What Is The Best Diet For Rheumatoid (Backed By Science)


You would think considering how quickly doctors jump to prescribe you an anti-inflammatory that they would be better for you than any kind of natural arthritis remedy or diet for rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

But are they really better?

I have had rheumatoid arthritis since I can remember.

Some days I could not bend my knee in the morning. Other days, trying to do any form of physical activity felt like an impossible task.

After going to countless doctors the only possible “solution” was to take anti-inflammatory medication.

They provided a lot of pain relief and allowed me to do different tasks that I could not do without them.

NSAIDs V Diet For Rheumatoid Arthritis

I have been able to substantially improve and manage my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms via my diet for rheumatoid arthritis treatment, but on certain days when I have very bad flare-ups (which is very rare) I take an NSAID such as ibuprofin, which provides me with great pain relief.

In the past, this allowed me to play basketball (I played collegiately) on days I most likely would not have been able to.

So yes, anti-inflammatories can offer you a measure of arthritis pain relief, but like many medications on the market, anti-only tackle the pain itself and not the cause.

As a result, they can create more problems than they solve. The side effects of ibuprofen, like all NSAIDS, are numerous and potentially very harmful, especially after prolonged usage.

Let us take a look at side effects of ibuprofen, a kind of NSAID

  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • gas or bloating
  • dizziness
  • nervousness
  • ringing in the ears
  • unexplained weight gain
  • fever
  • blisters
  • rash
  • itching
  • hives
  • swelling of the eyes, face, throat, arms, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • hoarseness
  • excessive tiredness
  • pain in the upper right part of the stomach
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • flu-like symptoms
  • pale skin
  • fast heartbeat
  • cloudy, discolored, or bloody urine
  • back pain
  • difficult or painful urination
  • blurred vision, changes in color vision, or other vision problems
  • red or painful eyes
  • stiff neck
  • headache
  • confusion
  • aggression

According to mayoclinic.com, side effects of nsaids, such as ibuprofen, include causing acute liver failure, which can result in death if not treated quickly. Other side effects of Nsaids include affecting the lining of the stomach and causing ulcers, which can cause serious medical complications.

But it also gets worse…

Like many products, over exposure can cause your body to acclimatize, meaning you will need take to take higher dosages in order to experience the same amount of arthritis pain relief.

And the more you take, the more you will put your body at risk of developing stomach, liver and kidney problems as a result of its ingredients.

Why Do Doctors Prescribe NSAIDs As Much As They Do?

If there are so many side effects of NSAIDS, why do doctors prescribe them so much?

Well that is a great question, and one that bothers me quite a bit. In a world revolving around instant gratification, pills such as ibuprofen bring immediate relief.

Unlike natural remedies that can take weeks to months to warrant a benefit if any at all, you can feel the pain relief almost instantly with pills.

Mainstream doctors are not educated in the field of natural remedies. They are trained to perform surgery and to prescribe medications based on your side effects.

Mainstream western medicine is based off of “fixing” the symptoms “right now,” and quite honestly, it is what most people want. People want results now.

They don’t want to have to work for something or make a potential sacrifice. Popping a couple pills is easy and convenient.  If you are to use anti-inflammatories, make sure to use them with caution and to try not to become reliant.

So are natural remedies any better than NSAIDs for rheumatoid arthritis treatment?

Well this will depend on the specific remedy and the individual… but the answer, in my opinion, is yes.

The problem with any industry is that you’ll encounter products which claim to treat your ailment but are actually completely ineffective.

This is the same for arthritis.

You’ll soon discover some natural remedies which provide you with no form of natural pain relief.

But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t natural remedies out there which can help to treat your arthritic symptoms.


One example of an effective natural remedy is Provailen:

Formulated from Reishi – a natural fungus which has been found to combat RASF and RSQUO which are responsible for rheumatoid arthritis – Provailen takes the power effects of these fungi and combines it with LongJack-Tongkat-ALI and Capsaicin.

Reishi mushroom supplements boost your macrophage T-cell production which is responsible for finding and eating bacteria, viruses and dead cells that attack your joints and cause inflammation.

In a study conducted in Hong Kong in 2007, the polysaccharide peptides in Reishi were found to “significantly inhibit the proliferation of Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fibroblasts (RASF).”

Provailen also helps to encourage muscle tissue growth around your joints, thus strengthening your muscles and limiting wear and tear.

Capsaicin helps to improve the efficiency/absorption of the supplement whilst increasing blood flow to small blood vessels and breaking up deposits can contribute to arthritic pain.

And Provailen is not the only natural remedy that can help to offer you arthritis pain relief. The following home remedies have equally been found to help without causing any negative side effects:

  • Raw juices – carrot, celery and red beet juices (in equal proportions) has been found to dissolve deposits around your joints, reducing discomfort and inflammation.
  • Pineapple juice – rich in the enzyme bromelain, this simple fruit has been found to reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • Castor oil – boil 2 tablespoons of castor oil and add to a glass of fresh orange juice, and this morning remedy can help to ease arthritis (drink every morning for 3 weeks, take a 3 week break and then repeat).

How Can I Improve My Diet For Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment To Relieve Symptoms?

Other forms of arthritis relief come from the foods in your diet.

Many foods are inflammatories, meaning that they cause inflammation, and have negative effects on arthritis. Other foods, however, are anti-inflammatories, and help to reduce inflammation and cause great pain relief.

There are tons of different theories out there in regards to nutrition and arthritis relief, none of which are completely proven by research, but all of which have been shown to have positive effects on certain people.

There are tons of different case studies about individual people reducing their specific arthritic symptoms by the removal or addition of different foods. In a recent study conducted at the University of Orlo at Norway, a link between food allergies and rheumatoid arthritis was shown.

They found that (in test tubes) the intestinal fluid of those with rheumatoid arthritis had higher levels of antibodies to proteins, from cow’s milk, codfish, cereal, hen’s eggs, and pork than those without rheumatoid arthritis.

The most common foods to avoid if you have rheumatoid arthritis

Listed below are the three most common triggers for increased rheumatoid arthritis inflammation that you may want to avoid to allow you to have the best diet for rheumatoid arthritis treatment:

1. Nightshades

Foods in the nightshades family include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, tobacco, and pepper (excluding black pepper).

Nightshades contain a natural substance called solanine that when consumed, can produce severe pain in the joints and the soft tissue.

In a study conducted in the 1990’s, consumption of nightshades resulted in a buildup of cholinesterase inhibiting glycoalkaloids and steroids, and thus, may cause inflammation, stiffness, and pain in the joints.

Although there is no conclusive evidence (or much research at all for that matter) that nightshades cause relief for those with arthritis, many arthritis sufferers report having much relief after eliminating nightshades from their diet.

2, Dairy

Dairy is an inflammatory food that can lead to inflammation in the body when consumed.

Like most of the foods linked to arthritis, there is no conclusive evidence that dairy causes or triggers arthritis.

In a case study conducted, a considerable improvement in the individual’s severity of disease was shown and many others report much improvement upon the elimination of dairy from the diet.

3. Gluten

Gluten, a family of storage proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye, has been shown to have negative effects on those with arthritis.

Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher chance of being diagnosed with celiac disease, a disease associated with a negative response to gluten consumption.

In a study published in the Journal: Rheumatology, it was shown that patients following a gluten-free vegan diet for nine months experienced great improvements in their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms despite medical imaging continuing to shown joint damage.

In another study conducted in Sweden, those on the gluten-free diet showed improved symptoms. Antibodies against gliadin, one of the gluten proteins, were decreased in those who were on the vegan diet versus those who were not. If you have a sensitivity to gluten, after removing gluten from your diet your joint pain should start to disappear.

Make sure, however, to avoid gluten completely if this is the case, as any accidental consumption, no matter how small, can trigger a big reaction.

4. Red Meat, Poultry, Eggs, and Butter

These foods contain saturated fat which cause an inflammatory reaction in the body.

For those with rheumatoid arthritis, these inflammatory foods can cause worsened symptoms. If you are going to consume meat and poultry, make sure to consume the leanest cuts such as sirloin and chicken breast.

5. Avoid foods with trans fat

Foods such as margarine contain trans fats which have a profound effect on inflammation and have been shown to be twice as dangerous as saturated fats in regards to inflammation.

According to a Harvard Medical School study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a diet high in trans fatty acids increases C-reactive proteins, which is a marker used to measure inflammation in the blood.

What foods have a positive effect on rheumatoid arthritis?

So what foods have been shown to have a positive effect on rheumatoid arthritis and would allow me to have the best diet for rheumatoid arthritis treatment?

Foods that have anti-inflammatory effects are beneficial for those with rheumatoid arthritis.

Listed below are some foods to consume because of their anti-inflammatory effects to allow you to have the best diet for rheumatoid arthritis treatment:

1. Turmeric

2. Ginger

3. Wild Caught Salmon

4. Shitake Mushroom (Maitake, enoki, and oyster mushrooms are good as well: 7 other types of mushrooms to add to your diet)

5. Green Tea

6. Sweet Potatoes

7. Papayas

8. Blueberries/blackberries/cranberries/raspberries/strawberries

9. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

10. Broccoli

11. Kale

12. Cauliflower

13. Avocado Oil

14. Spinach

15. Pineapple

16. Kelp

17. Brussel Sprouts

18. Garlic

What are the best supplements to take for rheumatoid arthritis?

Some supplements, such as glucosamine/chondroitin and fish oil pills, have also been shown to have very positive effects on rheumatoid arthritis, but like many of the foods, there are not many conclusive studies showing a direct link of these supplements to rheumatoid arthritis relief.

However, many people swear by some of these supplements.

I would recommend trying them out to see if they possibly could be your rheumatoid arthritis solution.

In a study conducted at 16 sites across the U.S., a correlation was found between glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation and pain relief.

This double blind placebo study involved 1600 subjects, 79% of which experienced substantial relief when supplementing with glucosamine/chondroitin.

When consuming fish oil pills, make sure they are not rancid as this could end up having a negative effect. Fish oil pills have also shown great promise in relieving arthritic symptoms.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, many patients with rheumatoid arthritis report improvement in joint pain and tenderness when consuming marine omega 3 fatty acids supplements.

In a recent study, 250 arthritic patients were given similar fish oil doses. The patients reported significant improvement in overall pain and NSAID use with no negative side effects from the fish oil.

When taking fish oil pills, I would highly recommend the brand nordic naturals as they are third party tested and exceed all standards for high-quality fish oil.

The only downside is that they are a little more expensive than some of the generic brands.

As far as a high-quality glucosamine/chondroitin brand, I would highly recommend Regenasure, as it is not derived from shellfish, and is vegetarian, nonallergenic and certified Halal.

An elimination diet for rheumatoid arthritis

In order to figure out what your specific triggers are, I would recommend going on an elimination diet to allow you to have the best diet for rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

Eliminate common rheumatoid arthritis triggers such as dairy, wheat, eggs, caffeine, soy, citrus, red meat, and nightshades for about 1 month and keep track of your physical reactions on a daily basis in a food journal.

In month two, begin adding these foods into your diet one at a time and in large amounts. For example, if dairy was the food being eliminated, after that month or so, consume lots of dairy for a couple of days to see how you respond.

If any of the foods cause a negative reaction, remove them from your diet permanently. Some foods, such as gluten, take longer than a month to get out of your system.

You will still possibly see great improvements after a month, but not as much as it could be. Still, remove that food for only a month and when you bring it back to your diet, see if the rheumatoid arthritis symptoms worsen significantly. If they do, eliminate that food completely.

Also, make sure to completely remove the specific food from your diet during the month as any ingestion (however small it may be) may have a big impact and may prevent the elimination diet from working.

If you are able to find different triggers for your arthritic pain, you will be able to eliminate them from your diet and thus, you will be able to create the best diet for rheumatoid arthritis treatment for your specific needs.


When I first tried this diet to improve my rheumatoid arthritis nutrition, I was overwhelmed at how little I could eat so I broke it down.

I did the dairy and wheat experiment first.

After that, I avoided nightshades and soy products. And after that, I avoided red meat and citrus fruits.

This made it a lot easier for me and allowed me to be able to consume a wide variety of foods. If you are able to eliminate all these foods at once, though, then by all means do so, but I found it much more convenient to break it down.

Try out this elimination diet for rheumatoid arthritis treatment for yourself and see if you can improve your joint pain and your quality of life without the side-effects!=

Other Diets To Try

One diet I’ve come across recently was put together by a woman named Margaret Hills.

Her story is a fascinating one.

After struggling with chronic arthritis for over 15 years in nearly all of her joints, she started to journey to understand everything there was to know about treating chronic illness with diet alone.

Hence, came the Margaret Hills Diet.

The diet consists of 8 parts:

  1. Mix 300 ml of water with 1 tsp honey and 1 tsp cider vinegar, 3 times a day.
  2. Have one teaspoon of black molasses,  3 times a day
  3. Take a bath in Epsom salts 3x/week
  4. Take a complete whole food vitamin daily
  5. Engage in gentle exercise daily
  6. Avoid acidic foods: Avoid red meat, citrus, dairy (except skimmed milk, cottage cheese and eggs), sugar, sweets, fried foods, and alcohol
  7. Consume high-quality bread, white fish, poultry, vegetables, and fruits (non-citrus)
  8. Engage in positive thinking and limit stress

If you are suffering from arthritis and want to learn more about the diet, I highly recommend this article from Positive Health. It’s by a woman named Sarah Gall who employed the Margaret Hills diet and has almost completely rid herself of any arthritic symptoms.

Put It into Practice: 3 Impactful Takeaways to Implement

  • Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods: To help manage rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, make sure to include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet such as turmeric, ginger, wild caught salmon, shitake mushrooms, green tea, and sweet potatoes.
  • Consider diet over NSAIDs: While anti-inflammatory medication such as NSAIDs can offer pain relief, they only tackle the pain itself and not the cause. They can also have numerous side effects and can create more problems than they solve. Consider managing your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms through a proper diet instead.
  • Focus on plant-based foods: Make sure that 2/3 of your diet consists of plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting lean meats and processed foods.

Daniel Maman

Daniel is a certified personal trainer (ACE), has a Bachelors of Science degree in Sports, Exercise, and Wellness, and spends his free time keeping up to date with the latest research in health and fitness. In his free time, you can find him playing basketball, doing muay thai, camping, traveling, reading, and eating tomatoes like they're apples.

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  • Written by: Daniel Maman
  • ACE Personal Trainer
    BSc Sports, Exercise, & Wellness
  • Last Updated on August 4, 2023

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