How a Ketogenic Diet can help Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

How a Ketogenic Diet Can Help Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients


If you’re on the lookout for new ways to reduce Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) pain and symptoms, head to your fridge. According to recent studies, what you eat can have a profound impact on managing your pain.

For those who suffer from RA, pain is a fact of everyday life. Inflammation, swelling, pain, joint stiffness and restricted movement are just some symptoms of RA. While there’s no cure-all, your diet can be a promising start to reducing symptoms.

What’s a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is low-carb and high-fat, focusing on cleansing your body of carbohydrates in order to burn more fat. Generally speaking, the diet involves ditching carbs and filling up with meats, fats and oils, as well as some vegetables.

The idea behind the diet is to replace your body’s main source of energy. Traditionally, your cells circulate carbohydrates to fuel up. But with a ketogenic diet, your body goes after stored fat (called ketone) in the absence of carbs.

What foods should I eat for a ketogenic diet?

The Holy Grail of the ketogenic diet is fat. You can get fat from meats, fish, eggs, leafy greens, broccoli, hard cheeses, nuts, avocados, berries, butter and oils. When in doubt, check this cheat sheet for a quick reference.

In addition, you should try to eliminate grains and sugar from your diet, which include wheat, rice, cereal, potatoes and fruit. Other no-gos for this diet include:

  • Sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice
  • Desserts like ice cream and cake
  • Beans including peas and lentils
  • Condiments like ketchup
  • Alcohol, especially beer
  • Diet products

What are some sample ketogenic recipes?

Some popular ketogenic dishes are listed below. To explore more recipes and ideas, check out this compilation of tasty options.

  • Omelette
  • Greek salad
  • Salmon with asparagus
  • Meatballs
  • Chicken with broccoli
  • Eggplant lasagna
  • Chicken soup
  • Egg salad

4 key benefits of a ketogenic diet for Rheumatoid Arthritis patients

There are several key benefits of a ketogenic diet for RA patients. All four benefits have been backed by recent scientific studies.

  1. Anti-inflammatory properties

Because a ketogenic diet reduces blood sugar in favor of ketones, RA patients can expect less inflammation. This anti-inflammatory effect is well-documented and promising for RA patients who suffer from inflammation, swelling and joint stiffness. By sticking to fats, your body will be better equipped to deal with inflammation.

  1. Pain relief

As inflammation decreases, pain does too. A 2013 study found that a ketogenic diet can reduce both thermal and neuropathic pain. This is great news for two reasons. First, because patients will feel better and experience less pain overall. Second, because patients who see reduced pain will decrease the amount of painkillers they’re taking. This double effect is great for patients to incorporate behavioral changes as part of their care plan.

  1. Less numbness

Many RA patients will also experience numbness in their hands and feet as part of their symptoms. However, following a ketogenic diet can help this effect. Studies with animals have shown positive results on minimizing numbness.

  1. Weight loss

The ketogenic diet has become popular with the general public as a means to lose weight. Since obesity is a risk factor for RA, losing weight can be a good way to reduce this risk. In addition, losing weight can help patients by putting less pressure on weakened and stiff joints, as well as boosting energy. 

Other benefits of a ketogenic diet

In addition to these direct benefits for RA patients, ketogenic is a “super” diet that can help with other illnesses and conditions. For example, the ketogenic diet has been long used for epilepsy to help reduce seizures. In addition, studies now show that the diet can improve blood sugar and blood pressure, which is great for heart disease. In addition, the ketogenic diet has shown positive results for:

  • Certain cancers
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Brain injuries
  • Acne

The Ketogenic diet isn’t for everybody

While the benefits of a ketogenic diet are clear, there are some side effects and precautions that you should be aware of.  At first, those who start a ketogenic diet may experience the “keto flu,” which is a temporary period of low energy, nausea and digestive issues. These side effects typically go away within a week, as soon as your body is used to the ketogenic diet. In addition, this diet may cause increased hunger at first, causing many followers to “relapse” with their carb intake. However, after you have been on the diet for a longer period of time, many report having decreased hunger overall.

In addition, you shouldn’t follow this diet if you have kidney disease because of the risk of increased blood pressure. If you have diabetes, you should talk to your doctor before starting the diet. You should also stay away from this diet if you have high blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Other ways to naturally relieve Rheumatoid Arthritis

If your RA symptoms are flaring up, try starting the ketogenic diet as well as other natural remedies. These include:

  • Hot and cold packs: Both hot and cold packs have positive benefits on RA. While cold can reduce swelling, hot can encourage blood flow and reduce stiffness.
  • Exercise: This can help reduce pain by getting your joints moving and reducing swelling. Exercise such as aerobics, swimming and yoga are great options.
  • Topical creams and gels: Creams, especially those that include capsaicin, can help reduce pain.
  • Fish oil supplements: Fish oil has omega-3 fatty acids that are very anti-inflammatory and can help reduce pain.
  • Massage therapy: Massage therapy can help reduce stiffness and inflammation, and also has a relaxing effect of the patient’s pain.

When in doubt, consult your doctor

As with all diets, your doctor knows best. Consult your doctor for what type of diet might be best for you. While the ketogenic diet has shown great results for RA patients, it may not be for everybody.

We wish you the best of luck with the ketogenic diet! We hope it will help reduce your pain and symptoms, while boosting your energy levels.

We wish you the best of luck with the ketogenic diet! We hope it will help reduce your pain and symptoms, while boosting your energy levels.

About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He is the founder of Better Health Chiropractor Wasilla AK. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.




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