Rheumatoid Arthritis and Food Sensitivities

If you've ever felt particularly bad after eating certain foods, you may have wondered whether food allergies or intolerances have any connection to your rheumatoid arthritis. Since what we put into our bodies affects every part of them, it makes sense that problem foods may cause achy, painful joints. Now researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway have come up with proof that there is indeed a link.

The researchers tested the intestinal fluid of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers and found that it had higher levels of antibodies to the proteins in certain foods than the intestinal fluid of people without rheumatoid arthritis. Antibodies are proteins our bodies manufacture that attack and destroy other substances. In people with food allergies, the body mistakenly believes that a particular food is harmful and sets out to destroy the offending substance. In some arthritis sufferers, the antibodies actually bind together with the offending food proteins to form complexes that circulate throughout the body and cause discomfort, particularly in the joints.

Once the problem food is consumed again, the body instantly mobilizes its forces and produces more antibodies, leading to a vicious cycle. In the past, studies focused on antibodies that appeared in the bloodstream, but scientists now believe that arthritis sufferers may manifest their symptoms in the intestinal tract instead. According to them, since our digestive system is the first point of contact for the food we eat, that's where antibodies may pop up.

The biggest offenders in the Norwegian study? Cow's milk, cereal, eggs, codfish and pork. If you suspect that one of these foods is causing your inflammation, you can try reverting to a diet consisting solely of produce, meat and fish. In one British study, more than a third of rheumatoid arthritis patients who adopted this caveman-style diet felt better and were significantly less stiff upon awakening in the morning. If you feel better eating this way, introduce your old favorites back into your diet one food at a time until you hit on the one that's bothering you. And don't despair if your can't-live-without-it food is the one causing you problems. Quality substitutes for many foods are available that should help quell your cravings.


Arthritis Foundation