Rheumatoid Arthritis Ketogenic Diet

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Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects approximately 1.5 million people in the United States according to the Arthritis Foundation. How does your diet contribute to rheumatoid arthritis? What changes can you make to improve your overall health while living with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis? It is very likely that you have heard of the popular ketogenic (referred to as “keto”) diet and wonder how might compare to other diets in easing the troubles of this autoimmune disease. We will review what autoimmune diseases are and then we will explore how to choose the best rheumatoid arthritis ketogenic diet.

Autoimmune Disease Overview

To grasp the complexity of autoimmune diseases, we need to have a good understanding of what exactly the immune system does. It is the part of your body that is responsible for keeping you healthy. It is designed to attack bacteria and viruses that do not belong in your body. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system cannot tell the difference between the cells that belong (your own) and those that don’t belong (foreign). The immune system attacks the body instead of healing it, thus causing autoimmune diseases. Throughout this article we will be focusing on the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

In the true nature of an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis mistakenly attacks your joints and causes widespread inflammation. This inflammation thickens the tissue inside the joints, synovium. This is what is responsible for joint pain and swelling. It can also affect the cardiovascular and the respiratory systems. For this reason, it is considered a systemic disease which means it can impact the entire body.


Because rheumatoid arthritis impacts the joints, the most prevalent symptom is joint pain. As with many of the autoimmune diseases, many of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are not exclusive. You cannot always assign symptoms specifically to RA as they are precursors to many other health ailments. Other symptoms include: fever, fatigue, weakness, unintended weight loss. Other organs in your body including skin, lungs, eyes, kidney, mouth and heart can be affected by RA so difficulty breathing, and dry eyes can also be symptoms. It is important to be aware of any of these symptoms and talk with your doctor should you experience them.

There are a series of secondary symptoms that can occur as RA impacts the body:

  • Circulatory system – those with RA are at a higher risk for anemia
  • Skin, eyes and mouth – hard lumps can appear as a result of inflammation
  • Respiratory system – increased risk of inflammation and/or scarring in the lungs
  • Lack of appetite and lack of sleep– caused by lack of energy and fatigue


Like many other autoimmune diseases, the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known. Women tend to be diagnosed more often than men at a rate of 3 to 1. It usually begins between the ages of 30 and 60 but it shows no sympathy, and anyone can get it. It is thought that genetics, infections, or hormonal changes may play a role in this disease.

Rheumatoid Ketogenic Diet

The number one treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is to stop inflammation. This technically puts the disease in remission. For this reason, the best rheumatoid arthritis ketogenic diet should reduce inflammation and improve your healthy gut bacteria (which also helps with inflammation). We recommend that your diet include many whole, all natural foods. You will find better results if you eliminate highly processed foods and those that contain artificial ingredients. Certain foods can trigger the symptoms or increase your pain. Keeping a food journal can assist in managing symptoms. If you experience frequent flare ups, you can look to your food journal for trends or patterns and eliminate that food from your diet.

How can a keto diet help?

It is essential to be aware of what contributes to autoimmune diseases, particularly rheumatoid arthritis in this case, and be proactive if you are having issues. With all this information, you might be wondering what you should eat, or perhaps what you should avoid. Here is an overview of the ketogenic (“keto”) diet. This type of eating is fueled on ketones instead of glucose. This diet focuses on decreasing carb intake, increasing your fat intake, and moderating your protein intake. The liver produces ketones which causes your body to burn fat as an energy source, rather than just burning up the glucose (carbohydrates and sugars). Your body runs on glucose when you are not on the keto diet. When glucose is being used for energy, fats are not needed, and become stored. On the keto diet, lowering the consumption of glucose sources makes your body use the fat as fuel, burning it naturally.

Keto diet, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammation

Because rheumatoid arthritis is directly responsible for inflammation in the body, we mentioned that common treatment is to minimize other causes of it. Here are some common foods that are known to cause inflammation: sugar and high fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fats, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcohol, genetically modified foods, artificial sweeteners, and processed meat. Many people end up naturally experiencing a decrease in inflammation in their bodies. This occurs because if you are following keto diet protocol, most inflammatory foods will be removed or dramatically reduced.

Research shows that if you have a healthy gut, you will likely have less inflammation in your body. Recall that inflammation and a healthy gut are connected. The following foods are known to improve your gut health which will then minimize inflammation. These foods are also on the suggested ketogenic diet food list:

  • Vegetables: arugula, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, zucchini.
  • Fermented vegetables: Kimchi, sauerkraut.
  • Fish: Salmon, mackerel, trout, herring.
  • Fruit: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.
  • Meats and eggs: chicken, lamb, turkey, eggs.
  • Sprouted seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds.
  • Healthy fats: Avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil.
  • Beverages: Bone broth, teas, kombucha, water.
  • Nuts: pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts.

We also recommend avoiding foods that can cause problems for your intestinal lining, also known as gut flora. Just a few of these foods are: baked goods, junk food (chips, candy, fast food, etc.), wheat based products, grains with gluten, and artificial sweeteners. Promoting healthy bacteria growth and reducing inflammation are benefits of a rheumatoid arthritis ketogenic diet.

Additional recommendations for rheumatoid arthritis ketogenic diet

Diet can impact the severity of your symptoms. In fact, one survey (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-foods-for-arthritis) found that 24 percent of those with RA reported that their diet made the intensity of their symptoms more bearable. For a rheumatoid arthritis ketogenic diet, these foods are known to relieve joint pain:

  • Fatty fish – these contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. These are both helpful in reducing inflammation
  • Garlic – possesses anti-inflammatory properties
  • Broccoli – possesses anti-inflammatory properties because it contains sulforaphane
  • Walnuts – contain omega-3 fatty acids which is helpful in reducing inflammation
  • Berries – shown to decrease arthritis-related inflammation because it contains antioxidants
  • Spinach – shown to decrease inflammation because it contains antioxidants, including kaempferol
  • Olive oil – has been shown to reduce inflammation

Other recommendations

What other things can you do to lower your risk of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis? We’ve already explored the many ways your diet is part of a healthy lifestyle. Our bodies are up against many external negative things that we cannot control. For this reason, it is imperative to remove as many things as possible that can negatively impact your health. These changes will go a long way in keeping your internal body healthy. It is important to acknowledge these things that encourage good health in your body:

  • Exercise – move your body on a regular basis. Sedentary lifestyles can lead to a plethora of problems. Find something that is easy for you to work into your schedule and that you have fun doing. Anything that you enjoy doing will make it easier to do regularly!
  • Reduce stress – stress can take a huge toll on the body. Take time to unwind and release stress. Some examples are to: meditate, yoga, go for a walk, read a book, etc. Some people find certain forms of exercise stress relieving. If that’s you, WIN-WIN!
  • Supplements – make sure that you are getting the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals into your body. Sometimes it is hard to find all of it in your diet so supplements can help fill in the gaps.
  • Sleep more – allow enough time for rest. This is the time that your body rests and repairs itself.
  • Avoid smoking, excessive alcohol use, illegal substances – these things can cause many other problems and wreak havoc on your body.
  • Journaling – a tool that can help you manage symptoms. If you have a record of your day, week, month, etc. you can look for patterns or trends if you find yourself feeling unwell.

Reducing stress, improving diet and getting enough rest can all improve the health of your body, which then lowers the risk of autoimmune disease.


A lot of work goes into finding a sustainable diet that will produce results. Many people have found increased well-being, better health and improved energy when following keto protocol. We know that the benefits to finding a healthy, balanced diet are great and that the decision is one that needs to be made based on your health history, overall goals and in consultation with your primary care physician. Our goal is to help you evaluate the options regarding rheumatoid arthritis ketogenic diet so that you can make a well-informed decision regarding your health journey. In knowing the potential causes and issues that may be triggered within your body, you can be proactive and potentially minimize the possibility of being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may find great success in implementing the keto diet into your life.

Cite this paper

Rheumatoid Arthritis Ketogenic Diet. (2021, Aug 15). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/rheumatoid-arthritis-ketogenic-diet/

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