Rheumatoid Arthritis and Diet

We know neither the actual cause of arthritis & rheumatism nor a side-effect-free therapy. Affected persons are sedated with dubious painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and even chemotherapy.

When confronted with an incurable health condition, we find it useful to return to the notion that our body can heal itself, if given the proper conditions. As Hildegard believed, diet is where all good health begins. Together with a number of naturopathic measures, dietary changes can help restore the body to a state in which the symptoms are greatly reduced – and perhaps even alter the underlying conditions leading to the immune response.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet – is Arthritis Curable?

Hildegard of Bingen saw the glaring relationship between rheumatoid arthritis and diet.  To her, the root causes of rheumatism rested in immoderate eating habits, bad diet, and imbalance of the order of life. In particular, she saw impatience, anger, and fear as outward manifestations of this imbalance. Only a drastic change of the overall lifestyle will allow for a recovery of the balance necessary to restore health.

arthritis fasting

Bad eating habits can cause serious diseases

Like many of her prescribed healing treatments, a cleansing process is recommended as a first step („qui bene purge, bene curat“). A fasting regimen can reduce stress and induce a restful state that can lead to reduction of inflammation. Within a few days, many arthritis sufferers find relief from the excruciating pain, such that the conventional drugs can be discontinued during fasting.

The Immediate Benefit of Fasting

We’re seeing more research on the benefits of fasting for aging. Diets that mimic fasting appear to slow the aging process.  Unfortunately, when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis and diet, usually after fasting is finished, the pain returns. So while fasting helps, it seems to help only as long as you are fasting. Of course one cannot live without food, so it is not a long-term solution, but rather, one step toward better health.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet

Vegetables a the basis of a healthy diet

The healing benefits of fasting do not merely come from the absence of food but from ceasing eating foods that are harmful to you. The diet after fasting should be concentrated on beneficial and healthy foods that have not been associated with any allergic or other disruptive responses. This course may keep the pain level manageable and allow the body a period of recovery that it may not have had in a long time.

Is Arthritis Curable with a Diet?

Which foods are beneficial and healthy to tackle arthritis and which foods should be avoided with arthritis? Conventional nutritionists provide a plausible answer to this question. It is called the anti-inflammatory diet or arthritis diet.

This arthritis diet can have a positive influence on pain and alleviate the symptoms, yet there is no one-size, specific arthritis or rheumatoid diet. Nutritionists still struggle to develop a specialized diet that can produce reliable outcomes and the medical community continues to debate the merits of most of the claims beyond the value of eating what amounts to plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Start cooking yourself. Foods to avoid with arthritis are processed foods

As Hildegard of Bingen stated, a change in nutrition is only one main factor in recovering; only a holistic approach which tackles the root causes will finally lead to an overall improvement. The recommended diet tips are a step in the right direction, but are not always coherent, nor do they seem to prevent or mitigate the underlying condition entirely.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Therapy (Arthritis Diet)

Rheumatologists rarely “waste” their valuable time to give nutritional advice. But even in this case the yield of helpful tips is not particularly lush and can be summed up in a few words:

“Fatty meats and sausages, butter, egg yolks and fatty cheeses should be avoided or reduced, at least two fish meals per week, consume as many low-fat dairy products and whole-grain products.”

Arthritis diet

Nature offers a variety of healthy and tasty foods, i.e. meat should be avoided with arthritis

That’s it. Despite its modest scope, this advice is the bulk of anti-inflammatory diet therapy. Like most modern medical practitioners, the diet is recommended as a supportive component of a conventional medical intervention.

Avoid Arachidonic Acids

One idea behind the anti-inflammatory diet is particularly interesting: the modern diet contains too much animal and plant-based omega-6 fatty acid, which leads to inflammation (among other things.) The omega-6 fatty acid called arachidonic acid (“AA” or “ARA”), is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid found exclusively in fatty animal foods. AA promotes the body’s production of hormone-like substances, the series-2 prostaglandins. These are directly involved in the development of rheumatic inflammatory reactions.

arthritis healthy nutrition

Modern diet may be the cause of inflammatory reactions

Due to this relationship between AA and the inflammatory response, avoidance of arachidonic acid foods may reduces the severity of arthritis activity. Since it is a fatty acid found in animal flesh, high-fat animal products should be avoided. An exception is fatty sea fish such as herring and mackerel. In fish, the antagonists of arachidonic acid are found, namely the much-vaunted omega-3 fatty acid, which is lauded for its anti-inflammatory (and many other) properties.

Balance Your Fatty Acids with an Arthritis Diet

An interesting area of the critique of the modern diet has to do with the how the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 consumed has become out of balance over the past 50 years. Up until recently (1950’s), when the industrialized food production became widespread, humans consumed a more balanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

With processed and prepared foods becoming a significant portion of total consumption, omega-6 consumption has skyrocketed while omega-3 has declined. This is primarily due to the widespread use of cheap vegetable oils and the consumption of meat.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet 2

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet: i.e. salmon, high in omega-3, can be consumed in small amounts

The omega-6 “AA” from animals and the omega-6 linoleic acid (“LA”) found in high amounts in oils from safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybeans dominate the modern diet while the omega-3 fatty acids like alpha linoleic acid (“ALA”), found in plants like chia, flax, and hemp, as well as the EPA and DHA fatty acids found in fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring are scarce in the modern diet.

There is a growing body of research around the significance of these two groups of fatty acids as they relate to inflammation and a host of other health issues.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Only a Partial Success, But a Success

It is encouraging that minor changes in the diet of many arthritis patients can lead to a significant improvement. Like many diet-initiated changes, the more consistent the guidelines are followed (see list of foods to avoid with arthritis below), the more noticeable the benefits become. Still, the dietary changes seem to be limited to symptomatic improvements without a complete remission of the underlying problem. Nevertheless, a healthy diet has many other benefits to be enjoyed and is the foundation of a holistic approach to wellness.

arthritis galangal

Galangal is used to treat symptoms of arthritis, rheumatism, joint and muscle aches and sprains

Given that arthritis is so complex and the possibility of a single approach to a cure remains remote, a holistic approach is a worthwhile means to relieve symptoms and improve overall wellness at the same time. Holistic arthritis therapy involves acknowledging the importance of total body wellness, so that balance can be restored and a new, robust foundation can be established.

Holistic Approach to Arthritis

The body acquires illness because it is not given a proper foundation; its natural ability to heal is impaired due to poor nutrition, stress, over-reliance on drug intervention, and a lack of proper activity, rest, and sleep.

Foods can heal. Poor nutrition not only deprives your body of what it needs to function but also impacts how your body eliminates waste, toxins, and regulates energy.

To give your body what it needs, a foundation to re-build holistic wellness, consider these tips:

foods to avoid arthritis diet

A holistic approach to arthritis includes various aspects

  1. Detoxify and cleanse with a Hildegard’s guide to fasting and health
  2. Incorporate a long term alkaline based diet, as natural as possible and avoid certain foods with arthritis (see below)
  3. Avoid social drugs (nicotine, alcohol, drugs, caffeine) and reduce nonessential drugs (sleeping pills, cold medicines) as much as possible.
  4. Reduce stress by taking walks, spending time in nature, and exercise (i.e. swimming, walking, Aqua Gym)
  5. Find your personal balance between exercise and rest, incorporate a rhythm of Food-Activity-Rest (FAR)
  6. Make healthy sleep a priority
  7. Develop your spiritual life

Long-term Diet for Arthritis


Food as medicine: a rheumatoid arthritis diet can release symptoms

The diet for arthritis and other inflammatory joint diseases should consist of the following:

  • Vegetables (leafy vegetables, root vegetables, fruit vegetables, legumes)
  • Salads and herbs
  • Green Smoothies
  • Fruits (incl. Avocados), limiting very sweet fruits
  • Nuts, almonds, and seeds (flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, chestnuts, sunflower seeds)
  • Sweets (homemade) of nuts and dried fruit or sugar-free fruit bars
  • Untreated oils that are either rich in omega-3 fatty acid and / or low in omega-6 fatty acids are such as: organic olive oil, organic hemp oil, organic flaxseed oil, and organic coconut oil
  • Plenty of pure non-carbonated spring water (2.5 liters daily), supplemented by basic herbal teas

Galangal has a long tradition as a medicinal plant treating arthritis. Find more information about Galangal and recipes in our post What is Galangal.

As a side dish in small amounts (no more than 20 percent of your daily amount of food):

  • Bread from whole and/or sprouted grains (ancient grains like spelt as well)
  • Millet, quinoa, buckwheat or pasta (e.g. buckwheat noodles)
  • If you are not happy with a vegetarian diet, incorporate some fish such as herring, halibut, eel, sardines or mackerel. Wild caught fish is best, as they contain more omega-3 fatty acids than farmed fish

Foods to Avoid with Arthritis:

Foods to avoid with arthritis

Foods to avoid with arthritis, i.e. diary products such as milk or yogurt

  • Meat should be strictly avoided – at least in the first six months. If you want to later incorporate meat in the diet, then not more than two or three times a week and only organic, grass-fed meat (higher omega-3 fatty acid and a lower omega-6 fatty acids than meat from factory farming or from animals that are fed with cereals and soy)
  • No Dairy products (if you occasionally want to consume dairy products after your recovery, select only products from organic pasture)
  • Bread and pasta made from conventional flours
  • Fats and oils; all animal fats and vegetable oils (in particular, the following omega-6 fatty acids-rich oils: safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil and soybean oil). Exceptions are the above-mentioned omega-3 fatty acid rich oils such as high-quality, cold-pressed olive, flax, hemp, or coconut oil)
  • Ready meals and canned goods of all kinds
  • Sugar and synthetic sweeteners and sweetened products
  • Conventional sweets and milk chocolate
Foods to avoid with arthritis sugar

Foods to avoid with arthritis: sweets, conventional flour

  • Coffee and black tea
  • Soft drinks, carbonated mineral water, processed fruit juices, and alcoholic beverages

Share your knowledge with us!

If you discover an allopathic (alternative) arthritis therapy or dietary regimen that works for you, please share your thoughts with us!

Sign Up For Our Free Fasting eBook

Inspired by Hildegard for detoxification, weight loss & improved metabolism!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.