A study of current studies, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, lists foods known to alleviate long-term effects of rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an infectious condition that affects around 1.3 million US people.
The fact that it is an autoimmune condition means the body does not accept and attack its own healthy cells as if they are alien. This causes joint inflammation which translates into stiffness, swelling, pain, and sometimes even malformity.
So-called antirheumatic disease-modifying medications are usually the first line of treatment for this condition, for which there is currently no proven cure.
If a person with rheumatoid arthritis does not respond well to such medications, then the second-line treatment choice is the so-called biological response modifiers, or “biologicals.”
Nevertheless, as the authors of the new study point out, biologicals are expensive and can have serious side effects.
Researchers at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) in Bhubaneswar, India, have therefore set out to investigate dietary alternatives to medications.
Dr. Bhawna Gupta, along with Shweta Khanna and Kumar Sagar Jaiswal, reviewed “work from several laboratory experiments under various conditions” at the KIIT Disease Biology Lab in the School of Biotechnology.
They narrowed their results to 33 foods which have been shown to relieve the symptoms of rheumtoid arthritis and delay the disease progression.
The study is only the second to perform an overall dietary evaluation for this disease, and these studies have narrowly chosen the foods that have clearly been shown to have long-lasting benefits.
“Supporting the management of disease by food and diet has no adverse side effects, and is fairly cheap and simple,” explains Dr. Gupta.
Whole grains, legumes, fruits, and spices
The authors list the foods, separating them into eight categories: vegetables, cereals, legumes, whole grains, spices, herbs, oils, and ‘miscellaneous.’
Fruits include prunes, grapefruits, oranges, blueberries, bananas, pomegranates, mango, peaches, and apples. Cereals include whole oatmeal, whole wheat bread and whole rice, while the entire portion of grains adds to the mix maize, rye, barley, millets, sorghum, and canary seed.
Often mentioned as helpful are spices-like turmeric and ginger-olive oil, fish oil, green tea and yogurt. It may minimize cytokine rates, or substances secreted by the immune cells that can cause inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis, and minimize oxidative stress, thereby improving the capacity of the body to fight off toxins.
“Daily intake of different dietary fibers, herbs, fruits and spices and the removal of inflammatory and harmful ingredients,” says Dr. Gupta, “may help patients control the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.”
“The introduction of probiotics into the diet can also improve the progression of this disease and its symptoms,” she says.
“Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis should switch from omnivorous diets, drinking alcohol, and smoking to [adhering to] Mediterranean, vegan, elemental, or elimination diets, as advised by their doctor or dietician.”
Dr. Bhawna Gupta
“Our analysis centered on different dietary and phytochemical components from foods that have demonstrated beneficial effects on rheumatoid arthritis,” Dr. Gupta said.
The researchers also say they could use their results to establish alternative medicines.
“Pharmaceutical companies that use this knowledge to formulate ‘nutraceuticals.’ Nutraceuticals have an benefit over chemically formulated medications since they are not associated with any adverse effects, come from natural sources and are cheaper,” Dr. Gupta states.
However, the writers also warn people with rheumatoid arthritis against too readily, or on their own, adding these foods into their diet.
“Dietary components vary depending on geography and environmental conditions,” says Dr. Gupta, “and patients should be mindful of their dietary requirements, allergies, and any other history of food-related diseases.”
“We strongly recommend that the general public consult with physicians and dietitians before going through any diet regimen or food compounds mentioned in the report,” she concludes.