What Causes Unintended Weight Gain In Rheumatoid Arthritis
While the disease itself doesnt cause you to pack on pounds, RA disrupts your body and routine in a number of ways that could result in weight gain. Its difficult to predict how each patient will adapt and react to their RA, but there are some clear factors that will increase your chances of struggling with unwanted rheumatoid arthritis weight gain:
Not all medications will interfere with your metabolism, but the corticosteroid prednisone has a particularly bad reputation when it comes to weight gain. It also happens to be one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for the chronic inflammation of RA.
Unfortunately, the majority of patients who take prednisone will experience some degree of weight gain and sometimes in places you dont expect. Fat can accumulate in the face, abdomen and even the back of the neck. Fortunately, most people will quickly shed the excess weight once the steroid dosage is lowered.
Its no secret that exercise is one of the very best things you can do for your muscles, joints, and waistline, but it can get complicated when RA flares up. You may realize that an exercise class or long walk is best for your body in the long run, but simply getting off the couch and out of the front door can be too much to ask some days.
Once you factor in unwelcome medication side effects and a less active lifestyle, youll find that your regular diet may no longer be suitable.
Pharmacy Treatments To Ease Pain
Talk to your doctor about what pharmacy treatments they could recommend to help you manage a flare-up, and how to use them as an add-on to your prescription medicines.
Theyll usually want to manage your whole treatment plan, including pharmacy medications, to help prevent long-term damage as well as ease pain.
Depending on your situation, they may or may not recommend:
One review of studies did find a supplement dose of 1,000mg of turmeric a day appears to improve joint symptoms in arthritis. However, its main active ingredient, curcumin, is poorly absorbed. And it can also cause side effects, including diarrhoea, constipation and nausea.
Turmeric definitely isnt a replacement for your medication, but theres some limited evidence that it might help improve symptoms. If you want to try a turmeric supplement, check with your doctor first, buy from a reputable source, and keep a diary of your symptoms to help you work out if its having any effect.
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Malnutrition In Ra Patients
Patients with RA are often at a higher risk of malnutrition for multiple reasons. First of all, weight loss is a common symptom in RA patients. Its thought to be due to the autoimmune condition itself producing inflammatory responses which cause an increase in metabolic rate. This means that the body burns through more calories than normal, which can lead to weight loss. This is not considered healthy weight loss. This type of weight loss can potentially leave the patient undernourished or malnourished.
Secondly, many patients taking the common disease-modifying antirheumatic drug called methotrexate, have been known to have a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals. Many RA medications produce side effects such as stomach ulcers and other digestive concerns which can make it difficult to eat. These conditions combined with weight loss further compound the problems of malnourishment in patients. Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies in RA include a lack of the following vitamins and minerals:
A proper diet for RA that is rich in these vitamins and minerals is important for keeping patients healthy.
Finally, many RA patients are at risk of developing osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones caused by a calcium or vitamin D deficiency. RA patients should be aware of this potential risk and ensure their diet accounts for this potential deficiency.
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Change The Type Of Fat In Your Diet
People with RA have a higher risk of developing heart disease than those who dont have the disease. The amount and type of fat you eat and use in cooking may influence blood cholesterol levels, and might also influence the level of joint pain and inflammation. Reducing your intake of saturated fat and replacing it with a smaller amount of unsaturated fats may help to maintain normal blood cholesterol levels. See our Fat Facts sheet for more information.
Researching The Right Weight Loss Plan
So whats a poor soul with an autoimmune disease, an affinity for bagels, and a plentiful belly to do? I turned to my go-to Facebook support groups and asked a pretty straight-forward question: Has anyone lost weight and was able to keep it off? I posted. If so, how did you do it?
I got tons of responses, and, not surprisingly, they were all over the map, since none of us know really know what were doing. Heres what folks said:
Note: CreakyJoints encourages everyone with inflammatory arthritis to talk to a rheumatologist about the finding the right treatment plan for them. You should always talk to your doctor before making a significant change to your eating habits. Diets should not replace any medication plan recommended by your doctor. Prescription medications are often at the core of treatment due to the strong evidence supporting their success.
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Describes Some Of The Pain She Has Experienced With Her Ra And How Sometimes You Need To Go
Pain also increased fatigue and people described tiredness and lack of energy as significant symptoms of RA. People had to rest more, either in the daytime or by going to bed earlier, or sometimes for much of the weekend if they worked during the week . This reduced their time to do other things particularly their social life. Pacing activity helped but often people felt they hadn’t got the will power to do things when they were feeling generally tired and unwell.
Some of those people taking anti-TNF alpha medication said they were now less tired and had more energy .
Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Go Away
No, rheumatoid arthritis doesnt go away. Its a condition youll have for the rest of your life. But you may have periods where you dont notice symptoms. These times of feeling better may come and go.
That said, the damage RA causes in your joints is here to stay. If you dont see a provider for RA treatment, the disease can cause permanent damage to your cartilage and, eventually, your joints. RA can also harm organs like your lung and heart.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may feel like youre on a lifelong roller coaster of pain and fatigue. Its important to share these feelings and your symptoms with your healthcare provider. Along with X-rays and blood tests, what you say about your quality of life will help inform your treatment. Your healthcare provider will assess your symptoms and recommend the right treatment plan for your needs. Most people can manage rheumatoid arthritis and still do the activities they care about.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/18/2022.
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Which Foods May Help
Some experts believe that diet can help prevent flare-ups and manage the symptoms of RA. There is no specific diet that research has shown to help people with RA, but some foods may help control the painful swelling and support the immune system.
Early Stage Signs And Symptoms
A person can develop RA at any stage in their life. However, the condition most commonly develops between the ages of 30 and 50 years old.
People with early stage RA may not see redness and swelling in their joints. However, they may experience some joint tenderness and pain. A general feeling of stiffness throughout the body in the morning may suggest a person has RA.
Someone with early stage RA may also experience fatigue. Fatigue can be both mental and physical and can cause a person to feel extremely tired, preventing them from performing their usual daily tasks.
The inflammation that comes with RA may cause a person to develop a fever. A person has a fever if their body temperature rises above the typical range of 98100°F . Fever is a common sign of inflammation in people with autoimmune diseases.
A person may also experience weight loss due to the inflammation from RA. In addition, someone with fatigue and fever may experience appetite loss, which can contribute to weight loss.
As the inflammatory process of RA progresses, symptoms can worsen. A person may experience more extreme fatigue and continue to have fevers and lose weight.
Common symptoms of RA include the below.
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From Pain To Remission
A few months passed. Where once fatigue had left me feeling foggy, sluggish, and blue, I began to feel revitalized.
I started and ended each day full of energy and focus. I was sleeping better and feeling more positive.
Iâd spent some time berating my body for its pain and swollen joints, but slowly, I was starting to feel good about it. I could lift heavy weights. I could run and squat and do circuits.
A few months earlier I struggled to twist the cap off a bottle â now I was perfecting deadlifts.
My diet was having a pronounced effect, too. Aside from glossy hair, glowing skin, and strong nails, I genuinely felt more limber.
Iâd spent months struggling to kneel or crouch or walk quicker than at a snailâs pace, but now I felt like I could really move.
About 14 months after my diagnosis I walked into my doctorâs office with no pain or stiffness.
âHow would you rate your pain score on a scale of 1 to 10?â he asked me. âZero,â I answered.
My blood results backed me up. My inflammation levels had returned to normal. The swelling, pain, and stiffness were all gone.
I was officially in remission.
Do Any Foods Interact With My Medication
Your doctor should tell you if there are any foods you need to avoid or eat more of while taking the prescribed drugs for your condition. There should also be information in the patient information leaflet included with your drugs.
Complementary treatments, such as supplements or herbal remedies can also interact with certain medications and could increase the risk of side effects. Its important to let your doctor know if you take any complementary treatments.
Some drugs prescribed for arthritis do interact with certain foods. Below youll find information on some of the most common interactions.
Grapefruit and grapefruit juice contain compounds that can block enzymes in your body. These enzymes are needed to break down certain drugs, but if theyre blocked, this can increase the levels of the drug in your blood. This could then cause new or worse side effects.
This can happen with some drugs to treat arthritis and related conditions, including:
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A Painful Road To Weight Gain
A slimmer 145 pounds in college, Deters, a mom of three, started to put on weight gradually over the course of her marriage. For the first 10 years, she and her husband worked for an organization that provided all their meals in a cafeteria. But once they had to fend for themselves, eating healthy proved to be a challenge. A lot of times for convenience sake, with three small children, we just grabbed McDonalds or Subway or whatever. So really started getting worse, Deters says.
Deters wasnt eating wildly indulgently, but she wasnt choosing particularly nutritious foods either. A typical breakfast might have been a bowl of sugary cereal and milk lunches included cold cuts sandwiches and chips pasta was a popular dinner choice spaghetti, ziti, lasagna, of course with French bread the kids loved pasta.
When you take what I was eating with pretty much zero activity, thats why it wasnt working, says Deters.
Then came the RA diagnosis.
I was about to turn 50 and all of a sudden my hands wouldnt hold anything anymore, says Deters. I couldnt unscrew water bottle caps or use a can opener. I had a primary doctor who had me try probably four months of different things because she said, Youre too young, it cant be arthritis.
Can My Diet Affect Medication
Its important that you take any medication youve been given as youve been told to by your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Some drugs need to be taken in a specific way, such as before or after food, or with water you should be told about this, but the information leaflet included with your medication will also explain this, so make sure to read this carefully.
Taking certain drugs with food or after youve eaten can help to reduce the risk of certain side effects such as indigestion, stomach ulcers, feeling sick or vomiting. It can also help your body to absorb the drug properly and can make sure its not washed away by food or drink, for example if you use mouthwashes or gels.
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Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet Plan
In this 7-day meal plan, we include a week of healthy anti-inflammatory recipes that aim to support healthy joints and reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Because rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease, we included plenty of anti-inflammatory foods like omega-3-rich salmon, healthy fats from nuts and seeds plus antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. If you’re overweight, losing weight may help alleviate some pressure on your joints. To promote weight loss if that’s your goal, we capped the calories at 1,500 calories a day, which is a calorie level most people will lose weight following, plus included modifications for 1,200 and 2,000 calories a day, depending on your calorie needs. It’s important to note that healthy weight loss is gradual weight loss , so if you’re feeling hungry at 1,500 calories, bump up the amount of calories until you feel satisfied.
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What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is, in a word, painful. It is a disease in which the immune system seems to have gone haywire. Instead of doing its normal job of attacking invaders like bacteria and viruses, it begins attacking the bodys own joints.
The result is severe inflammation. Hands, wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles suffer. Often, so do other parts of the body, from eyes to skin.
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Experiment With Herbs And Spices
This is a super healthy way to flavor food plus, herbs and spices offer a wealth of anti-inflammatory plant compounds, says Foroutan. Her favorite: turmeric, which you can add to soups and stews, sprinkle over sautéed vegetables, and even stir in scrambled eggs. Oregano is another potent flavor option that has lots of anti-inflammatory value, she says.
Best Supplements For Ra
We know you know this, but the best source for vitamins and minerals will always be whole food. Still, supplements can give an added boost if you’re deficient in certain nutrients . Some supplements that address common vitamin and mineral deficiencies in RA patients include:
Two other dietary supplements may help with RA symptoms:
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Ways To Lose Weight Without Dieting
Try these small steps to drop excess pounds that may help take pressure off painful joints.
1. 8 Ways to Lose Weight Without Dieting
2. Plate Picks
3. Water Wise
4. Slumber to Slim
5. Group Activity
6. On the Other Hand
7. Slow is Good
8. Move to Lose
9. Tools You Can Use
How Obesity Makes Arthritis Management Worse
Consider this: Every one pound of excess weight exerts three to six pounds of extra force on joints, says Dr. DiRenzo. If youre 10 pounds overweight, it increases the force on your knees by 30 to 60 pounds with each step being 100 pounds overweight means 300 to 600 pounds of extra pressure. All that extra weight on already damaged joints worsens the pain and stiffness and can accelerate disease progression.
Extra fat also means more inflammation. Cytokine levels are already high when you have inflammatory arthritis obesity compounds it. Research published in the journal Autoimmunity Reviews found obesity can lead to more active and severe RA and PsA. Youre less likely to achieve sustained remission, as well, compared to those with a healthy BMI, according to other studies. And research suggests obese people with ankylosing spondylitis a type of inflammatory arthritis that can causes some vertebrae in the spine to fuse are likely to have worse symptoms, less physical function, and lower quality of life.
Plus, obesity may impact how well some of your arthritis meds work, adds Caroline A. Andrew, MD, medical weight management specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Studies have shown that some DMARDs , which are used to treat inflammatory arthritis, may not be as effective in people who are overweight or obese, she says.
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Do Partial Squats Or Use Elastic Bands
The goal is to build lean muscle mass so you burn more calories. This is even more critical when youre trying to lose weight with arthritis, because as muscles grow stronger, they provide greater joint support and help reduce the load and stress on painful joints. Studies show strength training helps reduce pain from arthritis and eventually improve function as well, says Millar. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the safest strength training exercises for you.