Rheumatoid Arthritis and Diet


This is a controversial topic.  So I will begin by saying there is no scientific evidence that diet has any effect on Rheumatoid Arthritis.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence however, that some people find dietary changes make a huge difference to their symptoms.  There are also lots of people that say dietary changes make some difference. Then there are others that say it makes no difference at all.

I would also like to make the point that no one is saying Rheumatoid Arthritis is caused by a bad diet.  Once the disease is established eliminating various foods may help some people, it seems.

I eat a well balanced diet.  I eat very few processed foods, mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, some lean meats and the occasional chocolate bar when PMS hits.  In the past I changed my diet to being Vegan and gluten free.  It did help my symptoms for a while.  Then I re-introduced some animal products and decided that gluten was the main issue.  For two years I ate gluten free believing it was helping my symptoms.

Then one day I had a good, hard look at my pain chart.  And the truth was pretty clear.  It wasn’t helping much at all. I still flared as often, and as badly.  I was just making myself feel better by doing *something* proactive.

So I reintroduced some gluten and it made no difference.

Now that I have no other treatment options I am looking at diet again. It does help some people.  What have I got to lose?  Well, the sheer pleasure of eating something delicious.

I can deal with it.

So.  Research.

This is what I find.

There are many, many theories about what foods exacerbate Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.  It would seem that everyone is indeed very different and it’s a matter of trial and error.  Eliminating foods and then re-introducing them to see if they cause a flare.

But how long before they cause symptoms?  Can’t be sure.  Some people say things like they eat dairy and within an hour they can feel it.  Some people say a day later.  Some say longer.

It is very hard to pin down cause and effect in these circumstances.  Which makes it very hard to give up foods you enjoy if you aren’t really sure.  A food intolerance is not like an allergy. It’s far more subtle and there is no medical test to prove or disprove it.

Anyway, from what I have been reading, these foods are the main culprits:

Gluten, Dairy, Sugar, meat, nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, chillis, capsicum, eggplant) and lectins (beans, legumes, potatoes, peas, zucchini, asparagus, radish, mushrooms)

There are more, I’m sure.  But that’s a heck of a list of things to avoid already.  So I’ve done some more reading on specific diet plans that people state have helped their symptoms.

Most of these diets follow similar lines.  Being that I’ve already gone completely vegan and gluten free I’ve already done a diet more restrictive than most.

My acupuncturist recommends the Paleo Diet.  Looking into that, it seems there are many versions of that as well.  However, after weighing everything up, it seems like a reasonable eating plan.  It’s essentially no processed foods, lean meats, fruit and vegetables and nuts.  But it’s more restrictive than that.  When I compare it to the list of things to eliminate for RA, is not too bad a fit.  I can see why many people claim it helps.

I think a diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables sounds pretty good.  I eat mostly that, anyway.  The hard part will be cutting out sugar and my glass of red wine.  I will look into it more thoroughly in coming days, and give it a solid try.

It’s a 30 day plan.  It can’t make me feel worse, but it can substantially increase my workload and food bill, by the looks.  So I still have more reading to do to see if it’s doable.

But I think I will try it.  Properly. For 30 days.  Nothing to lose.


  1. I hope you get good results with that diet. Will power is where I fail. It’s amazing that you managed to go gluten free so long.
    I think I did best when I concentrated on protein and vegetables, with a lot of fruit. Tomatoes and onions are problems but hopefully potatoes are OK
    Does lactose bother you? It can ake you uncomfortable even with no RA

    • Hi Annette, unfortunately I’m not finding diet to make any difference at all. I can honestly say that I feel much better on a ‘clean’ fruit and veg with some lean meat based diet. A few grains here and there, and some treats once in a while! But it hasn’t helped my arthritis to do ‘strict’ paleo, sadly. I’m actually going to bring back a bit of diary to see if that causes any problems. I miss my milky morning coffee!!! lol

      Arthritic chick signature


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