Eat like an Italian.  Several studies say that a Mediterranean diet— rich in fruits and vegetables, small amounts of wine and olive oil, and less meat—can help reduce RA-related inflammation.   This diet can also lower the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Research from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina supports the notion that a plant-based diet fights inflammation. Blood samples from 1000 study participants shows that those who reported eating the most fruits and vegetables had lower markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein and interleukin-6.

Christine McKinney, RD, a clinical dietitian who works with RA patients at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore recommends a rainbow approach to your diet: “A variety of colors ensures a variety of nutrients.”

A diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables and vitamin C has a lot of antioxidants.  Antioxidants remove cell-damaging free radicals from the body and may tame inflammation.

High fat diets hurt.   Ongoing research at Duke University suggests that a high-fat diet instigates changes linked to osteoarthritis, at least in mice. The Duke researchers fed mice the equivalent of a high-fat, fast-food diet and compared them to mice on a controlled diet. The mice that ate the fatty food developed more severe OA of the knee. Although this study did not look at RA, the results emphasize the idea that diet-induced obesity leads to body-wide inflammation and OA.  Saturated fats and too much omega-6 may be contributing factors.

Try an elimination diet.  Avoiding certain foods may help ease inflammation, although there is little research specific to RA. In 2010, a researcher at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Conn., reported that a 42-year-old woman with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that often accompanies RA, had a notably lower erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)—a measure of inflammation in the body— after following an elimination diet for 4 months. She said she felt better when she stopped eating gluten, beef, eggs, dairy, refined sugars, citrus fruit, and night shade vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes and most peppers. Some people are sensitive to the proteins in such foods.

Researchers in Norway studied how the body reacts to proteins in cow’s milk, cereal, eggs, codfish, and pork. They found that people with RA had higher levels of antibodies to these proteins in their intestinal fluid, when compared to people without RA.  Antibodies are made by the immune system to fight off what your body thinks is a harmful substance.  In this case, the antibodies stick to the food proteins and move through the body.  Some people with RA have a leaky gut lining, which lets food proteins slip through into the blood. This can prompt inflammation.

Once you make antibodies against a certain food, you will have a reaction each time you eat it.  Avoiding trigger foods may help reduce inflammation. Talk to your doctor before you start an elimination diet.

Consider Vitamin D. Vitamin D can keep your bones healthy. But can it tame RA? The evidence is conflicting.  For example: a 2013 retrospective study linked low vitamin D levels to a "considerably higher risk of disease activity" in RA.  However, a 2012 randomized study of 499 patients with active RA found no such connection. Ask your doctor if you need more vitamin D. Good sources include milk, eggs, and fortified cereals and breads. If you can't tolerate milk or eggs, vitamin D supplements are available.