Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the second most common type of arthritis, is an autoimmune condition that causes chronic inflammation in the joints. According to the NHS, rheumatoid arthritis affects 400,000 people in the UK.


The symptoms of RA are known to come in bouts, usually developing over the space of a few weeks. In severe cases, symptoms can flare up in the space of a few hours. Symptoms of RA include:

  • Throbbing/aching joint pain which is usually more severe in the morning
  • Stiffness that results in a loss of mobility
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Joint swelling, warmth and redness
  • Weight loss
  • Inflammation of the eyes
  • Rheumatoid nodes


RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning your own immune system is attacking your body, causing inflammation. Usually, antibodies made by the immune system protect us from bacteria and viruses. In the case of RA, antibodies are accidentally sent to attack the joints, causing inflammation and damaging the bone, cartilage, ligaments and tendons.

Although it is not certain what triggers the autoimmune response, it is thought to be a mix of both genetic and environmental factors. No specific gene has been found to cause RA, but studies have shown that identical twins, who share exactly the same DNA, are more likely to both develop RA than non-identical twins are. A study found that both twins, in 15 per cent of identical twin sets, had RA. However, for non-identical twins, this was just 4 per cent. [78] Other risk factors include smoking [80], being female and age.

Diet for rheumatoid arthritis

No foods have specifically been linked to causing, or curing, RA. However, many people find their symptoms become less intense when following a certain diet.

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation, which may help to ease the symptoms of RA. [16] Oily fish (such as salmon, tuna, sardines, halibut, bass and mackerel) contain large quantities of omega-3 fatty acids.

Nuts and seeds (such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds) contain inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. They are also rich in fibre, vitamin E and various other vitamins and dietary elements which are essential for healthy functioning.

Eating cruciferous vegetables in abundance has been shown to protect the body from cytokines, which are a pro-inflammatory substance.

Eating foods that are high in antioxidants has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Foods high in antioxidants include strawberries, tomatoes, acai berries, oranges, cherries, blueberries, dark (raw) chocolate, artichoke and kidney beans.

It may be helpful to avoid processed meat and eggs that contain large quantities of omega-6 acids, because these can increase inflammation, and may intensify symptoms. Also, reducing refined carbohydrates and simple sugars, and instead consuming fibre-rich whole grains such as brown rice, bread and pasta, has been shown to reduce C-reactive protein levels, an inflammation marker in the blood.

Exercising when you suffer from RA can be difficult due to pain, but as long as the balance of exercise and rest is correct, it is a tremendous tool that can relieve pain and help you to stay mobile. Yoga, swimming, cycling and rowing are all low-impact, and will burn calories to help you lose weight while helping you to stay mobile.

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