Can changing your diet help with symptoms of arthritis or fibromyalgia? Research shows that a change in diet can definitely help some people with these conditions. I am pleased to see the Arthritis Society’s online material now mentions Scandinavian studies that show links between diet and an improvement in health.
At this point, the research is limited and the groups studied are small (typically fewer than two dozen people). Below is a summary of the findings from Finland, Sweden and the US:
When people fasted, their symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis decreased. Of course, fasting is not a choice you can adopt for long. Your symptoms will vanish – but so will you! However, the decreased symptoms did alert researchers to the possibility that certain food culprits can trigger reactions. The list included dairy products, wheat and other gluten-containing grains, animal products, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers) and citrus fruits. Trigger foods were not the same for every person.
Rheumatoid arthritis and vegan diets free of trigger foods
When people adopted vegan diets that were free of all of the foods listed above, more than half of the participants reported reduced shoulder pain and improved flexibility and quality of life.
You might wonder what they ended up eating. Participants’ diets consisted of plenty of vegetables (apart from those in the nightshade family), fruits (apart from citrus), gluten-free ‘grains’ (such as oats, buckwheat, quinoa, rice, wild rice and millet) and beans, peas and lentils. People did lose a little weight, but they considered this a bonus. At the end of the study, a number of people continued with their new food regimen, whereas those who returned to their non-vegetarian way of eating experienced a return of symptoms. In Finnish studies, participants had ‘living food’ raw diets, with plenty of sprouted foods. These people experienced reduced morning stiffness, joint swelling, pain and other symptoms. Lab tests and X-rays provided objective evidence of some improvements.
Fibromyalgia and vegan diets free of trigger foods
A US study of people with fibromyalgia found that 75 percent showed improvement when they ate mostly vegan and raw foods. In Finland, those on ‘living food’ diets had better pain scores and less morning stiffness. Symptoms returned for those who returned to their standard diet.
Reasons why gluten-free, vegan diets are beneficial for arthritis and fibromyalgia
Researchers propose these diets:
- are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.
- are low in inflammatory compounds and pro-oxidants.
- eliminate foods such as wheat (gluten) and dairy products that commonly trigger sensitivity reactions.
- change our intestinal bacteria so that we have more ‘friendly bacteria’ that support health.
- generally result in weight loss, taking stress off joints.
Many questions arise. Can we survive on such diets or enjoy them? To derive a benefit, must our diet be 100 percent raw? Are cooked foods toxic? What does a nutritionally adequate raw diet look like? For answers, I invite you to visit the Wellness Show (February 18-20) in Vancouver. See sidebar.
Raw food @ The Wellness Show
The Wellness Show runs February 18-20 at the Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building Exhibit Hall C, 1055 Canada Place. www.thewellnessshow.com
Raw food presentations
Saturday Feb. 19, 1:30pm: Raw Food Diets: What’s True, What’s Not? Sunday Feb. 20, 12:30pm: Food Allergies: Health and Healing. Come by booth 930 (The Book Publishing Company) and say hello.
References: Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated With Vegetarian Diets by Dr. Jens Kjeldsen-Kragh. www.nhe.net/jointpainrelief/7112.pdf
Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and co-author of nutrition classics Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, Becoming Raw, Raising Vegetarian Children, the Food Allergy Survival Guide and the Raw Food Revolution Diet. For personal consultations, phone 604-882-6782 or visitwww.nutrispeak.com
sprout photo © Marius Jasaitis | Dreamstime.com