Should you cross some foods off your list? Although no scientific studies have found any definitive link between food and RA, some people with RA say that eating certain foods makes their RA worse. To figure out what's the best diet for you, it helps to keep in mind some of the nutritional challenges you have with RA. If painful fingers or wrists make it tough to chop vegetables and cook healthy meals, you may be more likely to grab a burger from the drive-through. If your medications give you an upset stomach or make you feel like you don't want to eat, you may wind up skipping meals. If you routinely have an upset stomach or no appetite, you may also be missing important nutrients.
It's common for women with RA to not get enough vitamin D and calcium. It's especially important that you get enough of those nutrients because having RA -- and taking certain treatments for it -- raises your risk of osteoporosis. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of medicine's mysteries. There were no medical reports of the disease until the early 1800s. Some have suspected that a virus or bacterium may play a role, perhaps by setting off an autoimmune reaction. Genetics may also be a factor, in that it may influence susceptibility to the disease.
For years people have suspected that foods are an important factor in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Many notice an improvement in their condition when they avoid dairy products, citrus fruits, tomatoes, eggplant and certain other foods.
Initially, the evidence was anecdotal. A woman from the Midwest once suffered from painful arthritis. Today she is a picture of health, thin and athletic, and her arthritis is totally gone. It seemed that dairy products were to blame for her arthritis, for when she eliminated them from her diet, the arthritis disappeared completely.
Another woman, from Wisconsin, also found that her arthritis was clearly linked to dairy products. Although she had been raised on a dairy farm, she learned that staying away from dairy products was the key to relieving her symptoms.
A 1989 survey of over one thousand arthritis patients revealed that the foods most commonly believed to worsen the condition were red meat, sugar, fats, salt, caffeine, and nightshade plants (e.g., tomatoes, eggplant). Once the offending food is eliminated completely, improvement usually comes within a few weeks. Dairy foods are one of the principle offenders, and the problem is the dairy protein, rather than the fat, so skim products are as much a problem as whole milk.