Rheumatoid Arthritis and Diet

Cathy Health Guide
  • Ever since my diagnosis in 2004 of rheumatoid arthritis, I have had a belief that our body wants to heal itself.  I believe our bodies are amazing beings that are constantly trying to fix the evils we throw at them.  With this in mind, I started working with a naturopath about eight months after my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis when the medications I was taking weren't providing me with any relief.  With her guidance I participated in an elimination diet that included the elimination of coffee, sugar, citrus, peanuts, dairy, and nightshades.  What did this leave to eat? Meat, fish, chicken and pork plus lots of veggies, fruits and gluten free grains such as quinoa, rice, and corn.  Eliminating these foods brought my inflammation rates back to normal within months and within a year I was in remission.  (I did later come out of remission.)

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    I have remained gluten/dairy free over the years but as my children discovered the benefits of a gluten free diet, sugar slowly became a regular part of my life again and unfortunately it plays a major role in joint discomfort for me.  Also, I was never able to eliminate my digestive problems completely.  They got better, but never did they go away.  This is a problem for me because the more severe my digestive issues become, the worse my joints feel. 


    I am someone who is constantly reading about alternative methods to healing and write about it on my personal blog.  After recently experiencing a severe two year flare, I had a few readers suggest going a step further with my diet and eliminating all grains.  Over the summer my sister shared how a friend of hers was having great success on the Paleo Diet which eliminates all grains.  One of my best friends was also playing around with the concept of eliminating grains.  It seemed like everything was pointing me in the same direction.  The more I read and the more encouragement I received from friends and family, the more sense it made to me. 


    Fortunately I stumbled onto the Paleo Solution site with Robb Wolf, whose beliefs on organic farming and free range meat is in line with my own food philosophy.  There I read the guidelines of the diet which are basically to avoid foods that create inflammation in the body:  all grains (especially glutinous grains) dairy, and legumes.  If suffering from autoimmune disease the elimination of nightshades and eggs are also encouraged.   At first this diet seemed more restrictive than the elimination diet I did with my naturopath.  But, in reality it has been easier.  Once I eliminated all grains, the cravings for gluten free muffins, breads and pastas disappeared which also meant the cravings for glutinous grains also disappeared.  (No more occasional cheats with gluten!)


    All the sudden being gluten-free became extremely easy. Instead of pasta for dinner we now use spaghetti squash, zucchini or cabbage with our sauces. (Yay for more veggies in our diet!) We eat sweet potatoes in place of breads and cereals.  (The kids love mashed sweet potatoes with coconut oil and cinnamon for breakfast along with a juicy piece of sausage from our farmer.)  I have never been a big legume person as I have always known how they affect my body, even when I soak them first, so that was not a problem.  In reality, I was already gluten, dairy, and mostly legume free so all I had to do was eliminate the remaining grains. 


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    In the seven months of following the Paleo Diet, I have almost eliminated the constant bloating and constipation that has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.  When I stray from the diet with something like too many nuts, especially the evil dark chocolate covered almonds sprinkled in salt from Trader Joe's, my digestive issues quickly return, and with that return comes increased joint pain.   Sometimes though, those chocolate-covered almonds are just worth the pain. (Oh, a side benefit of the Paleo Diet is weight is extremely easy to keep off!)


    My rheumatoid arthritis journey has included many alternative types of medicine.  I have tried chiropractic care, kinesiology, Meridian Stress Assessment, NST (Neurostructural Integration Technique, Orthobionomy , acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, homeopathy, herbs, and I am sure more. I do feel our bodies want to heal and once we find the right combination of healing efforts, it will find its way back to good health.   That is why I am continuously experimenting with alternative methods to healing.  I believe there is something out there that is right for me, I just haven't found it ....YET.  


    I gave my body a two year rest from medications and when I went back, my biggest concern was that the drugs would not help the inflammation.  However, I was encouraged by my naturopath and support group of family and friends that by eating a clean diet void of processed or inflammatory foods, the medications would have an easier job of doing what they need to do since they didn't also have to work through all the food issues that cause inflammation in the body.  For now, medications plus diet seems to be the right combination for me.   However, I do still plan on eventually living a drug free life and I feel the Paleo Diet is a huge step in the right direction.    


Published On: February 25, 2011