflammation with RA? As mentioned, coffee may increase inflammation, so stopping coffee on an RA diet may be helpful in managing inflammation and joint pain.

A study published in October 2017 in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease concluded that supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids may represent a promising option to improve RA symptoms, including:

  • Duration of morning stiffness
  • Pain symptoms
  • Tender joint count

rheumatoid arthritis feet hurthow to rheumatoid arthritis feet hurt for Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are essential fatty acids your body needs for cell growth and brain function. Foods high in PUFAs include:

  • Corn oil
  • Fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, and trout
  • Flaxseeds or flax oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts

"As of now, there is no agreed-upon diet for rheumatoid arthritis, but there are some people who for 1 last update 2020/07/11 do seem to have food sensitivities," says Clement Michet Jr., MD, a rheumatologist and professor at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Patients may have different tolerances for various foods, so it's not possible to recommend a single diet across the board. But here are five foods commonly reported to aggravate arthritis symptoms."As of now, there is no agreed-upon diet for rheumatoid arthritis, but there are some people who do seem to have food sensitivities," says Clement Michet Jr., MD, a rheumatologist and professor at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Patients may have different tolerances for various foods, so it's not possible to recommend a single diet across the board. But here are five foods commonly reported to aggravate arthritis symptoms.

Eat and Drink Less Dairy on a Diet for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may flare in response to specific proteins found in dairy products. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis who report intolerance to milk have antibodies to milk proteins, Dr. Michet says. The body forms these antibodies to protect itself from what it mistakenly perceives as a harmful substance, but the antibodies attack other parts of the body in addition to the milk. Cut dairy products from your diet to see if that reduces your RA symptoms.

"Try rice, cashew, or almond milk as anti-inflammatory alternatives," says Ulka Agarwal, MD, a staff psychiatrist at George Washington University in Washington, DC, who advocates a vegan diet. Milk may be a food to avoid with arthritis to see if it helps with RA pain.

Cut Back on Meat to Decrease RA Inflammation

Meat may be another food to avoid with arthritis. Changing from a meat-heavy¬†to a¬†vegetarian diet¬†often improves RA symptoms. Meat consumption is associated with higher overall fat and calorie intake, which are markers for an unhealthy diet. The fats in meat are more easily metabolized into pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body, Michet says. Production of these inflammatory chemicals is good in certain circumstances, such as when you're fighting an infection ‚ÄĒ but they can also cause painful inflammation and swelling in spaces like your joints. Instead of eating meat exclusively, supplement your RA diet with plant sources of protein such as beans, lentils, and soy, Dr. Agarwal says.

Gluten May Be a Food to Avoid With Arthritis

Research shows that some people with rheumatoid arthritis 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. When someone has celiac disease, eating gluten causes an immune reaction in the small intestine that can lead to bloating and diarrhea.

In some people, the inflammatory reaction may extend to the joints, which only aggravates rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. While dietary interventions for rheumatoid arthritis remain controversial, the gluten-free trend is showing some positive results, notably the easing of celiac rheumatic symptoms, according to research published in September 2016 in Autoimmunity Reviews. But before trying a gluten-free diet, get tested for celiac disease, Michet suggests.

Skip Refined Sugars and Sweets on an RA Diet

While certainrheumatoid arthritis feet hurthow to rheumatoid arthritis feet hurt for  carbohydrates the 1 last update 2020/07/11   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 and are detrimental to our bodies. They should not be included on an RA diet.

"It's a poison by itself," says Robert Lustig, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist and professor at the University of California in San Francisco.rheumatoid arthritis feet hurthow to rheumatoid arthritis feet hurt for  Cutting down on refined sugar is even more important for people with rheumatoid arthritis because sugar drives chronic inflammation, something people with RA don't need. Risks for diabetes and cardiovascular disease are also high for people living with RA, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol is crucial.

Mary Poppins was wrong, Dr. Lustig says: "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the blood pressure go up."

Does Coffee Cause Inflammation With RA?

America is powered by the 1 last update 2020/07/11   caffeine: Nearly 180 million people drink coffee in the United States, with 74 percent of the adult population partaking, according to the 2016 NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends study. The health effects of coffee are controversial, especially regarding rheumatoid arthritis. Large population studies show conflicting results and are inconclusive. However, coffee drinking was linked to the development of anti-cyclic citrullinated protein, a specific subtype of RA, according to a study published in July 2006 in Arthritis Research & Therapy. While research is still ongoing, if you have any of the symptoms on the Mayo Clinic list for rheumatoid arthritis, you may want to consider tossing that coffee mug as your own experiment. Then, talk to your doctor about your RA diet and health concerns.

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