Blueberries were among the foods that help fight rheumatoid arthritis in a recent study.

A new review of scientific studies found olive oil, blueberries, ginger, canary seed and green tea are some of the dietary elements that can help alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The authors determined the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) was one of the eating plans that are beneficial for this condition.

Supporting disease management through food and diet does not pose any harmful side effects and is relatively cheap and easy.- Bhawna Gupta, KIIT University, India

“Regular consumption of specific dietary fibers, vegetables, fruits and spices, as well as the elimination of components that cause inflammation and damage, can help patients to manage the effects of rheumatoid arthritis,” says coauthor Bhawna Gupta from the Disease Biology Lab, School of Biotechnology, KIIT University, India. “Incorporating probiotics into the diet can also reduce the progression and symptoms of this disease.”

“Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis should switch from omnivorous diets, drinking alcohol and smoking to Mediterranean, vegan, elemental or elimination diets, as advised by their doctor or dietician,” she continues.
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The pain, joint stiffness and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis seriously impair quality of life. Complications of the disease involve harmful effects to other organs of the body, which can reduce life expectancy. Early detection is difficult, and when undiagnosed, the condition worsens rapidly during the first few years after onset. First-line treatment is medications, but they are costly.

In the review, published in Frontiers in Medicine, researchers undertook a comprehensive evaluation of studies that investigated the effects of diets and foods on rheumatoid arthritis. They only reported dietary elements that revealed a long-term proven benefit. Because studies increasingly show a link between an altered microbial community in the gut and the disease, the authors advised rheumatologists to suggest diet therapy to patients who suffer from it.

“Supporting disease management through food and diet does not pose any harmful side effects and is relatively cheap and easy,” said Gupta. “Doctors, physicians and dieticians can use our study to summarize current proven knowledge on the links between certain foods and rheumatoid arthritis. Knowing the nutritional and medicinal requirements of their patients they can then tailor this information for the betterment of their health.”

Most of the foods identified as effective agents for alleviating symptoms and slowing the advancement of the disease are part of the MedDiet. These include fruits, such as pomegranates, blueberries, grapefruits and dried plums, along with whole grains, such as oats, millet, barley, whole wheat and canary seed. Fish oil and olive oil, as well as green tea and the spices of ginger and turmeric were also found valuable. In addition, probiotics, which are foods that contain live microorganisms like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, were ascertained to be helpful.

The researchers hope the results of the review can be used to develop a type of treatment for the disease that doesn’t involve adverse reactions such as those associated with medications.

“Pharmaceutical companies may use this information to formulate ‘nutraceuticals’. Nutraceuticals have an advantage over chemically-tailored medicines as they are not associated with any side effects, originate from natural sources and are cheaper,” said Gupta.

In an interview with Olive Oil Times, biochemist Barry Sears, author of the Zone Diet book series and president of the Inflammation Research Foundation gives his dietary formula for fighting the disease. His recommendations are in total agreement with the review’s findings.

“Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation caused by an over-production of inflammatory proteins known as cytokines,” he said. “The following are the three clinically proven way to reduce cytokines: Increase intake of omega-3 fatty found in fish and fish oils, increase intake of polyphenols — the chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their color, and high intake of vegetables that provide fermentable fiber to reduce inflammation in the gut. These are components found in the MedDiet.”

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