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Arthritis: Dietary Dos and Don’ts

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Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that waxes and wanes. It's marked by periods of increased disease activity known as flare-ups or flares, characterized by worsening pain, stiffness, and inflammation. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may wonder: Are there any foods that I should eat -- or avoid -- to improve my arthritis symptoms and reduce flare-ups? Here’s what the research shows.

Unfortunately, research in this area provides few answers to this common question. When the Cochrane Collaboration reviewed studies on vegetarian, Mediterranean, liquid, and elimination diets for rheumatoid arthritis, they concluded that the effects were "still uncertain" because the studies suffered from weaknesses, such as small size and potential sources of bias.

Still, many people with rheumatoid arthritis attest that eating a particular food or eliminating some foods reduces their symptoms. Others say that certain foods worsen their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. The list of foods that have been associated with improvements in arthritis symptoms includes oranges and other vitamin C-rich foods, fish, omega-3-fortified eggs, flaxseed, and walnuts.

Foods with high saturated- or trans-fat content and highly processed foods are sometimes said to worsen symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. A recent study found that compared with people without arthritis, people with rheumatoid arthritis had higher levels of antibodies to proteins from cow's milk, cereal, eggs, codfish, and pork.

Should you eliminate these foods? Scientific evidence is scarce. If you think that your symptoms are related to a particular food, try avoiding that item for a few weeks. Don't eliminate an entire food group without speaking to a nutritionist.

Additionally, studies that have examined the use of supplements -- including antioxidants, EPA, DHA, and GLA -- have failed to show any benefit in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Posted in Arthritis on August 9, 2010
Reviewed January 2011

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer

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Health After 50 Alerts registered users may post comments and share experiences here at their own discretion. We regret that questions on individual health concerns to the editors cannot be answered in this space.

The views expressed here do not constitute medical advice, and do not represent the position of Scientific American Health After 50 or Remedy Health Media, LLC, which has no responsibility for any comments posted on this site.

Great Post. I have not been visiting the site recently. Took a visit again and there were some great comments on the site. Excellent post. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: atppty | May 6, 2013 12:56 AM

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