People with chronic illnesses often search for alternative ways to help their condition, and rheumatoid arthritis patients are no different. Some insist that following an anti-inflammatory diet can help with symptoms of the autoimmune disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It differs from osteoarthritis — the more common arthritis that people develop as they age. With rheumatoid arthritis, however, the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues.
What are anti-inflammatory diets, exactly?
These diets promise to help combat inflammation in the body and there may be something to them, Alissa Rumsey, New York City-based dietitian and nutrition therapist, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Chronic low-level inflammation has been linked to many diseases including type 2 diabetes, allergies, autoimmune conditions, heart disease, cancer, and stroke,” she says. “Diet, exercise, stress, and smoking all contribute to chronic inflammation.”
But while many anti-inflammatory diets have similar food restrictions, they’re not typically a one-size-fits-all approach to wellness. “Everyone reacts to different foods and chemicals,” registered dietitian Sonya Angelone, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “One food that might cause inflammation for one person may not be a problem for another person.”
In general, though, “a diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants is your best defense against inflammation,” Rumsey says.
How do these diets work?
Overall, anti-inflammatory diets focus on reducing inflammation in the body, through eliminating foods that are thought to be inflammatory, as well as adding in foods that have anti-inflammatory properties. “It is best for people to add foods that are high in antioxidant compounds and can reduce inflammation, while reducing excess refined oils, sugar, and trans fats,” Angelone says.