Nutrition for managing rheumatoid arthritis

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Living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be challenging, but certain dietary choices can make a significant difference in managing this autoimmune disease.

This review explores how nutrition can play a crucial role in alleviating RA symptoms and improving overall well-being. We’ll break down the science into plain language, making it accessible to everyone.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your joints, causing pain, inflammation, and sometimes joint damage.

While there is no cure for RA, proper nutrition can help control symptoms, reduce inflammation, and enhance the effectiveness of medical treatments.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods for RA

Inflammation is a central feature of RA, and some foods are known to either trigger or reduce inflammation in the body. Incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet can be beneficial. These include:

Fatty Fish: Salmon, mackerel, and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have potent anti-inflammatory properties. They may help reduce joint pain and morning stiffness in RA.

Colorful Fruits and Vegetables: Berries, cherries, and leafy greens are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients that can combat inflammation. They also provide essential vitamins and minerals that support overall health.

Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil contains a compound called oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory effects similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Nuts and Seeds: Walnuts, almonds, and flaxseeds are excellent sources of healthy fats and fiber. They can help lower inflammation and support joint health.

RA-Friendly Nutrients

Certain nutrients play a vital role in managing RA symptoms. Here are some key ones to focus on:

Vitamin D: This vitamin is essential for bone health and may help reduce RA-related joint pain. You can get vitamin D from sunlight and foods like fatty fish and fortified dairy products.

Calcium: Adequate calcium intake is crucial for maintaining strong bones, which can be affected by RA. Dairy products, fortified plant-based milk, and leafy greens are good sources.

Turmeric and Ginger: These spices contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce pain and stiffness in RA. Consider adding them to your meals or enjoying them in tea.

Potential Trigger Foods

While certain foods can help manage RA symptoms, others might exacerbate inflammation and discomfort. It’s essential to be mindful of potential trigger foods, although individual responses can vary. Some common trigger foods include:

Processed Foods: Highly processed foods often contain trans fats and high levels of salt, which can promote inflammation.

Sugary Drinks and Sweets: Excessive sugar consumption may contribute to inflammation. Reducing your intake of sugary beverages and sweets can be beneficial.

Nightshade Vegetables: Some people with RA find that nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants worsen their symptoms. Consider limiting or eliminating these from your diet to see if it makes a difference for you.


In conclusion, nutrition can be a valuable ally in managing rheumatoid arthritis.

By incorporating anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish, colorful fruits and vegetables, and olive oil, you may reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms. Don’t forget to focus on essential nutrients like vitamin D and calcium for overall joint health.

Remember that RA is a highly individualized condition, and what works for one person may not work for another.

It’s essential to work closely with your healthcare team, including a registered dietitian, to create a personalized nutrition plan that best suits your needs.

While nutrition alone may not cure RA, it can be a vital component of your overall management strategy, contributing to a better quality of life.

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