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How Diet Changes and Exercises Help to Get Relief from Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Updated on November 19, 2014
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis | Source

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto immune disease that attacks joints and many other internal organs such as blood vessels, heart, eyes and lungs. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis attacks even youngsters in the age group 30 to 50 years, and the more number of victims of this disease are women. If the patient is not taken any productive treatment early, his life expectancy can be reduced up to 18 years.


Stiffness of the joints or feeling that joints are stubborn is the main symptom of the disease. The patient will feel pain in joints and inflammation occurs in the affected parts. RA can be affected to many parts of the body including hands, wrists, ankles, knees and feet. Rheumatoid arthritis affects both sides of the body equally.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis and Tests

Other types of arthritis such as osteoarthritis, lupus and gout have similarities in symptoms with RA. Special tests including blood testing and image testing should be done to identify rheumatoid arthritis. Blood tests are helpful to reveal the presence of particular antibodies that are associated with RA and also it will show the C-reactive protein levels, which indicates the level of inflammation. The patient should consult a rheumatoid arthritis specialist for getting expert diagnosis and treatment.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Explained

Physiotherapy | Source

Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Different types of treatment are available for RA. Drugs, therapies, pain balms, natural remedies, surgery etc. are used for the treatment of RA. The main types of treatments are as follows:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are using for the reduction of the inflammation in the joints and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are using to slow down the progression of the disease.
  • To promote the flexibility and mobility of the joints physical therapy and occupational therapy are helpful. Biologic therapy, which is an expensive treatment method, is also using to get relief from RA.
  • Uses of pain relief creams will help to get relief from joint pain and inflammation to certain extend.
  • For severe cases of RA, surgery will be recommended by the doctor. Surgeries are not helpful for the cure of arthritis, but they will repair the damage created by the disease. Different types of surgeries available for the treatment of RA are knee replacement, hip replacement, joint fusion surgery etc.
  • Many natural supplements are available in the market, but their authenticity should be checked with doctors before using them.
  • In rare cases, low dose of chemotherapy is also used for the treatment of RA.

Making some changes in the diet and doing regular exercises will produce better results in the treatment of RA. Some foods increase the inflammation in the joints and cause more pain and discomfort; but some foods help to fight against the symptoms of the disease. Doing regular exercises are also very important in the treatment of RA, because inactivity only increase the symptoms of the disease.

Arthritis-Friendly Foods
Arthritis-Friendly Foods | Source

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Diet

Main foods that are supporting the cure of arthritis are fruits, vegetables, oily fish, legumes and spices. If you include these foods in your diet, they will help to reduce the symptoms of arthritis and also prevent the further development of the disease. Make changes in your diet including the following food items:

  • Fruits and vegetables should be consumed in large quantities daily. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables will control the cell destroying activity of free radicals. Antioxidants protect your body from the effects of free radicals.
  • Cooked fruits and dried fruits are both helpful. Recommended quantity of fruits and vegetables intake is five servings in a day. Helpful fruit items are cherries, pears and prunes. Eat cooked vegetables in large quantities and some of the useful vegetables are tapioca, chard, spinach, lettuce, asparagus and broccoli. Avoid bananas, citrus fruits and tomatoes; tomato can be used after the removal of its skin and seeds.
  • In your diet, include foods that contain Selenium, Carotenes, Bioflavonoid and Vitamins C. Selenium is available in whole grains, tuna, shrimp, crab, oyster, lean beef, turkey and Brazil nuts. Carotenes are powerful antioxidant materials that are found in some fruits and vegetables such as carrot, butternut, squash, sweet potato, spinach and pumpkin.
  • Bioflavonoid is found in the foods such as apricots apple (eat this apple with skin), onion, cherry tomato, broccoli, cocoa powder and elderberries. Vitamin C is available in many common fruits such as papaya, lemon, orange, strawberries, pineapple and grapefruit.
  • Including foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids will be helpful in the treatment of RA. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils are polyunsaturated fats and they have direct anti-inflammatory properties. They will decrease the inflammation by suppressing the production of cytokines and enzymes. Omega-3 fatty acids are available in walnuts, flaxseed oil, salmon, tuna, rainbow trout, pacific oysters, herring, sardines etc. It is better to eat the foods that containing omega-3 fatty acids, three to five times a week.

Turmeric | Source
Deformed Hands Due to RA
Deformed Hands Due to RA | Source
  • Two other food items that will help in the treatment of RA are ginger and turmeric. Ginger is anti-inflammatory and it will give a cooling effect to the body. It contains some chemicals that will reduce the pain and swelling of joints. Consume ginger by mixing in curries or in tea. Turmeric is useful to suppress the inflammatory body chemicals and this can also used by mixing with curries.
  • Brown rice is a good choice for RA patients but avoid white flour or refined white flour (pasta, white bread etc.). Substitute the use of vegetable oil or butter with olive oil. Olive oil is a mono saturated fat that contains antioxidants called polyphenols that protects your body against inflammation.

Above food items will help you to reduce the symptoms of the disease, but the medicines also should be continued to get better results. Some common foods that you should exclude from your diet are red meat, diary foods, artificial fats, processed foods and refined carbohydrates (white bread and sugar). All these products contain free radicals that will increase the inflammation in the affected areas.

Swimming-A Good Exercises for RA
Swimming-A Good Exercises for RA | Source

Recommended Rheumatoid Arthritis Exercises

Exercise and other physical activities are very necessary to keep the joints strong. For a RA patient, inactivity cause further decrease of joint motion and flexibility and create weak muscles and deformed joints. Physical therapy which includes different kinds of exercises are using as a good remedy to reduce the symptoms of the disease.

  • Regular exercise helps to reverse the stiffness of the joints and it builds muscle and increase body fitness. The doctor will recommend low-impact aerobic exercises like walking, swimming, dancing and stair climbing for the RA patients. Swimming a very good exercise for arthritis patients because it will not give over strain to the joints. If you are new to do exercise, start exercising a few minutes every day, but your aim should be to do 30 to 60 minute moderate exercises for at least five days in a week.
  • Strong muscles will support the joints, so include resistance exercises also in your program. Do resistance exercises using free weights or elastic bands, two or three times a week. Stronger muscles help to decrease the pain in the joints. Weight exercises also reduce the bone loss due to RA which can lead to osteoporosis. Isometric exercise is another method to strengthen the muscles.
  • Aerobic exercise is the most suitable exercise for RA patients. These type exercises will reduce high blood pressure and reduces cholesterol accumulation. Include stretch exercises, hip rotation and thigh exercise in the daily routine and avoid more intensive exercise like jogging, running and playing games etc. Lifting heavy weights also would not support the treatment. Bear in mind that the exercises are meant only for strengthening supporting the muscles for getting more joint flexibility and not for to build up more muscles power.

Deformation Due to RA
Deformation Due to RA | Source

Rheumatoid Arthritis Management

Rheumatoid arthritis may lead to other major diseases including heart failure. A combination of medicines, diet control and exercise are the right to way to gain a positive result in the treatment of RA. Proper body weight should be maintained to avoid pain and inflammation in the joints. Medicines and arthritis-friendly foods will help to reduce inflammation and joint pain. Regular exercises will strengthen the muscles that support joints and also help to reduce the body fatigue.

What Do You Know about Rheumatoid Arthritis? State whether the following statements are true or false.

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