Nutrition for People with Rheumatic Diseases

Fresh vegetables

Understanding how diet affects inflammation in people with rheumatic diseases can be challenging. This resource focuses on the relationship between diet and two specific conditions—rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)—but a lot of the information presented will be relevant for other rheumatic conditions.  

There is no “one size fits all” diet, but studies on nutrition and health show that most people can improve their health by eating a plant-based diet rich in a variety of foods from plants, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Food will not cure your condition or reverse damage that has already occurred in your body, but it may reduce active inflammation, improve your symptoms, and decrease the risk of future disease flares.  

The information presented here is based on the best data available from biomedical research. We have included a section titled “What can science tell us about diet and health?” which describes the way studies help us understand the effects of specific diets. We recognize that outside of biomedical research there are many ways of understanding the link between nutrition and health, including other systems of medicine, healing traditions, and cultural/religious beliefs.    

Acknowledgments

Thank you to the Mount Zion Health Fund for supporting this project. 

Contributors

  • Sarah Patterson, MD, Integrative Rheumatologist, UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine; Assistant Professor of Medicine, UCSF Division of Rheumatology

  • Sara Tedeschi, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Inflammation and Immunity, Brigham and Women’s Hospital 

  • Cristina Lanata, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, UCSF Division of Rheumatology

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