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Johns Hopkins Health Alert

If You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis: Watch What You Eat

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A growing body of research suggests that if you have rheumatoid arthritis, what you eat or how you cook it may play a role in reducing -- or exacerbating -- inflammation and other symptoms. The good news is that simple dietary changes may improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Foods to add to your diet. Certain foods may help reduce the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis. Try adding the following ingredients to your diet: 

  • Fish oil. Several studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, help reduce joint pain, morning stiffness and other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Adding fish to your diet may enable you to lower the amount of pain medications you take. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, herring, trout and tuna.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil. Oleocanthal, a substance in some extra-virgin olive oils, shows potential as an anti-inflammatory. One study found that oleocanthal mimics the effects of NSAIDs.
  • Fiber. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables -- all high in fiber -- have been shown to lower blood levels of the inflammation marker C-reactive protein.

In addition, a study published in the journal Rheumatology suggests that drinking alcohol may reduce the severity of arthritis symptoms, such as inflammation, joint pain, swelling and damage. If you drink, always do so in moderation -- no more than two drinks per day for men, one drink per day for women. Individuals over 65 should drink less.

Foods to avoid. Some foods and cooking techniques may increase the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis. Cut back on:

  • Snack foods and meat. Some types of omega-6 fatty acids, found in many snack foods, fried foods, margarine, meats, corn oil and safflower oil, can increase inflammation.
  • Frying and grilling. Some evidence indicates that frying or grilling meat at high temperatures produces compounds that may increase inflammation. Try baking and broiling your food instead.

If you suspect that certain foods worsen your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, try eliminating them from your diet and then gradually reintroduce them. Note any changes in your symptoms and modify your diet accordingly.

Posted in Arthritis on August 22, 2011


Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer


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Health Alerts registered users may post comments and share experiences here at their own discretion. We regret that questions on individual health concerns to the Johns Hopkins editors cannot be answered in this space.

The views expressed here do not constitute medical advice, and do not represent the position of Johns Hopkins Medicine or Remedy Health Media, LLC, which has no responsibility for any comments posted on this site.


My husband is 82 years old and was diagnosed with RA six years ago. Could this be a misdiagnois as his health has been excellent? He is also having a real problem with dementia in the last two years. Are these two related?

Posted by: Lockhaven | September 12, 2011 1:35 AM

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