Hippocrates is often credited with saying “Let thy food be medicine,” and modern research has shown that nutrition can, in fact, play an important role in managing symptoms of many diseases. When it comes to rheumatic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, psoriatic arthritis, and polymyalgia rheumatica, there are several benefits to be gained from incorporating certain types of food into your diet.

So, what is the role of diet and nutrition in managing rheumatic diseases? The information below lays out some of the ways in which what you eat can help reduce your symptoms and increase your overall health.

Controlling Inflammation

One of the hallmarks of many rheumatic diseases is chronic inflammation. Inflammation can affect your muscles, joints, and organs, causing stiffness and pain and impacting your mobility. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet can help reduce overall inflammation levels. Consider adding foods like: 

  • Salmon and walnuts, which are both high in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Berries (especially blueberries and strawberries) and leafy greens like kale and spinach, which are high in antioxidants
  • Turmeric and ginger, which are known to have anti-inflammatory properties

On the other hand, try to avoid inflammatory foods. Generally speaking, highly processed foods (e.g., deli meat, white bread), fried foods, and sugar can all increase overall inflammation.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health, but it becomes especially important when dealing with rheumatic diseases. Excess weight increases stress on joints and further impacts mobility, which can exacerbate rheumatic symptoms.

Rather than thinking of specific foods as “good” or “bad,” it might help to think about a balanced diet. Focusing on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats is ideal for managing your weight. Many nutritionists espouse a Mediterranean diet that naturally incorporates anti-inflammatory foods and avoids excess sugar.

Increasing Bone Health

Patients with rheumatic diseases often also have an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures brought on by chronic inflammation and the use of corticosteroid medications. By adding foods rich in calcium and vitamin D into your diet, you can help strengthen your bones, improve bone health, and help maintain bone density. Include foods like: 

  • Dairy products like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Fatty fish like salmon and sardines
  • Egg yolks (high in vitamin D)
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds
  • Beans and lentils

Fortunately, many of these same foods are also anti-inflammatory and included in a healthy diet, which makes it easier to reap multiple benefits from one food source.

Advanced Rheumatology of Houston Can Help You Manage Your Rheumatic Disease

While there is currently no cure for rheumatic diseases, nutrition is one tool you can use to help manage the severity of your symptoms and improve the quality of your life. Another important tool is working with an experienced and dedicated rheumatologist who can develop a personalized treatment plan that is right for your specific needs. Call Advanced Rheumatology of Houston today at (281) 766-7886 to schedule an appointment to get started on the road to a more comfortable life.