Can Changing What You Eat Improve RA Symptoms?
Special DietsMany people with rheumatoid arthritis are interested in whether certain foods can affect their symptoms. Examples of foods that are believed to possibly worsen the symptoms of arthritis (including rheumatoid arthritis) are the nightshade family of plants (white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers), dairy, citrus fruits, acidic foods, sweets, coffee, and animal protein. There are various theories about how foods may affect rheumatoid arthritis, including:
- The foods that a patient eats and how the digestive system handles them are known to affect the immune system. Because rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the immune system, a connection between diet and the disease has been proposed.
- Certain fats (mostly from animal sources but also from corn and sunflower oils) break down in the body into substances that can cause inflammation.
- Rheumatoid arthritis and/or medications used to treat it may affect the way a person's digestive system handles foods.
- Rheumatoid arthritis can affect a person's ability to prepare and eat food, leading to nutritional problems.
Effectiveness and safety information:
- There is no strong, reproducible evidence that any foods or diets have a specific role in causing or treating rheumatoid arthritis.
- It is important for people who have rheumatoid arthritis to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- If one or more foods are eliminated from the diet, it is possible to miss key nutrients and not get enough calories. It is important to discuss any major dietary changes with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian.
- A true food allergy may exist in a small percentage of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Many people think they have food allergies when they do not have them or when they have a different condition called food intolerance.