Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a common condition over 20 million people suffer from worldwide, with over 1 million new cases of RA diagnosed in just one year. RA is an autoimmune disorder characterized by inflammation and swelling, which causes the pain the person experiences. RA pain can be anywhere in the body, but it is most common in women and those older and can be located anywhere in the body, but it mainly focuses on the joints. Recently, studies have suggested a new method to relieve RA pain, a whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet. 

Even though genetics is a huge cause of RA, other factors, such as your diet, can influence how much pain you experience. Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between improvement in RA symptoms and a WFPB diet. Animal products like red meat and dairy cause inflammation in the body, which worsens RA symptoms. WFPB diets consist mainly of foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains that reduce inflammation.

Excess body fat is also a cause of RA because fat releases chemicals that cause inflammation, and the extra weight on your joints worsens it. Those on a WFPB diet tend to see weight loss due to reducing high amounts of saturated fat, sodium, and sugar from their diet. With the increase of fruits and vegetables also comes an increase in fiber. Studies show that a high fiber diet creates more diversity in bacteria in the gut. Our gut health may play a huge role in our inflammation response as well. Many bacteria in the gut are what many RA patients lack, which could explain the onset of their autoimmune disorder.

A study where patients consumed a low-fat vegan diet for four weeks was conducted and showed incredible improvement in their joint pain, stiffness, and overall function by the end of the study. Another study where the patients performed a 7-10 day fast, followed by a gluten-free, vegan diet for three and a half months, eventually transitioning into a vegetarian diet for the rest of the year-long study. A month after the study, the patients reported that their RA symptoms had vastly improved. They had less tender and swollen joints, a lower pain score, better grip strength, and a lower C-reactive protein level (an indicator of inflammation). 

A diagnosis of RA doesn’t need to mean the end of doing your favorite activities or living without pain. There are promising studies that show that a WFPD can be key in lessening symptoms, and even sending RA into remission. There is no need to jump straight into a WFPB diet, either. Small steps can be taken to lessen the amount of animal products you ingest, and increase the amount of whole foods you eat. Instead of grabbing those chips, reach for those crunchy carrot sticks. Instead of cow’s milk in your morning cereal, try out some soy milk. It is possible to take your health back and have a high quality of life. Try out a WFPB diet for yourself and see the difference it can make. 

Article written by Kristin Mattia


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