Lifestyle Habits Help Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis

Most people know Matt Iseman as the co-host of the popular TV show American Ninja Warrior. He’s on the announcer’s platform every week cheering on competitors, rooting for the underdog, and discussing the techniques it takes to move through challenging obstacles. But most people don’t know Iseman has rheumatoid arthritis.[1]


And before he was on TV, Iseman was a doctor. That gives him a unique perspective on what it’s like to live with rheumatoid arthritis, manage symptoms, and prevent flare-ups.


What is rheumatoid arthritis?

It’s an autoimmune disorder that causes joint pain and inflammation. It can:

  • Damage cartilage

  • Weaken joints

  • Interfere with mobility.

About 1.5 million people in the United States alone suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, and about 1 percent of the world’s population are living with this autoimmune disorder.[2]


What can you do about it?

Iseman wasn’t diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis until he was 32 years old. But in the last 12 years, he’s learned to manage this condition with medication, diet and lifestyle habits.

Do you have rheumatoid arthritis, or know someone who does?

Iseman works with the Arthritis Foundation to help educate people about rheumatoid arthritis.

And much like his role on American Ninja Warrior, he wants to encourage people to deal with this autoimmune disease in positive ways. Here’s how:


Get regular exercise

Iseman isn’t going to be flying from the obstacles on the American Ninja Warrior course. But he does take time to exercise, and likes to swim, among other activities.

Any cardiovascular and strength training exercise can help. In a recent study, researchers found that exercise is an effective way to manage and prevent symptoms.[3]

“All rheumatoid arthritis patients should be encouraged to include aerobic and resistance exercise training as part of routine care,” says researcher Dr. Jennifer Cooney.


Practice relaxation

Iseman prefers yoga to control rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. But there are many other ways to relax, manage stress in healthy ways and prevent inflammation.

Deep breathing, meditation can help, too, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin.[4]


Eat healthy foods

Research shows that people who eat higher amounts of red meat are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.


Fortunately, better food choices can help control symptoms. To help reduce inflammation linked to rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups, Harvard University researchers recommend eating more:[5]

  • Fish
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Poultry
  • Olive oil

Take a closer look at the foods Harvard University recommends, and you might noticed something familiar.These food recommendations are similar to the Mediterranean Diet. It’s a proven diet and lifestyle plan that can help reduce inflammation, prevent heart disease, and help you live longer.

Eating more healthy foods to manage rheumatoid arthritis also means eating less processed foods, red meats, and sugary snacks.


Get your Zzzs

Even if you don’t have rheumatoid arthritis, you probably know what it feels like to not get enough sleep. Maybe you’re a little grumpy and tired. But it’s worse if you have rheumatoid arthritis.

Lack of sleep raises stress hormones in the brain linked to pain and inflammation.

It’s even been linked to depression, insomnia, and trouble with self-care for people with rheumatoid arthritis.[6]

If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about medications that can help.

Other ways to improve sleep include:

  • Creating a cool, dark, sleeping environment
  • Going to bed at the same time every night
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the afternoon and evening
  • Limiting exposure to TV and electronics before bed.



It’s possible for some people to manage rheumatoid arthritis without medication or flare-ups for long periods of time.

But certain prescription and over-the counter medications can help like anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, pain-relievers, and other options.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, talk to your doctor about your treatment plan.

Supplement your diet

There’s a reason a lot of people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis typically seek out alternative therapies to manage the condition.

Quite often, medication isn’t enough and often comes with unwanted side effects. Fortunately, dietary supplements, in addition to other healthy lifestyle habits can help manage this autoimmune disorder.


Supplements that can help control inflammation, reduce joint pain, help with stiffness, and manage symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis, include:[7]

  • Borage oil
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cat’s claw
  • Evening primrose
  • Fish oil
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Green tea extract


If you are going to use dietary supplements to help you manage symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, be sure to follow dosage recommendations. And find out if any current medications you’re taking for react negatively to dietary supplements.


Living with rheumatoid arthritis

Iseman isn’t about to let rheumatoid arthritis get in the way of enjoying life. Since he was diagnosed and hung up his lab coat for Hollywood, he’s hosted a number of TV series. He’s a spokesman for the Arthritis Foundation. And he even competed to win money for the foundation on The New Celebrity Apprentice.


But more than anything, he wants people to know it’s possible to enjoy a great life, even if you have rheumatoid arthritis.



  1. Maher, D. (2017). American Ninja Warrior’s Matt Iseman vs. rheumatoid arthritis stigma. Everyday Health. From:
  2. Arthritis Foundation. (2017). What is rheumatoid arthritis? From:
  3. Cooney, J. (2011). Benefits of exercise in rheumatoid arthritis. Journal of Aging Research. From:
  4. Rosenkranz, M., et al. (2012). A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. From:
  5. Godman, H. (2013). Adopt a Mediterranean diet now for better health later. Harvard Health Publications. From:
  6. Putre, L. (2017). Rheumatoid arthritis and sleep. Arthritis Foundation. From:
  7. Stickler, T, et al. (2017). Herbs, supplements, and vitamins for RA: Benefits and uses. Healthline. From:
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