RA: What’s food got to do with it?

by Stacey Cahn, Chief Correspondent 

According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, researchers have been struggling to find a definitive answer to this question since the 1930's!

If you are in pain, it’s tempting to consider fad diets and practices, and anything that claims to provide a miracle cure. How about a modified Mediterranean diet? You may be going nuts eating almonds. Chatting with other RA patients about what they’re eating can be helpful but what works for one person may be disastrous for another. Some foods may make your symptoms worse. You may have heard about "Nightshade" vegetables containing alkaloids, which can trigger arthritis flares. These foods include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, pimento, tamarios, pepinos, sweet and hot peppers, cayenne peppers and paprika. But studies linking foods to RA pain are inconclusive.

We do know that one of the most important things you can do is keep your weight in check. Your heart and bones will thank you.

Healthy eating can supply you with the energy you need to get through your day so you need to think about whether your diet is working for you.

It's pretty much agreed that you should follow a healthy, balanced diet.

U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Americans include the following:

  • Eat a variety of foods
  • Balance the food you eat with physical activity to maintain or achieve a healthy weight
  • Choose a diet with plenty of grain products and vegetables, and fruits
  • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Choose a diet moderate in sugars
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation

These dietary recommendations are common sense but the challenges of RA can make it difficult to stick with it. The costs of eating well can be overwhelming to RA patients who are already saddled with medical expenses.  The discipline required to adhere to a healthy diet is challenging enough but when you're in chronic pain, grabbing what's convenient might seem to be the perfect meal to satisfy your hunger. For RA patients with limited mobility, preparing a healthy meal can be a daunting task.

All told, a healthy diet is essential, and especially for those with rheumatoid arthritis. Did you know that RA Patients are more likely to be deficient in Vitamins B6, B12, C, D, E, calcium, folic acid, magnesium, selenium and magnesium? 

However, a healthy diet is not a cure for any form of arthritis—do not change or stop your medical treatment without talking to your health care provider! 

It may also be tempting to say goodbye to your meds because their long-term impact can affect your nutrition, not to mention your stomach. For example, it you suffer from gastritis or ulcers, you probably don’t feel like eating. This could put you at risk for malnutrition! 

Always remember that it's generally better to get your vitamins and minerals from food rather than supplements. 

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