How to lose weight if you have arthritis or any other autoimmune disorder

Updated on Aug 31, 2021 12:07 PM IST

Losing weight is extremely beneficial in managing arthritis. It's however not so easy to shed kilos with the aches, swelling and fatigue that come with the disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis like other autoimmune disorders, occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body's tissues.(Unsplash)
Rheumatoid arthritis like other autoimmune disorders, occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body's tissues.(Unsplash)
ByParmita Uniyal

Living with Rheumatoid arthritis is life changing for many. The constant aches, swelling and stiffness in joints, and restricted movement can affect the quality of life for many patients. While the condition cannot be fully reversed, it can be controlled by keeping an active lifestyle, managing weight, and with a balanced diet. Rheumatoid arthritis like other autoimmune disorders, occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body's tissues.

What makes the body attack its own cells in autoimmune disorders

"The immune system normally guards against germs like bacteria and viruses. When it senses these foreign invaders, it sends out an army of fighter cells to attack them. Normally, the immune system can tell the difference between foreign cells and your own cells. In an autoimmune disorder, the immune system mistakes part of your body, like your joints or skin, as foreign. It releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells causing achy joints, fatigue, rashes on the skin, brain fog, gut issues and weight fluctuations," says Jyotika Diwan Nutrition & Diet Advisor.

Why it's important to lose weight in Arthritis

It is important to lose weight in case of arthritis as the fat tissues release cytokines that could cause inflammation in the body worsening the symptoms of the disease. Studies over the years have established that obesity and arthritis do not go well together considering the extra weight can play havoc with your joint health.

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Losing weight is one of the things health experts advise is extremely beneficial in managing arthritis. It's however not so easy to shed kilos with the aches, swelling and fatigue that come with the disease. Plus, an autoimmune disease makes you susceptible to weight gain.

"People with autoimmune conditions tend to gain weight because of the medicines and reduced physical activity caused due to inflammation. Scientists already know that there is a correlation between inflammation — a heightened immune response — and obesity. But because fat cells themselves can produce inflammatory molecules, distinguishing whether the inflammation causes weight gain or is just a side effect has been tricky," says Diwan.

Tips to lose weight for arthritis patients

If you have an autoimmune disease like arthritis and are struggling with a weight gain issues, here are some tips by Jyotika Diwan to lose some kilos.

ALSO, READ: 6 anti-inflammatory diets you must follow in your 20s and 30s to prevent rheumatoid arthritis

1. Say no to crash dieting: Many people fall for the internet fads and end up doing more harm than good to their body. "Don't have unrealistic expectations from your body. Lose little at a time. You might initially lose some kgs but the results will often be short lived and can ultimately affect your metabolic rate, weaken your immune system further, disturb your bowel habits, leave you with low energy levels and heightened immune response which could ultimately cause more inflammation. So instead get yourself a fitness regime and start a structured diet," advises Diwan.

Arthritis patients are advised to lose weight(Unsplash)
Arthritis patients are advised to lose weight(Unsplash)

2. Intermittent fasting: Adapt an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. Typically fast for 16 hours and then eat for 8 hours. During the fasting windows the body gets plenty time to rest and recuperate leading to reduced inflammation," says Diwan.

3. Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet: It is a relatively new, food-based approach to eliminate unwanted inflammation in a person's body. "Unfortunately, as autoimmune disorders progress, patients face a loss of mobility due to pain or muscle spasms. That’s when changing your diet becomes a high priority. This diet may be helpful in healing your gut to reduce inflammation caused by autoimmune conditions. The diet is very restrictive and mainly includes meats and vegetables. The AIP diet helps to improve gut health, build proper nutrient density, determine food sensitivities, regulate blood sugar to help reduce inflammation, balance hormones, and regulate the immune system. When followed for a period of 30 days, it helps get rid of inflammatory foods, gut irritants, and immune stimulants," adds Diwan.

4. Drink water: Staying hydrated can help you lose weight in many ways. Having 4 to 5 liters of water is advisable. "Water boots energy, delivers important nutrients to all of our cells, especially muscle cells, postponing muscle fatigue. Water helps you feel full longer, without adding any additional calories. It aids digestion, detoxifies, hydrates skin," says Diwan.

5. Mindful eating: It is very important to observe your body cues and eat when you actually feel hungry. Watching your portions as you eat in a relaxed atmosphere will prevent you from emotional eating.

6. Meditate: Stress can affect your metabolism. Health disorders characterised by feelings of worry, anxiety or fear are strong enough to interfere with one's daily activities and metabolism. Take out time to do relaxing activities like listening to music, walking in open spaces and most importantly meditate, says Diwan.


7. Reduce Sodium intake: For the average adult, no more than 2,300 mg per day of salt is recommended. The amount is about a teaspoon of ordinary iodized table salt. However, if the consumption is higher the body will retain up to 1.5 litres of water. This will cause you to feel bloated and make you gain weight. No more than 1,500 mg per day, about two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt — is recommended for middle-aged, older adults and people with high blood pressure.

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8. Sleep: Adequate sleep is essential for body's proper functioning and most of all weight loss. Ensure that you are getting plenty sleep for your body to heal.

9. Keep a check on vitamin intake: Especially Vitamin D and Vitamin B, Omega 3 fatty acids are quite helpful in autoimmune disorders like arthritis. Magnesium supplements help with the cramps and the conversion of Vitamin D.

10. Introduce Glutamine: Glutamine is an energy source for intestinal and immune cells. It also helps maintain the barrier between the intestines and the rest of your body and aids with proper growth of intestinal cells. It works to support many healthy functions like making proteins for muscle tissue, fueling cells that protect our intestines, supporting immune system cells, helping to detoxify the liver of foreign substances. Glutamine is the main fuel source for your body’s lymphocytes, white blood cells that fight infection and disease. So supplementing the body with it in an autoimmune condition helps, says Diwan.

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