Why You Might Consider A Vegan Diet If You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you've been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, you probably know how debilitating it can be at times. RA is the result of inflammation in your joints, and it generally happens when your immune system doesn't operate properly. The American Arthritis Association explains that along with pain, you may also experience stiffness and swelling in more than one joint.

While there are several things that contribute to inflammation, food is high on the list. That's because some foods overstimulate the immune system. Commonly called inflammatory foods, these items are generally processed, meaning they contain preservatives and other additives. Processed meats, like bacon, hot dogs, and sausage also contain hormones that might cause an inflammatory response. The saturated fat in red meat is another cause of inflammation. In addition, dairy products may also trigger RA flare-ups in some people because they may not be able to digest casein (per RheumatoidArthritis.org).

Vegan foods may reduce inflammation

One way to control inflammation is to adjust your diet, and this is where vegan foods may offer relief. Most healthy vegan foods don't have the added fats, preservatives, hormones, and other additives that can cause inflammation. Lon Ben-Asher, MS, RD, LD/N, explained to Healthline that when patients at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida, tried a vegan diet, they saw a reduction of symptoms in just a few days.

That said, vegan does not automatically mean healthy. For example, foods like French fries, potato chips, and plant-based snacks might be considered vegan because they don't contain any animal products. However, they may contain unhealthy fats from vegetable oils and sugars that can still trigger inflammation. So, if you're looking to reduce RA symptoms with a vegan diet, it's best to stick with fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, low-fat sources of protein like beans and lentils, and whole grains (via WebMD).