Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, which means it’s caused by the immune system attacking healthy body tissue. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system mistakenly sends antibodies to the lining of your joints, where they attack the tissue surrounding the joint. Taking steps to reduce inflammation can help to alleviate the painful joint symptoms.
Diet can either exacerbate or alleviate rheumatoid arthritis, depending on the types of food and drink you consume.
This is because certain items contain inflammatory properties while others boast anti-inflammatory properties.
Reports have found nightshade vegetables, such as aubergines, tomatoes and peppers, may fall into the former camp.
“Many people with inflammatory types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) do report a worsening of symptoms such as joint pain and swelling after consuming nightshades,” says the Arthritis Foundation (AF).
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Nonetheless, keeping a food diary that tracks how you feel when you eat certain foods – including nightshades – can help you get down to the bottom of what is causing your symptoms, noted Dennis C. Ang, MD, MS, an associate professor of internal medicine-rheumatology and immunology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, in an interview with the AF.
What to eat
“Unfortunately, diet and supplements can’t treat or cure your arthritis, however, symptoms may be eased or exacerbated as a result of changing what you eat,” said Holland & Barrett nutritionist, Emily Rollason.
“A diet that allows you to keep your weight within a healthy range could be helpful to your arthritis as well as your wellness as a whole.”
Although there’s no single single diet for arthritis, research has uncovered that some foods could be helpful in managing symptoms.
“Look at eating a whole diet, high in plant-based foods, including spices such as ginger and turmeric and containing one to two portions of oily fish per week,” Rollason suggested.
Many of the above components are naturally found in a Mediterranean-style diet.
In general, a Mediterranean-style diet is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.
It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods.
Other key tips
Exercise also plays an integral role in reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
If your arthritis is painful, you may not feel like exercising. However, being active can help reduce and prevent pain, notes the NHS.
Regular exercise can also:
- Improve your range of movement and joint mobility
- Increase muscle strength
- Reduce stiffness
- Boost your energy.
“As long as you do the right type and level of exercise for your condition, your arthritis won’t get any worse,” adds the NHS.