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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Diet

by Corinne

Corinne's question...

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and the drugs I have to take really knock down my immune system. Working in a school, I get sick ALL the time. Is there any food or supplement that I should be taking that will up my immune system? I am so sick of being sick!!!!

Thanks Suzy!!

Suzy's answer...

Wow, Corinne! This is a great question and one that really has two parts. First, the issue of the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) itself and second, the effect of the immuno-suppressant drugs you are taking to help alleviate the symptoms of the disease.

You probably already know that RA is an inflammatory disease in which the body essentially attacks itself. In order to treat this problem, drugs that suppress the immune system are given, in hopes that the body will sort of "back off!"

The problem, as you have discovered, is that when your immune system is damped down to lessen your RA symptoms, it also may be less effective in protecting you from all the sickness you are exposed to in your job working at a school.

You asked about what supplements you can take to help this situation, and I have to first say that you should consult with your doctor or pharmacist before adding anything to your regimen, since they know about the drugs you are taking and possible interactions.

Having said that, supplements that may be of some help to you are Fish Oil, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin D3.

It has recently been discovered that your body converts the DHA in fish oil to a substance that helps reduce inflammation without suppressing your immune system. This may be very helpful to those who suffer with inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Vitamins A and C are anti-oxidants and may help prevent some of the damage to joints that causes pain for those suffering with RA.

Vitamin D has gotten a lot of hype lately due to its positive effect on immune function and its anti-inflammatory properties. Health experts can't seem to agree on the dosage, though, so you may want to get a blood test to see what your levels are before trying to guess how much to take.

Keep in mind that Vitamin D can be toxic in large doses. You can also get Vitamin D by spending 20 minutes in the sun without sunscreen each day, but this is also controversial due to the risk of skin cancer.

It is also possible that your immune system is being compromised due to nutrient deficiencies in your diet. For best results, particularly if you suffer from a disease like RA, eat an anti-inflammatory diet, consisting of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat
dairy, legumes and healthy fats.

Here are some specific suggestions that may help you:

*Check with your doctor or pharmacist about adding some fish oil and Vitamins A, C, and D3 to your daily regimen.

*Eat a balanced diet with selections of healthy carbs, fats and proteins at each meal.

*Eat fresh, whole foods with an emphasis on colorful fruits and vegetables, such as winter squash, leafy greens, sweet potatoes and blueberries.

*Eat less protein, particularly animal protein, and substitute with vegetable sources such as beans. Those with autoimmune disease seem to do better on a low-protein diet. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, only about 400-600 of them should be from protein, especially from animal sources.

*Limit or avoid processed foods that are loaded with additives which may aggravate your RA. When you buy packaged foods, read the label and put it back on the shelf if the ingredient list is mostly additives and not real food!

*Maintain a healthy weight. This will lessen the inflammation in your body as well as ease your joints.

*Try drinking white or green tea for its antioxidant properties.

*Drink lots of purified water throughout the day to help cleanse your system and to facilitate all of the healthy processes in your body.

*Cut down on sugary foods, including soft drinks and other sweets with added sugar.

*Avoid products made with high fructose corn syrup, which may stress your liver and also make it harder to maintain a normal weight.

*Eat less saturated fat from meat and dairy products and concentrate on Omega-3 foods such as salmon, sardines, flax seed and walnuts.

*Skip the margarine and other trans fats in fried foods and foods with hydrogenated oils.

*Add some avocado to your diet, a rich source of healthy, monounsaturated fat.

*Cook with extra-virgin olive oil instead of other vegetable oils.

*Consider getting tested for gluten sensitivity or simply limit processed foods made with wheat, which may aggravate your Rheumatoid Arthritis.

*Add fiber to your diet with a goal of 35-40 grams a day.

*Limit or avoid the use of insecticides, and buy organic foods grown without pesticides, when possible, since these chemicals may exacerbate your RA.

I hope these suggestions help, Corinne. Even making just some of these changes, should help you feel better and stay healthier.

You can find more information about specific topics such as fiber, sources of vegetable protein, flax seed, grains, beans, food supply and healthy fats by choosing those topics from the button list at the top of this page, or by using the "Search" box on the banner of this page.

Best wishes and I hope you will keep me posted on how you are doing!

Eat and be healthy with my warmest regards,

Suzy Staywell

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