Rheumatoid Arthritis & The Ketogenic Diet

Why do some people experience autoimmune diseases and others do not? Have you tried to understand how changes in your diet might help an autoimmune disease? Or maybe you are worried that what you are eating is contributing to it? Perhaps you are someone that is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and wonder how the ketogenic (referred to as “keto”) diet might compare to other diets in easing the troubles of autoimmune disease. We want to assist you in choosing fuel for your body that will help you not only be sustainable but also help you find success in remedying these issues. We will learn about what autoimmune diseases are, then we will explore how to choose the best rheumatoid arthritis ketogenic diet.

Autoimmune Diseases

It is not entirely clear what causes autoimmune diseases. There are a few things being studied, that medical professionals believe may be contributing to autoimmune diseases. This includes: diet, infections, and exposure to chemicals but researchers cannot be entirely sure. Research has found that healthy people have a different combination of bacteria in their intestines than those with some of these autoimmune diseases. It is believed that the microbiome of the gut could be a key in alleviating them.

There are trillions of bacteria that reside within your body. Some of these bacteria are good and promote healthy digestion and others can cause problems and make your gut unhealthy. Your overall health is impacted by the bacteria in the intestines, which is also known as intestinal or gut flora. It is essential to be aware of what can contribute to autoimmune diseases and be proactive if you are having problems. Remember that what you eat nourishes all the cells and organs in your body and can play a part in the possibility of dealing with an autoimmune disease. With this plethora of information, you might be asking yourself, what things should I eat? Or perhaps, what should I avoid eating?

Common autoimmune diseases

First, we need to understand what the immune system does. It is designed to attack bacteria and viruses that do not belong in your body to help keep you healthy. It is expected to tell the difference between foreign cells (those that don’t belong) and your own cells (ones that belong). Autoimmune diseases occur when the body is attacked by the immune system in response to something going on inside it. It is working, trying to protect you from illness but instead causes it. Some cells will be attacked in certain areas of the body and others can impact the body as a whole.

Some common autoimmune diseases:

  1. Type 1 diabetes
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis
  3. Multiple sclerosis
  4. Lupus
  5. Inflammatory bowel disease
  6. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  7. Celiac disease

It is clear, by looking at this list, that there are several problems that can occur when your immune system decides to attack cells within your body. Some of them can be managed by diet while others need more serious medical intervention. From this list, we will be focusing on rheumatoid arthritis, symptoms, and a rheumatoid arthritis ketogenic diet.

rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis mistakenly attacks your joints and causes widespread inflammation. It is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation. Statistics show that about 1.5 million U.S. people live with RA.


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

It is difficult to say that there is one “best rheumatoid ketogenic diet.” What we can say is that you should focus on overall body health and the risk for an autoimmune disease will decrease. Based on research, the best rheumatoid arthritis ketogenic diet should improve your healthy gut bacteria. You should eliminate foods that are highly processed and those that contain artificial ingredients. Food is very powerful in keeping your body in optimum health. It is recommended to keep a food journal as some foods can trigger the symptoms or increase the pain. If you can track your diet, you are likely to see where patterns may occur and what foods should be avoided based on that data.

It is also advised to avoid foods that can cause or increase inflammation in the body. Did you know that over 75 percent of people are suffering with chronic inflammation and many don’t even know it? You could have inflammation in your gut, your joints, your digestive tract; or you may have allergies, food sensitivities, or any other chronic inflammation issue. Because inflammation of the body can happen as a result of autoimmune disease, one key is to minimize other instigators of it. Here are some common foods that 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. It is wise to watch consumption of these products not only to avoid inflammation but also to promote healthy gut bacteria growth.

Ketogenic Diet

In a ketogenic diet you will be eliminating the carbohydrates that your body burns first for energy. In doing this, your body will begin to burn fat for energy. This is known as ketosis which is a metabolic process where your body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. The basis of the keto diet is to devise an eating plan that helps your body reach ketosis. More simply put, it is a low carbohydrate and high fat diet. It consists of very little carbohydrates, moderate protein and focuses on healthy fats. Most of the foods that cause inflammation will be removed or dramatically reduced if you are following a ketogenic diet. Therefore, you will naturally experience a decrease in inflammation in your body which could promote a healthy intestinal tract. The following foods are recommended to improve your gut health, they are also on the suggested food list when following a ketogenic diet:

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

Remember that inflammation and a healthy gut are connected. If you have a healthy gut, there will likely be less inflammation in your body. With that being said, there are also many foods that can negatively impact the healthy bacteria in your body. They include: wheat based products, grains with gluten, baked goods, junk food (chips, candy, fast food, etc.), and artificial sweeteners. Most of these foods will also be removed or cut considerably if you are following a ketogenic diet. Therefore, you will be promoting healthy bacteria in your intestines. Reducing inflammation and promoting this healthy bacteria growth will lessen your risk of an autoimmune disease including rheumatoid arthritis.

Recommendations for rheumatoid arthritis ketogenic diet

Diet can impact the severity of your symptoms. In fact, one survey 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 else can you do to prevent an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis? As with any issue your body faces, including chronic illnesses, it is imperative to make sure you remove things that negatively impact your overall health. It is just as significant to make sure you move your body as often as possible, allow enough time for your body to rest and repair itself as well as supplement your nutrition if it is in any way lacking. Most diets today are lacking some nutritional value. It is important to make sure that you are getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals into your body. Sometimes it is hard to find all of it in your diet, so supplements aid in making up the difference. These are a few other things that you can do to reduce inflammation and encourage healthy bacteria growth:

  • Take a probiotic supplement
  • Reduce stress
  • Avoid smoking
  • Sleep more
  • Exercise

Most of these seem clear, in helping you find good health. The one that people may be least familiar with is the probiotic supplement. What are probiotics? They are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your digestive system. As we mentioned above, there are healthy and unhealthy bacteria within your body. Probiotics are the helpful bacteria that can help keep your gut healthy. 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. Despite the research and information available to us today, not everyone will have the same results even if they are following the exact same plans. Everyone’s body will respond differently, and it is up to you to make changes until you find the plan that works the best for you. It can be overwhelming and for many people it is, at times, very frustrating.

A major factor to evaluate is finding a plan where whole foods, particularly ones that you enjoy consuming, can be incorporated. A lot of focus should be put on the quality of food consumed. Other lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity and improving sleep can also contribute and improve overall results. Remember that regardless of your diet choice, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking water. It is also suggested to avoid soda, drinks with added sugars, and alcoholic beverages.

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 here is to assess your options regarding a rheumatoid arthritis ketogenic diet so that you can make an educated decision regarding your health journey. In knowing the potential causes and issues it triggers within your body, you can take steps to minimize the possibility of being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

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