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According to the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network, RA, as it is often called, is the third most common type of arthritis in the world today.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than a million Americans and up to one percent of people around the world. It is painful, sometimes crippling and still all too mysterious in its underlying triggers.
But researchers are slowly making progress to better understand how diet can help sufferers manage symptoms, especially the chronic pain and inflammation that characterizes RA flare-ups.
In this article, learn about foods that have been linked to reductions in pain, inflammation and discomfort associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
If you have started seeing turmeric popping up everywhere as a supplement to foods ranging from orange juice to curry paste, this is not an accident.
Turmeric is not just extremely flavorful and tasty. It also packs a powerful punch on the anti-inflammatory front.
The main active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin. According to the Arthritis Foundation, curcumin is able to block inflammation-causing enzymes that are linked to RA flare-ups.
If you like to cook, you can add fresh turmeric root or turmeric spices to your food or even to your coffee or tea. Curcumin can also be easily taken on its own as a supplement but should always be combined with black pepper to aid in delivery.
For best results, some researchers believe turmeric/curcumin should be taken regularly as a preventative aid, which can maximize its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Sweet potatoes are important on multiple levels in managing the symptoms and progression of rheumatoid arthritis.
The Arthritis Foundation blog cites sweet potatoes as an important anti-inflammatory root vegetable that can boost the body's own natural levels of beta-carotene, aiding in spinal health.
Sweet potatoes are also jam-packed with Vitamin C and A to fight off inflammation. Best of all, they are filling, tasty and satisfying. Sweet potatoes can be baked, mashed and prepared in all of the same ways as traditional potatoes - and if you have never tried sweet potato fries you are in for a treat!
Who doesn't love a big bowl of fresh berries - blueberries, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries contain the active ingredient anthocyanin, which the Arthritis Foundation cites as a beneficial agent for warding off inflammation.
Cherries, in particular, are often recommended for joint and tissue swelling. But all dark-colored berries contain carotenoids that help fight inflammation and can also have an analgesic (pain-fighting) affect.
Berries make for fantastic smoothies and also add flavor and color to cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, chia pudding, and other healthful, restorative foods. Of course, they taste equally great when eaten alone too!
Nuts like walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, almonds, and similar others are great at fighting inflammation due to their high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids.
These essential fatty acids have shown great promise in a number of clinical research trials to ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions.
Nuts also contain plenty of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), magnesium, vitamin E, zinc and calcium to promote joint and bone health.
Nuts make great additions in salads, as a garnish in pasta (pine nuts in particular), as an on-the-go easy snack and in nut-based alternative milk and cheeses.
There is a lot of truth to the saying that nature can be the best medicine.
Citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines, limes, and lemons are packed full of vitamin C and also have a number of protective anti-oxidant, anti-septic, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties to keep you feeling healthier.
Vitamin C has been shown to be an important component in repairing damaged tissues because it can help to synthesize collagen, a necessary protein building block for repairing the body's major systems (blood vessels, skin, ligaments, muscles, bones).
It is easy to add citrus to your diet, whether you add fresh orange juice into your morning smoothie (throw in some dark berries while you are at it) or spritz lemon in your water bottle.
But take care before adding grapefruit as a form of citrus since grapefruit is known to interact with certain medications. Always talk with your doctor first.
Extra virgin olive oil (organic is best) contains a potent natural compound called oleocanthal, a type of phenolic that researchers say functions similarly in the body to NSAID medications. In this way, extra virgin olive oil may provide both analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory benefits to the body.
NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can have their own uncomfortable side effects, which makes olive oil a particularly important addition to your diet if you are living with rheumatoid arthritis.
Olive oil is also packed with essential fatty acids and is considered a heart-healthy oil to use in place of butter or other dairy fats. This can be an additional benefit for RA sufferers, who can be more prone to developing heart disease.
It is easy to add olive oil to salads, soups, vegetables or even popcorn. Olive oil can also be added into smoothies or cereals, mashed potatoes, pasta, and other tasty dishes.
Ginger, like turmeric, is already a popular accent and addition to a variety of dishes, especially in Asian recipes.
When pickled, ginger can also deliver gut-health and digestive benefits. And fresh ginger is equally delicious in teas, salad dressings, smoothies, stir fry, and other dishes.
But the most important benefit of ginger for RA sufferers is its analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory impact.
As a side note, always talk with your doctor before boosting your intake of ginger, since it is known to interact with certain medications, especially those used as blood thinners and blood sugar stabilizers.
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