Following a plant-based diet may help prevent the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
08/03/2020 // Virgilio Marin // Views

A review published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition found that a plant-based diet can reduce or prevent the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis – an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation in the joints, which causes painful swelling and stiffness.

This finding can help patients manage the often debilitating effects of the disease, according to researchers from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

"This study offers hope that with a simple menu change, joint pain, swelling, and other painful symptoms may improve or even disappear," added Dr. Hana Kahleova, one of the authors of study.

Plant-based diet can improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect not just the joints – the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood vessels and other body parts can also be damaged. As a chronic disease, it can persist for a long period of time and is often difficult to cure. People often live with rheumatoid arthritis. But with the help of medical practitioners and the right lifestyle, the disease can go into remission.

In the present study, the researchers reviewed clinical and observational studies on the associations between rheumatoid arthritis and different diets. Furthermore, they examined how a plant-based diet can help patients with the disease.

They found that plant-based diets can lower inflammation and improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

The team cited a 2015 study that found reduced inflammation in overweight participants who were randomized to a plant-based diet for two months. They had lower inflammatory scores compared to those eating diets higher in fat and meat.


Other studies also linked a diet rich in fats and processed meat to inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein, or CRP. In contrast, experts linked plant-based, high-fiber diets with lower CRP levels.

On the other hand, a randomized clinical trial showed that plant-based diets can help improve joint swelling, joint tenderness, degree of pain and morning stiffness – symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. People with moderate to severe cases of the disease were put on a low-fat vegan diet; after four weeks, they exhibited significant improvements from their condition.

The authors of the review explained that plant-based diets are low in fat and high in fiber, which can reduce inflammation and decrease pain and swelling.

Other factors in rheumatoid arthritis

Certain factors can also potentially play a role in rheumatoid arthritis. The review explored two of these in obesity and the lack of gut bacteria diversity.

According to studies, excess body weight raises the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis while lowering the chances that people with the disease will enter remission. One study found that patients who lost more than 5 kg of body weight are three times more likely to improve from the disease than those who lost less than 5 kg.

Research also showed that the gut microbiome may be a factor in rheumatoid arthritis and inflammation. Patients with the disease often lack bacterial diversity, said the authors of the review.

In addition, Harvard Medical School professor Allen Steere explained, “With narrowed commensal diversity, certain organisms are able to expand, attach to and invade the gut mucosa, where they promote an exaggerated immune response, activating systemic inflammation in a way that contributes to joint disease." Steere is not part of the review.

With plant-based diets, however, obesity and gut bacteria diversity can be improved. Many studies have vouched for the effectiveness of plant-based diets in losing weight. Meanwhile, high-fiber diet derived from eating vegetables and fruits can alter the composition of gut bacteria and increase bacterial diversity. (Related: Curcumin alleviates symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.)

Although more research is needed, the findings of the review strengthen the importance of eating diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes among people with autoimmune diseases. Making the necessary lifestyle changes as a whole should thus be a top priority.

Learn more about natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis at

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