Rheumatoid Arthritis and Nutrition

If you’ve been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, you’ve probably thought about how you might change your diet to help manage your disease.

You’ve likely heard about the benefits of eating anti-inflammatory foods. Perhaps you’ve considered eliminating certain foods to see if it helps ease some RA symptoms, you and your doctor have discussed the importance of losing some weight, or you have started adding supplements to your routine.

Figuring out what to eat — and what not to eat — with an inflammatory condition like rheumatoid arthritis can be admittedly tricky. Scientific research is often limited and conflicting. While there is evidence that food and dietary supplements may help manage symptoms, changes to your diet should be thought of as complementary to the treatment plan you and your rheumatologist have determined is right for you.

A person wearing an apron, preparing cherry tomatoes for cooking.A healthy salad with boiled eggs, radishes, and tomatoes, on a plate.

What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

While there’s no specific best diet recommended for people with rheumatoid arthritis, research has linked eating the diet typical of the Mediterranean region of the world with decreased inflammation in patients with RA. This type of anti-inflammatory diet focuses on whole, plant-based foods that are rich in healthy fats and nutrients. This diet emphasizes whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, olive oil, as well as fruits and vegetables. 

These anti-inflammatory foods may also help keep blood sugar stable and may even help you lose weight. By losing weight, you can decrease the amount of pressure on your joints and further decrease inflammation, improve your responsiveness to certain medicines, and help lower your chances of having other health problems.

Garlic, potatoes, and herbs ready to be prepared for cooking

Understanding Your Individual Triggers

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” diet when it comes to what foods NOT to eat when you have rheumatoid arthritis. Certain people are sensitive to foods, including dairy, gluten, sugar, or processed meats. You can try eliminating or reducing the amount of these foods in your diet to determine if they trigger symptoms for you. The best way to do this is to work with a dietitian who can help you identify triggers while still eating nutritious, well-rounded meals.

In general, food high in sugar or high trans-fats are problematic for inflammation. The biggest culprits include sugary drinks such as soda, desserts, fried foods, fast food, and too much cheese or creamy sauces.

A person drinking a glass of water. They have light skin and brown hair and are looking peacefully out a window.

Why Weight Loss Is Important

Being overweight is common in rheumatoid arthritis. It can be hard to manage your weight when it is painful to exercise. Arthritis pain may also affect your food choices. With the many hurdles rheumatoid arthritis can cause, weight loss may feel unattainable for some patients.  However, there are many benefits to developing healthy eating and exercise habits in RA that make it worth the effort. 

1. Inflammation

Fat tissue releases proteins called cytokines, which cause inflammation in the body.

2. Arthritis disease activity

Several studies show weight loss in obese patients with rheumatoid arthritis may lead to improved disease activity or progression.

3. Medication effectiveness

Some medications are less effective among patients that are overweight

Considering Nutritional Supplements

Some people with arthritis report benefitting from complementary medicine in conjunction with the standard treatment approaches prescribed by their physician. Always consult with your health care professional. Some herbs, supplements, vitamins, or minerals can interact with medicines or cause side effects, so it is best to discuss any supplements you are considering with your physician before starting them.

Below are a few nutritional supplements that have been advocated for use in rheumatoid arthritis to consider discussing with your rheumatologist. Many products are available, and it is difficult to know which ones to choose. Quality of supplements is important, and you can find links to purchase the products that we stand by below.

Fish oil (Omega-3)

Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked in multiple studies to improvements in joint pain and swelling in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Omega-3 supplementation may be an excellent addition to the medication regimen prescribed by your rheumatologist. While omega-3 fatty acids can be found in diets rich in fish, they are also available in supplement form.


Extracted from pineapple enzymes, Bromelain has been the subject of multiple research studies that have identified both anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. Our recommendation: Pure Encapsulation Bromelain


This is a flavonoid, or plant chemical, found in foods and drinks like apples and tea. It’s thought to help with inflammation. Our recommendation: Quercetin

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb bone-building calcium, which is important for people with RA who are at a greater risk of osteoporosis. The “sunshine vitamin” has also been found to improve response rates in those on antirheumatic treatments. Low Vitamin D levels in people with RA, on the other hand, have been linked to increased chronic pain and lower quality of life scores. Our recommendation: Theralogix Thera-D

Flaxseed oil

Herbal supplement taken in capsule form. It’s rich in alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid that builds healthy cells. It’s used to ease joint inflammation.

Turmeric containing the active ingredient curcumin

This centuries-old spice often used in curries is touted for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The potential health benefits stem from curcumin — turmeric’s most active compound. Our recommendations: Meriva SF from Thorne and https://www.justpotent.com/just-potent-turmeric-curcumin 

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More RA and Nutrition Sources

Here are some additional articles and videos to help you eat well and get proper nutrition with RA.

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