Healthy Living

Is Juicing Smart for Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients?

Is Juicing Smart for Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients?

Numerous studies have been published lately referring to how diet can aid in relieving symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Now, juicing has become a hot topic. Can it truly aid in dealing with rheumatoid arthritis?

Popularity of juicing

Juicing became popular with celebrities going on "cleanses" and internet fads claiming the fad could make you lose pounds overnight. However, does it actually work? Well, may or maybe not for cleansing or weight loss; however, there may be some significant benefits for those with rheumatoid arthritis.

Neal Malik, MPH, RDN is the chair of the Department of Nutrition and Basic Sciences at Bastyr University California in San Diego, and he explains, "the health benefits of juicing for people with rheumatoid arthritis come down to the ingredients being used. If the ingredients aren't nutritious to begin with, the final product won't be, either."

So, while juicing sounds fun and it might be more appealing to eat a pretty smoothie than fruit and yogurt on its own, it's important to note what is going into the juice, and the pros and cons of these ingredients.

Weight gain risks and RA

While many juice cleanses are marketed as ways to lose weight, many find that they actually gain weight in the process. This is especially important for those with rheumatoid arthritis to be aware of, because rheumatoid arthritis itself is not capable of making people gain weight, but the intense joint pain and fatigue often results in a decreased ability to exercise. As a result, fewer calories are burned and weight is gained. Therefore, many with RA turn to changing their diet in lieu of working out.

Christine Palumbo is a registered dietary nutritionist in Naperville, Illinois and she explains, "people with RA should adhere to the recommendations issued in the 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Amounts vary by calorie levels. People eating 1,400 calories should consume 1 1/2 cups of vegetable daily. Those eating 1,600 calories should consume 2 cups, and people eating 1,800 to 2,000 calories should consume 2 1/2 cups of veggies."

Therefore, it is important not to ignore what goes into the juices, and ensure that you are getting the necessary nutrition levels instead of simply looking at caloric intake or varying marketing strategies the juice companies might be employing.

Benefits of juicing for RA

There are certain benefits associated with juice cleanses for those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. However, it is important to discuss the idea with your doctor if juicing would be considered a major change in your diet, as there might be adverse effects if your system suffers from too drastic an alteration.

Juicing may help you to consume more produce as it can sometimes otherwise be difficult to incorporate into your diet. Malik explains, "juicing can be a time-saver in that there is less prepping, cutting, and chopping. Bottled vegetable juices like V8 are acceptable substitutes provided they are used occasionally. For those who suffer from wrist and back pain, the reduced amount of effort necessary makes many who might otherwise forego the necessary nutrients in their diet more likely to add them.

You can make juices healthier by adding in real-food proteins instead of the powders that many use. Again, you might see ads of how adding certain protein powder will make you feel how you always wanted, but it's important to do your own research and listen to the experts. Malik explains, "in general, the body metabolizes natural proteins better than those consumed from synthetic sources. Nut butters and seeds can be a nice complement to most juices. It is always best to consult a physician before incorporating them into your diet." It's important to keep in mind that some spices you might add could interfere with certain medications, but others can have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Cons of juicing

There are some things to keep in mind when going on a juice cleanse that might make you decide to stay away. It's important to be aware of all aspects of a diet change - not just the potential benefits, but equally the potential dangers.

While there are certainly some benefits to juicing, it is important to not let it be a substitute for real produce. This is because the sodium content of juices tend to be very high. If high blood pressure is a concern at all, it is important to refrain from juicing.

One con of juicing is that fruits are more healthy when not taken in huge quantities. Normally, one would not sit down and eat seven apples. However, if they are in the form of the juice, it is harder to tell how many fruits have gone into the product. Malik explains, "one cup of orange juice may require the juice of three more oranges, and it can be consumed in a matter of seconds. This will lead to a spike in blood sugar. Some studies are finding that these spikes may increase systemic inflammation which may worsen RA symptoms."

Instead, it could be a better idea to consume non-starchy vegetables. For example, spinach and kale offer high fiber contents without the abundance of calories. If you want to juice, involving them instead of certain fruits might be healthier.

Speaking of vegetables, it is also important to note that in juice form, fruits and vegetables do not have as much fiber as they would as a whole. Palumbo says "vegetable juices retain many of the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals present in the whole food, but it's missing the dietary fiber that is sorely lacking [in] most people's diets." As a result, you should eat lots of fiber to limit inflammation, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Also keep in mind that if your goal is to lose weight, juicing is not considered a tool for the long-term. While you might initially see a few pounds drop, they will likely come back, and possibly grow due to unstable habits. Malik explains why he does not believe in juicing for this purpose, "maintaining weight loss requires regular exercise, portion control, stress management, and other lifestyle behaviors."

If you do decide to begin juicing, ensure that you are cleaning your juicer thoroughly, and regularly. If it is not sufficiently cleansed, bacteria can be produced and lead to various health problems. A study that was published in the journal Rheumatology in January of 2013 stated that people with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders are more susceptible to infection, so be sure to pay attention to the manufacturer's recommendations on cleaning your device properly.

Avoid extremes

While cleanses have certainly become a trend, largely promoted by many celebrities, it is important to know the science behind it and that cleansing is not at all a necessary thing to do. If you are interested in giving it a shot, that may be fine, but do not rely on it as a nutritional source of wellbeing, especially when living with a chronic disease like RA. Malik explains, "there isn't anything inherently wrong with juicing, but I would beware of claims that juicing will 'cleanse' the body or the system. The human body has a number of checks and balances to detoxify and cleanse itself."