There’s no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. The inflammatory condition causes pain in the feet, wrists, hands, and other joints, and the only effective treatment usually involves taking medications to dull pain symptoms. But, sometimes, those medications stop working, and the pain flares up again. This is when health-care providers look to other avenues to help their patients. And, that can mean—often as a last resort—focusing on diet.
Most doctors will concede that a long-standing chronic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, is known to be associated with a poor diet or lack of essential nutrients—but, they won’t necessarily recommend an improved diet as a treatment. That’s unfortunate, especially in light of the results of a recent study that found that a deficiency in five particular nutrients may play a role in triggering rheumatoid arthritis.
The study aimed to assess the nutritional status of women with rheumatoid arthritis, and compare their ingestion of certain micronutrients with dietary reference intakes. The researchers recruited 90 eligible women. After examination, all patients were evaluated on the basis of disease activity score, calculated using the number of tender and swollen joints, patient assessment of pain, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP, a marker of inflammation).
The results were compelling. Despite the fact that all of the women had normal body mass index (BMI), the amount of micronutrients they ate were considerably lower than recommended dietary intakes. Every single one of the women with rheumatoid arthritis had distinctly low levels of calcium, folic acid, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
That study is a strong indication that diet plays a significant role in rheumatoid arthritis. After boosting the levels of calcium, folic acid, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 in your diet, it’s likely that you will see rheumatoid arthritis symptoms improve.
All of these nutrients can be purchased as over-the-counter supplements, or they can be found in a variety of health foods. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, and leafy vegetables (especially spinach, kale, and collards). Folic acid can be found in those same green leafy vegetables, and also peas, lentils and avocados. Oysters are the best dietary source of zinc, but it can also be found in wheat germ, lean beef, and dark chocolate. Wheat germ and dark chocolate are also rich in magnesium, as are most nuts and seeds. For vitamin B6, the best sources are tuna, lean beef, and turkey, while brown rice and buckwheat are viable non-meat options.
Sources for Today’s Articles:
Five Nutrients that Fight Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain
Hejazi, J., et al., “Nutritional status of Iranian women with rheumatoid arthritis: an assessment of dietary intake and disease activity,” Womens Health (Lond Engl) September 2011; 7(5): 599-605.