Tag: ra

29 May 2018

Autoimmune Diseases: Facing More Than One

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. The family of autoimmune diseases include such diseases as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis. Unfortunately, someone with one autoimmune disease has an increased risk of also developing a second disease in this category. For example, there is a trend for someone with multiple sclerosis to be at risk for the inflammatory bowel disease of Crohn’s disease (and vice versa).

This elevated risk of several autoimmune diseases occurring in certain individuals continues to be researched. For example, recently birth cohort patterns were studied to better understand this issue. One important finding from this study was that the risk of an autoimmune disease may not only be accounted for by internal risk factors (e.g., genetics), but external factors can also be at play.

It appears that exposure to certain environmental risk factors during an early period in life can increase the risk of both Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. These risk factors might be similar or even be the same factors influencing both of these diseases. Although more remains to be understood on this issue, what is currently known is that autoimmune diseases overall are more likely in those consuming a typical Western diet which is higher in salt and saturated fats (the type of fat found in animal foods, such as red meat), as well as those with certain bacterial and viral infections early in life or exposed to certain medications (e.g., procainamide or hydrolyzine).

While these connections between autoimmune diseases continues to be uncovered, one important take-away in the meantime for patients who have one autoimmune disease is this: be aware of the increased risk of developing an additional autoimmune disease. Symptoms of a second autoimmune disease should be discussed with a health care provider.


Sonnenberg A, Ajdacic-Gross V. Similar birth-cohort patterns in Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler 2018;24(2):140-149. doi:10.1177/1352458517691620.

27 Feb 2018

Rheumatoid Arthritis: What Should I Eat?

When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, the foods one eats or avoids can actually affect the symptoms of this autoimmune disease. Dietary interventions can be a useful compliment to pharmacological treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. What it mostly comes down to are certain foods that either promote or discourage inflammation.

Overall, a type of diet known as the “Mediterranean diet” focuses on many of the protective foods while eschewing the problematic foods. Several human studies have documented rheumatoid arthritis symptom improvement, in terms of pain, disease activity, and daily function, when patients transition to a Mediterranean diet.

In addition to the Mediterranean diet, other dietary factors have been either lauded or implicated in rheumatoid arthritis progression and symptoms. Here is a summary of those dietary factors:

Choose These Foods   

Whole grain cereals


Oily fish

Plant-based oils (olive oil)


Leafy greens


Spices (turmeric, ginger)

Probiotic yogurt

Green tea


Avoid These Foods



All animal products

Processed foods

Salty foods


Saturated fats



Forsyth C, Kouvari M, D’Cunha NM, et al. The effects of the Mediterranean diet on rheumatoid arthritis prevention and treatment: a systematic review of human prospective studies. Rheumatol Int December 18, 2017 doi: 10.1007/s00296-017-3912-1.

Khanna S, Jaiswal KS, Gupta B. Managing rheumatoid arthritis with dietary interventions. Front Nutr 2017;4:52.

23 Jan 2018

The Rheumatoid Arthritis Gender Gap

Rheumatoid arthritis skews very female in the 1.5 million Americans with this disease. There are three women with rheumatoid arthritis to every one man with this autoimmune condition. Furthermore, the disease tends to develop at younger ages in women than in men and also can cause more severe symptoms in women.

While the exact reasons for this gender gap remain unclear, hormones are strongly suspected to play a role. Young women diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis often wonder if there will be negative effects on their reproductive ability. Interestingly, this condition does go into remission for many (but not all) women during pregnancy, although it almost always returns after having a baby.

The remissions that occur are fortunate, since some rheumatoid arthritis medications cannot be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding, such as methotrexate. However, other rheumatoid arthritis medications do have a record of safe use during at least some of the trimesters of pregnancy, including TNF inhibitors (e.g., Remicade, Enbrel, and Humira), oral steroids, and NSAIDs.

Unfortunately, the latest research about women and rheumatoid arthritis indicates that children born to mothers who have this disease are themselves at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Children with mothers who have rheumatoid arthritis have an increased chance of later developing several conditions:

  • 3 times greater chance of rheumatoid arthritis
  • 2 times higher risk of thyroid disease
  • 6 times increased chance of epilepsy

This latest research highlights the fact that women with rheumatoid arthritis continue to have specific concerns during their reproductive years; some of these concerns can be managed while others need to be monitored.


Landau MD. Do women with rheumatoid arthritis need to stop medicine while pregnant. Everyday Health December 18, 2017.

Preidt R. If mom has rheumatoid arthritis, baby may develop it, too. HealthDay NewsDecember 11, 2017.