Do Certain Foods Really Affect Joint Pain?

Christine Miller Health Guide
  • There are plenty of tips and articles published in magazines and online about the health benefits of eating certain foods. Aside from the plethora of information on how to maintain or lose weight through diets, there is an increasing amount of information on the health benefits of certain foods that contain important fats or proteins that are beneficial. One example we often read about is eating foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, avocados and flax seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to decrease inflammation in the body and help lower cholesterol. Maintaining a healthy weight is also a key factor in joint health because extra weight adds stress to joints and decreases mobility, which in turn can lead to decreased activity, more weight gain, more disease activity and pain.
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    There are some theories that certain diets or eating habits are more beneficial for people with RA, such as eating a mainly vegetarian diet or fasting for a period of time and then maintaining a gluten-free diet for several months. But experts believe that fasting is a risky way to treat RA and any benefits are short-lived. The Arthritis Foundation, in its Guide to Good Living With Arthritis does not recommend any special diet for RA sufferers, but encourages a well-balanced diet by eating a variety of foods especially fruits, vegetables and grains, cutting down of fat and cholesterol consumption, using sugar and salt and alcohol in moderation and drinking plenty of water.

    Adding to the many theories and research studies concerning RA and food is a new study published in the August, 2006 edition of Gut, an international journal of gastroenterology and hepatology. In an article from Reuters, Norweigan researchers have found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis have a “strikingly increased” level of production of antibodies to certain foods in the gut. The researchers hypothesized that hypersensitivity to certain foods may lead to an increase in clinical symptoms (arthritis flare-ups in the joints).
    The researchers noted that patients often believe that the foods they eat have an effect on their disease activity. They investigated whether there might be some foundation for the anecdotal evidence of this association by study samples of blood and intestinal fluids from 14 rheumatoid arthritis patients and 20 healthy "controls."

    They found that many RA patients had systemic and intestinal immune responses that were abnormal, particularly elevated levels of food antibodies in the gut. Specifically, the team identified antibodies to components of cow’s milk (ø lactalbumin, ß-lactoglobulin, casein), cereals, hen’s egg (ovalbumin), cod fish, and pork meat.

    The researchers recommended that physicians should take seriously their patients complaints about relationships between what they eat and the severity of their joint disease because there may be a physical, immunological explanation for the complaints versus a psychological (“it’s all in your head”) explanation. Patients should be monitored with regard to avoidance of food that potentially produces adverse joint reactions.
Published On: August 31, 2006