How Does Diet Affect RA?
There's no such thing as an "RA diet," but maintaining a healthy weight will help you manage the disease.
Rheumatologist Susan M. Goodman, M.D., attending physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, discusses the role food plays in your life with RA.
Diet has an interesting relationship with inflammatory autoimmune diseases. Obesity is something that can both increase your risk for RA and increase your risk of a poor response to treatment. Diet per se does have other effects.
There are no clear indications that a specific diet can either prevent or reverse rheumatoid arthritis. We know that a lot of factors in the environment, whether it's smoking or environmental exposures, can accelerate the risk of RA. It makes sense that the same sort of factors in your diet wouldn't be healthy.
The one diet that seems to be best for patients with autoimmune or inflammatory diseases is something like the Mediterranean diet. That's a diet in which there's a lot of olive oil instead of butter, more fish and non-beef proteins, non-meat proteins, a lot of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit. That seems to be a very healthy diet that many patients report helpful with their symptoms of RA.
I'll say, though, that none of the diets for RA have a disease-modifying effect. Most patients will feel better if they put themselves on a no-junk-food diet, if they avoid packaged sweets and excess beef, but none of it really has been ever shown to stop the progression of the disease or stop joint damage.