Rheumatism nutrition • Food table & tips

Painful joints, stiff movements: To date, there is no cure for inflammatory joint diseases. In addition to medical therapy, however, nutrition can have a positive effect on the course of rheumatism. Which foods are anti-inflammatory and which are better to avoid?

About two percent of adults in Germany have an inflammatory rheumatic disease. The most common form is rheumatoid arthritis, which is usually what is meant when talking about rheumatism. Mediterranean diet, vegan diet or fasting – how can diet help alleviate symptoms?

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The right diet for rheumatism

What role does diet play in rheumatism?

Proper nutrition alone cannot replace drug or surgical treatment for rheumatism. However, it is an important component in therapy and can, for example, alleviate inflammation.

A healthy diet for rheumatism is characterized by a balanced diet. Are important:

  • a lot of fruits and vegetables
  • plenty of whole grains
  • little meat
  • little alcohol and nicotine
  • many health-promoting fats
  • a sparing use of sugar and salt

Those affected should also avoid being overweight, since additional weight promotes signs of wear and tear in the joints. In addition, the body needs sufficient nutrients, vitamins, trace elements and antioxidants. Above all, the supply of the bone mineral calcium is important because people with inflammatory rheumatic diseases have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis with bone loss in the course of their disease.

In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, animal products should not be consumed more than twice a week. Meat and sausage products contain arachidonic acid, from which pro-inflammatory messenger substances are formed. A Mediterranean or low-meat diet therefore has a positive effect. However, the options for fundamentally influencing or preventing rheumatic diseases with nutrition are limited.

Special case: diet for gout

An exception is gouty arthritis, which is a metabolic disease. The body produces too much uric acid or excretes too little through the kidneys, so that the concentration in the blood is too high. Affected people should avoid meat and sausages completely, as they contain purines, which the body converts into uric acid. Diet has a major impact on the course of the disease.

Anti-inflammatory diet in rheumatism

Those affected with inflammatory rheumatism can benefit above all from fish and vegetable oils. These are rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which belongs to the class of omega-3 fatty acids and is considered to be the antagonist of the pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid. According to studies, a diet rich in eicosapentaenoic acid can lead to a significant improvement in symptoms.

Foods that can reduce inflammation include:

  • Fatty fish such as herring, mackerel, tuna or salmon provide a lot of eicosapentaenoic acid.

  • Walnut, canola, wheat germ, soybean and flaxseed oils are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. The oils can be used for salads, for example.

  • Safflower or canola oil, as they are high in linoleic acid, which inhibits inflammation. These oils are suitable for frying instead of butter or lard.

  • Spices like ginger, curry, cumin, and garlic are rich in antioxidants that reduce the activity of inflammatory flare-ups.

  • Nuts contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids and have a good fatty acid ratio. Therefore, they are suitable as a snack in between.

In some cases, taking fish oil capsules can also make sense, but this should only be done after consulting a doctor.

Forbidden foods in rheumatism: These should be avoided

Meat, sausage, eggs and animal fats provide a lot of arachidonic acid. Therefore, people with rheumatism are recommended to consume these products as little as possible.

The amount of arachidonic acid in some foods:

Food (per 100 g) Arachidonic Acid (mg)
lard 1.700
egg yolk 297
Liverwurst 230
chicken meat 120
egg (total) 70
Halibut 57
hake 29
Camembert (60 % Fett i. Tr.). 34
Cow’s milk (3.5% fat) 4
quark lean 0
peanut oil 0

With the fat content of a food, the proportion of the inflammatory substance arachidonic acid usually increases, which is why rheumatism patients should prefer low-fat milk and cheese.

In addition, people with rheumatism are recommended to eat as little sugar as possible. In addition to sweets, care should also be taken to limit the consumption of products with hidden sugars. Ketchup, ready meals and muesli bars, for example, contain a lot of sugar.

Advantages and disadvantages of fasting in rheumatism

Especially in naturopathy, fasting cures are often recommended for the treatment of rheumatic diseases. There are different types of fasting, mostly a zero diet of three to seven days. During this time, no solid foods or high-calorie drinks should be consumed. In fact, various studies have shown that short periods of fasting have an anti-inflammatory effect. The pain of those affected reduced somewhat. However, these positive effects usually did not last long.

There are no meaningful research results for longer periods of fasting over ten days. Going without food for a long time can also lead to an increased breakdown of protein. This is to be avoided in the case of rheumatism, as the joint inflammation itself leads to an increased breakdown of protein and the proteins are important for muscles and bones.

Fasting cures and diets should therefore only be carried out under medical supervision. Also, medication should not simply be discontinued during the fast. Fasting is generally discouraged for underweight people.

Vegan or vegetarian diet for rheumatism

The arachidonic acid found in meat and dairy products is known to be pro-inflammatory. Therefore, a vegetarian diet without meat or a vegan diet that completely avoids animal foods can have a positive effect on people with rheumatism. However, the German Rheumatism League points out that there are no scientific studies to date that show a long-term advantage of this diet.

Those who opt for a vegan diet should also ensure that they take in enough critical nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and take vitamin B12 through dietary supplements.

Nutrition for rheumatism: are dietary supplements useful?

Studies have shown that patients with rheumatism have different nutritional needs than healthy people. Due to chronic inflammation, their energy requirements increase by around 20 percent. In addition, oxygen radicals are increasingly formed as a result of the inflammatory processes. In order to avoid damage to joints, sufficient antioxidants that can neutralize oxygen radicals are important.

For rheumatism patients, therefore, an adequate supply of

Those affected must also make sure they get enough calcium to prevent osteoporosis. In addition, many rheumatism patients have an iron deficiency or an iron utilization disorder. In this case, iron supplements may have to be taken.

However, the use of dietary supplements should always be discussed with a doctor. Because excessive doses of vitamins and trace elements are sometimes also harmful. In addition, preparations can have side effects or trigger allergic reactions.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods: The 15 Best For Your Diet

Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by www.lifeline.de.

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