Consuming a plant-based diet may help to alleviate pain and inflammation due to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to new information. This review adds to the evidence that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes may be beneficial for autoimmune conditions.
The new review published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition highlighted four different ways that following a plant-based diet can help to reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. RA is an autoimmune disorder that is characterized by inflammation that causes pain and swelling in the joints.
Genetic factors do play an essential role in controlling RA, but lifestyle factors such as diet can help to control symptoms. Researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reviewed observational studies and clinical trials and found consistent evidence that showed how a plant-based diet could reduce inflammation and improve symptoms associated with RA.
Researchers broke down their findings into four different ways following a plant-based diet can be beneficial for those suffering from RA. The first observation they made was that plant-based foods reduce inflammation. In 2015, a study found that participants who followed a plant-based diet experienced a reduction in inflammatory scores when compared to those eating diets higher in fat and animal products.
The second way a plant-based diet can help with RA is that it can help to reduce the pain and swelling associated with RA. A clinical trial that looked at participants with RA who consumed a low-fat vegan diet found that after four weeks, there was significant improvements in morning stiffness, RA pain, joint tenderness, and joint swelling. Plant-based diets are typically low in fat and high in fiber, which could explain the reduction in inflammation.
Lower body weight in those with rheumatoid arthritis helps to increase the likelihood of remission if RA is present in patients, and plant-based diets are associated with a lower BMI. The review includes a 2018 analysis that found that RA patients who lost more than five kilograms of body weight were three times more likely to experience improvements than those who lost less than five kilograms. Plant-based diets have been consistently proven to be useful for weight loss.
The final observation made by the review was contained information about gut bacteria. Studies in the past have suggested that the microbiome in the gut may plant an important role in RA and inflammation. High fiber, plant-based diets can alter the gut bacteria and increase bacterial diversity, which is often lacking in RA patients.
A Simple Menu Change
“A plant-based diet comprised of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes may be tremendously helpful for those with rheumatoid arthritis,” says study co-author Hana Kahleova, MD, Ph.D., director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee. “This study offers hope that with a simple menu change, joint pain, swelling, and other painful symptoms may improve or even disappear.”
This review helps to define types of foods those with RA should be consuming on a daily basis to help lessen symptoms associated with the condition. But it isn’t just those with rheumatoid arthritis who could benefit from consuming a plant-based diet. Other studies have found that a plant-based diet may be protective against hypothyroidism, and multiple sclerosis. So be sure to get your recommended intake of fruits and vegetables to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.