Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease affecting over 1.3 million Americans. The cause of this disease is not known and sadly there is no cure. Therapy often revolves around symptom management, which may utilize an array of pain reducers and biological agents.
Researchers from the School of Biotechnology at KIIT University, India, have just completed a study looking at how a rheumatoid arthritis patient’s diet can affect the disease. They have identified a list of food items that have proven to have beneficial effects on the progression and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
An autoimmune disorder with no cure
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect the joints as well as a wide variety of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. It is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s own immune system begins to attack itself. This often leads to inflammation, causing painful swelling that can eventually result in bone loss and joint deformity.
“Regular consumption of specific dietary fibers, vegetables, fruits, and spices, as well as the elimination of components that cause inflammation and damage, can help patients to manage the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. Incorporating probiotics into the diet can also reduce the progression and symptoms of this disease,” says Dr. Bhawna Gupta, co-author.
They go on to say that RA patients should switch to a primarily Mediterranean, vegan, elemental, or elimination diets, as they do not pose any harmful side effects. While these diets have long been recommended, this study provides a very thorough evaluation clearly showing that there are long-term beneficial effects.
Reducing the body’s inflammatory response
The study found that certain foods can lower chemicals released by the immune system involved in the inflammatory process, called cytokines. By adhering to a diet that consisted of the foods identified, RA patients were able to reduce joint stiffness and pain, as well as better counteract or detoxify harmful chemicals lowering oxidative stress.
Some of these foods that provide anti-inflammatory effects include dried plums, grapefruit, wheat, rice, olive oil, yogurt, black soybean, ginger, and green tea.
“Our review focused on specific dietary components and phytochemicals from foods that have a proven beneficial effect on rheumatoid arthritis. Pharmaceutical companies may use this information to formulate ‘nutraceuticals’. Nutraceuticals have an advantage over chemically-tailored medicines as they are not associated with any side effects, originate from natural sources and are cheaper,” says Dr. Gupta.