By Maddy, PersonalCare Trainer and Nutritionist
There is a complex interaction between nutrition and immunology. An individual’s overall nutrition status, state of nourishment, and pattern of food intake impact how the immune system functions.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
“Rheumatoid arthritis is what doctors call an autoimmune condition. It starts when your immune system, which is supposed to protect you, goes awry and begins to attack your body’s own tissues. It causes inflammation in the lining of your joints. This may cause your joints to get red, warm, swollen, and painful.”
“Even though developed societies have successfully reduced their burden of infectious disease, metabolic, cardiovascular, and autoimmune diseases thrive. Westernized countries have a lifestyle and pathogen exposure that play a large role in these diseases. Nutritional patterns termed “Westeren Diet” include high-fat and cholesterol, high-protein, high-sugar, and excess salt intake. Often times this way of eating, high amounts of processed foods such as fast food promotes obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. There is a relative association of “Western Diet” with autoimmunity. Specifically, the role of T cells as main players linking dietary influences to autoimmune pathology. (Role of “Western Diet” in Inflammatory Autoimmune Diseases)
Research has proven that the best diet to avoid or help maintain autoimmune issues such as rheumatoid arthritis is the mediteranean diet or whole food, plant-based diet.
Research found that a low-fat vegan diet improves Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms such as degree of pain, joint tenderness, and joint swelling. They also found that a gluten-free vegan diet decreases immunoglobulin G (IgG) in patients and elevated pro-inflammatory antibody. A mediterranean Diet which is rich in olive oil, cereals, vegetables, fruits, and legumes is a significant way to decrease swollen joints as well as CRP levels in rheumatoid arthritis patients. This research can conclude that composition of bacteria in the gut can be linked to inflammation, hence linked to autoimmune diseases because of the exacerbated inflammation levels.
“The naturally low-fat, fiber-rich components of a vegan diet might mediate the pathways that alleviate joint inflammation and pain, as observed through reduced CRP levels and improved inflammatory scores. These findings highlight the need for a randomized study that objectively measures biomarkers of inflammation related to plant-based dietary changes.” (Nutrition Interventions in Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Potential Use of Plant-Based Diets. A Review)
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology states that “diets high in refined starches, sugar, saturated fats, and trans fats and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids appeared to turn on the inflammatory response. However, a diet rich in whole foods, including healthful carbohydrates, fats, and protein sources, cooled it down. There’s no harm in supporting a diet—optimal for just about everyone—that’s rich in whole plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds; is rich in healthful fat sources such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts, and fish; and includes foods such as tea, dark chocolate, spices and herbs, and red wine in moderation.”
Ultimately, a whole food plant based diet can keep inflammation levels low, weight low, the gut microbiome healthy.
All of these are driving factors in autoimmune diseases. When nourishing your body with wholesome nutrients instead of processed fast foods, and highly processed, fatty meats, we can help keep the autoimmune diseases away with this modifiable risk factors such as nutrition.