Rheumatoid arthritis, which affects more than 400,000 people in the UK, is an autoimmune disease whereby the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling. There may be periods where symptoms become worse, known as flare-ups or flares. A flare can be difficult to predict, but with treatment it’s possible to decrease the number of flares and minimise or prevent long-term damage to the joints.
As the NHS explains, some people with rheumatoid arthritis feel their symptoms get worse after they have eaten certain foods.
In fact, there is a scientific basis for the association between certain food choices and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
This association helps to explain why otherwise healthy food choices may aggravate rheumatoid arthritis.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Caroline Peyton, a nutritional therapist at Peyton Principles, identified a particularly surprising offender – sourdough bread.
Sourdough has become an extremely popular food, one that is touted as a healthier alternative to standard bread.
As Peyton explained, the fermentation process may be gentler on the digestive system, but sourdough is still made with wheat and therefore still contains gluten.
Why is this relevant? “Gluten may raise certain antibodies in the bloodstream and have implications regarding gut health and intestinal permeability,” she said.
Indeed, several studies have identified a link between gluten consumption and autoimmune conditions (RA is autoimmune arthritis), notes Peyton.
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Emphasising the point, a study published in the Oxford Journal of Rheumatology stated that 41 percent of those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis improved on a gluten-free diet conducted over a one year period.
What else should be avoided?
According to Peyton, you should go easy on steak if you are looking to avoid a flare up.
She explained: “Whilst there are fats that send out anti-inflammatory messages, there are also fats that can create pro-inflammatory messages in the body. These typically come from animal fats.”
“We all require the ability to create some inflammation when there is a need to heal (after an injury for example).”
However, as Peyton pointed out, the ratio of inflammatory fats is too high in the typical Western diet.
“Therefore take a look at your diet and assess whether you are consuming sufficient anti-inflammatory fats and not too many pro-inflammatory fats. It is all about the balance,” she said.
According to the NHS, if you feel your arthritis is aggravated by eating certain foods, it may be useful to try avoiding problematic foods for a few weeks to see if your symptoms improve.
“But it’s important to ensure your overall diet is still healthy and balanced,” the healthy body says.
A Mediterranean-style diet, which is based on vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish and unsaturated fats such as olive oil, is recommended.
According to the NHS, there’s some evidence to suggest that taking fish oil supplements may help reduce joint pain and stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Eating a healthy diet can also help to maintain a healthy weight.
According to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS), excess weight is bad for joints and overall health.
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