How a Vegan Diet Reduces Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

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Salads are an important component of vegan diets. Studio Yagi/Getty Images
  • Researchers say a vegan diet can help reduce pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
  • They say the plant-based diet can do this by reducing inflammation and swelling.
  • Experts say you can slowly adapt to a vegan diet by taking initial steps like eliminating processed and/or red meat from your meals.

Switching to a vegan diet can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis by 53%.

It’s according to a new study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

The study included 44 adults with rheumatoid arthritis. Participants were put on a vegan diet for 4 weeks. Foods known to cause inflammation were then eliminated for 3 weeks.

In one group, eliminated foods were reintroduced over the course of 9 weeks. In the other group, a supplementation phase began.

The researchers suggest that the reduction in swelling and inflammation recorded in the participants shows that dietary changes were associated with symptomatic improvements, including reduced swelling and improved pain.

Lon Ben AsherMS, RD, LD/N, a nutritionist at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida, said symptoms associated with arthritis can “absolutely” be managed and improved by changing eating habits.

“Vegan diets or strict vegetarian diets may provide significant benefit due to their anti-inflammatory properties,” he told Healthline.

Ben-Asher noted that he witnessed this phenomenon many times at his center.

“Arthritis is an inflammatory disease and as soon as you eliminate excessive sources of sodium, especially in packaged and highly processed foods, high intakes of saturated fats and trans fats found in red meats and whole dairy products, and the concentrated sweeteners found in sugary drinks and sugary desserts, within days many of our customers experience significant symptom relief,” he said.

Kristin KirkpatrickMS, RDN, nutritionist and author of “Skinny Liver,” explained that rheumatoid arthritis varies in severity from person to person, so dietary changes that work for one person may not be as good enough for another. other.

“Dietary interventions can be beneficial, but probably cannot manage symptoms alone without alternative traditional medical treatment,” she told Healthline. “However, there are foods that can make symptoms worse, and removing them may be helpful for those affected by [rheumatoid arthritis].”

“Introducing foods that strengthen the gut microbiota and reducing inflammatory foods, such as sugar and/or gluten, has been beneficial for some patients I have seen with [rheumatoid arthritis],” she added.

Sharon PalmMSFS, RDN, creator of “The Plant-Powered Dietitian” website, explains that a plant-based diet is filled with whole plant foods that have a higher level of antioxidant compounds, such as phytochemicals and vitamins. .

“These are linked to reducing inflammation, which is the root cause of arthritis,” she told Healthline.

Experts say that if you have rheumatoid arthritis, eliminating red and processed meat is a good first step.

“Diets high in red and processed meat, processed foods, refined carbohydrates and saturated fats promote inflammation,” Kirkpatrick said.

She notes that a low-fat, high-fiber diet is a key ingredient in reducing inflammation and controlling pain and swelling caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

“Since inflammation is the primary culprit for pain and swelling in RA patients, foods that trigger inflammation in the body should be eliminated first,” she said. .

Kirkpatrick’s list of foods to eliminate includes:

  • red/red processed meat
  • processed foods
  • foods containing a lot of additives such as hyper appetizing foods (fried foods, ready meals)
  • alcohol (beer, wine, spirits)
  • sugary foods and drinks
  • gluten-containing carbohydrates for people diagnosed with non-celiac gluten intolerance

Ben-Asher adds that all high-salt foods such as crackers, chips, and cereal should also be eliminated.

You don’t need to give up all animal products just yet.

Kirkpatrick recommends starting with Michael PollanThe definition of food as something that comes from nature, is fed from nature, and will eventually rot.

“If it doesn’t fall within the lines of this definition, it is not a real food and is not intended to be consumed by the body. Living by this definition at least 80 percent of the time in the store and at home will really help patients realize what’s best for their bodies and inspire them to follow an all-plant-based diet, while helping them to feel better and relieve RA symptoms,” Kirkpatrick said.

Experts advise people to go slow, make plants the star, and keep it simple.

Start slow with a Meatless Monday or Meatless Meal, then build from there, they suggest.

“Try with foods you know well. For example, if you have a lasagna recipe that you love, turn it into a plant-based version,” Palmer said.

And it doesn’t have to be complicated.

“Just make simple swaps, like black bean tacos instead of meat tacos, lentil spaghetti instead of meat spaghetti, tofu stir-fry instead of chicken stir-fry,” she said. declared.

Another strategy is to make vegetables the star of the dish by filling your plate with 50% vegetables and making the animal protein source the supporting cast that only covers 25% of the plate, Ben-Asher says.