Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms With the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where your body attacks your joints and connective tissue. For some people, it can also damage other areas including their skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and circulatory system.

Because this form of arthritis is an inflammatory disorder, one of the best solutions is to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet.

In this article, you’ll learn how an anti-inflammatory diet can help with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, plus other safe, natural remedies to obtain relief.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis, also called autoimmune arthritis, is an autoimmune disorder that damages joints and other areas of your body.

Furthermore, it affects about 1.3 million Americans[1]. Consequently, people most often get rheumatoid arthritis between the ages of 30 and 60. Additionally, it’s twice as likely to affect women as men[2].

Over time, rheumatoid arthritis causes warm, swollen, painful joints. The pain and stiffness get worse after periods of rest.

If left untreated, it can result in deformity and the loss of function. Moreover, other complications include low red blood cell count and inflammation around the lungs and heart.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you suspect you may have rheumatoid arthritis, it’s important to pay attention to possible symptoms. Actually, detecting it early can prevent joint damage and disability.

To start, the hands, wrists, and feet are usually the first areas to be affected. Also, warm, swollen, stiff, red, or painful joints are a major warning sign.

Additionally, most people will notice joints on both sides of their body are affected. However, this isn’t always the case in autoimmune arthritis-the pain and swelling may happen on one or both sides.

Moreover, this autoimmune disorder can also affect other areas of your body besides your joints. Here’s what else to watch for:

  • A low-grade fever (which often comes before joint issues)
  • Fatigue affecting your daily activities, work performance, or relationships
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss

Generally, the disease emerges slowly over several months. Therefore, you might experience mild symptoms that are barely noticeable at first. But the earlier you act, the better your prognosis will be.

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Research shows there is no single cause of rheumatoid arthritis, and there may be several types of rheumatoid arthritis with different causes[3].

Unfortunately, that means there’s no particular thing to avoid that will prevent you from getting rheumatoid arthritis.

However, scientists have identified several things that can increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Obesity, especially abdominal fat, raises your risk[4].
  • Smoking increases your risk of developing the disease, and causes it to progress more quickly[5].
  • Environmental toxins like air pollution, asbestos, and silica can elevate your risk[6][7].
  • Immunization, in particular the tetanus vaccine, has been linked with a heightened risk of rheumatoid arthritis[8].
  • People with gum disease and poor oral health are more likely to get rheumatoid arthritis[9].

If you don’t currently have autoimmune arthritis, you can fix some of these issues to lower your chances of developing it. And if you do have it, you may find relief by addressing these factors.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Options

For physicians, the goals of treating rheumatoid arthritis are to decrease pain, reduce inflammation, improve functioning, and slow the progression of the disease.

To address symptoms, patients often take drugs like steroids, NSAIDs, and other pain medications.

Additionally, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) like hydroxychloroquine and methotrexate can slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.

Thus, when patients don’t respond, doctors may give them biological DMARDs, which have a higher incidence of side-effects but can be more effective at slowing the disease progression.

Can Diet Help With Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Yes. The foods you eat make a big difference.

On one hand, whole foods like spinach and blueberries can improve symptoms, while sugary drinks and desserts worsen them[10].

According to one study, the Mediterranean diet (a type of anti-inflammatory diet) can reduce joint pain and increase function. However, it does not prevent rheumatoid arthritis[11].

Nutrient deficiencies can raise your rheumatoid arthritis risk. A 2017 study found that low intake of copper and selenium was associated with a 31% higher risk of the disease[12].

By avoiding certain foods, getting enough micronutrients, and focusing on anti-inflammatory foods, you can reduce your risk or ease your symptoms.

Anti-Inflammatory Food List

Undoubtedly, eating sugars, grains, and omega-6 fatty acids increases inflammation in your body and raises your risk of autoimmune disorders.

In contrast, functional foods reduce inflammation and lower your risk of rheumatoid arthritis[13][14][15].

An anti-inflammatory diet excludes processed foods, refined carbohydrates, unhealthy trans fats, omega-6 fatty acids, sugars, and grains. Instead, it contains plenty of whole food protein sources, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats.

For protein, focus on healthy, whole food sources of protein like pastured eggs, grass-fed beef, and wild-caught seafood.

Instead of eating processed and refined carbohydrates, eat fresh fruits and vegetables that are naturally rich in micronutrients and dietary fiber.

Finally, healthy fats are an essential component of an anti-inflammatory diet. Studies show that extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, and omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation in your body and improve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms[16][17][18].

The 6 Best Natural Remedies to Ease Autoimmune Arthritis Symptoms

Along with reducing your risk factors and eating a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet, you can use these six proven natural remedies to prevent or soothe rheumatoid arthritis.

#1: Infrared Therapy and Sunlight

First, studies show near-infrared treatment in the form of infrared saunas or low-level laser treatment (LLLT) can improve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and may slow the progression of the disease[19][20].

The good news is that if you don’t have access to a fancy infrared device, natural sunlight is over 50% infrared light[21]. Sunbathing eases autoimmune arthritis symptoms, and it may also help prevent rheumatoid arthritis through UV exposure and increasing vitamin D levels[22][23][24][25].

#2: Exercise Regularly

Next, with rheumatoid arthritis, pain and stiffness can make the prospect of exercise daunting.

However, there’s evidence that low- to moderate-intensity exercise can reduce pain, enhance physical strength, and reduce disability in people with the disease[26].

Strength training, aerobic conditioning, and exercising in water are excellent choices to enhance your quality of life with rheumatoid arthritis[27].

Try to move your body daily, and engage in two or more scheduled exercise sessions each week. Even if you don’t feel like it, it will pay off in the long run by decreasing your symptoms.

#3: Manage Stress

Currently, scientists have found a strong link between stressful life events and the onset of rheumatoid arthritis[28]. Therefore, strong coping skills may reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

If you already have rheumatoid arthritis, techniques like positive self-talk, deep breathing, and mindfulness meditation can reduce pain, improve your mental functioning, help you cope better, lower inflammation in your body, and decrease your stress response[29][30][31][32].

#4: Get Plenty of Sleep

Poor sleep and inconsistent sleep schedules raise the risk and severity of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis[33][34]. Consequently, sleep disorders like sleep apnea can fully double your risk of rheumatoid of arthritis[35][36].

However, you can improve your sleep quality to avoid these issues.

The best ways are to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, avoid screen-time two to three hours before bed, sleep in a cool, dark bedroom, and maintain a consistent sleep and wake schedule.

#5: Take Probiotic Supplements

Next, your gut health and the bacteria in your GI tract play an important role in your body’s immune response. If you have too many “bad” bacteria or not enough “good” bacteria, autoimmune issues are more likely to occur[37].

An eight-week study found that probiotic supplements lowered rheumatoid arthritis disease activity and decreased other markers of inflammation[38].

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you can reduce your symptom severity by eating natural fermented foods or taking probiotic supplements.

#6: Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Lastly, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes can all raise your risk or contribute to rheumatoid arthritis symptoms[39]. Being diabetic doubles your risk, and being insulin resistant is linked to worse symptoms and faster disease progression[40][41].

All of these conditions are linked to high blood sugar levels.

Be sure to maintain healthy blood sugar levels by limiting processed and refined carbs, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and exercising regularly.