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Diet and rheumatoid arthritis

No specific diet will cure rheumatoid arthritis, although there’s some scientific evidence that certain diets may help the symptoms in some people. The diets most likely to help have:

  • low in saturated fats
  • high in unsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish
  • a good supply of vitamin C.

In the UK, dietary guidelines recommend two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish (for example, mackerel, pilchards, salmon). But you can top up your omega-3 levels with fish body oil (not fish liver oil) supplements.

There’s some evidence that a very strict vegetarian diet can help, though the reasons for this aren't clear. People who eat a lot of red meat may have a slightly increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Speak to your doctor or a dietitian before starting any strict diet as the disadvantages may outweigh the advantages.

Occasionally some people find that a specific type of food upsets them, but this is quite unusual. If you think you may have an intolerance to a particular food try removing it from your diet for about 3–4 weeks and then reintroducing it. If you do have an intolerance you will notice a flare-up in your arthritis within a few days.

We recommend keeping to a healthy weight because it’ll help reduce the strain on your joints.


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