Can changing your diet help with symptoms of various types of arthritis or fibromyalgia? Research shows that a change in diet can definitely help some people with these conditions. We are pleased to see the websites for some arthritis societies now mention 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 (in some cases, 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 of potential culprits included dairy products, wheat and other gluten-containing grains, animal products, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant) and citrus fruits. Trigger foods were not the same for every person. The approach used was to start by completely eliminating all of these see if symptoms were reduced. Next, the various groups were introduced, one group at a time. This was done leaving at least 3 days between one group of foods and the next, leaving time for symptoms (which can take a day to appear) to emerge and then subside.
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 sprouted oats, buckwheat, quinoa, and bloomed wild rice) and sprouted lentils, peas, nuts, and seeds. People did lose a little weight, but they considered this a bonus. After the initial vegan and raw diet, individuals experimented with re-introducing foods such as nightshades, citrus, or additional grains to see if any triggered reactions. 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 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.
Why can gluten-free, vegan diets be 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 –and even thrive on such diets? Can we enjoy delicious foods while on these regimens? (Living Light’s Culinary classes will certainly impress you on this count!) 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, we invite you to join us for our Vegan and Raw Nutrition classes at Living Light. Learn more here >
References: Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated With Vegetarian Diets by Dr. Jens Kjeldsen-Kragh. www.nhe.net/jointpainrelief/7112.pdf
Becoming Raw by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, Book Publishing Co.
Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, Book Publishing Co.