Diet and arthritis, avoid the simplistic so... - Healthy Eating

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Diet and arthritis, avoid the simplistic solution

andyswarbs profile image

Please be patient with me on this post. I have been trying to get my head around the following ever since I started my healing process. If you go away and don't understand a word of what I am about to say, that's fine. Please switch off if you want to!


I try to keep abreast of the news daily, and part of that is watching for news articles on nutrition, diet, veganism, arthritis etc etc. Today I was faced with a flurry of posts entitled "5 foods to reduce your arthritis", "10 foods to avoid if you have arthritis" and was inspired to write this article. Also as a member of the Arthritis Action forum I saw a pinned post arguing that oily fish should be in your diet, and that really got my goat.

You could probably replace the word arthritis with gout, IBS, diabetes, obesity or any other chronic condition and similar headlines will appear. Clicking on these some will be advocating a vegan/plant based lifestyle, some will highlight fish, especially oily fish, some might point to herbal remedies, and yet others might focus on specific nutrients such as potassium, iron, vitamin d.

You might be expecting me to enter into a diatribe on why whole food plant-based approach is better, but no, that is not the purpose of this post. The purpose of my post to encourage you to avoid thinking about simplistic answers. We live in a society where we expect the doctor to have a "magic pill" that will cure us. The truth is entirely the opposite. Yes the doctor is great and totally necessary for acute conditions such as a motorcycle accident, or a heart attack. But the doctor's only magic pill for chronic conditions manages the condition to that it progresses slowly.

I was, for instance, prescribed methotrexate, for my arthritis, and my doctor was encouraging my dosage to go up and up and up along with other drugs in the mix. But on no occasion did he ever argue that my condition would go away with no need for further medication. Instead this was supposed to be a life sentence of methotrexate, enbrel or similar for the rest of my life.

Now, had I succumed to the steady flow of websites, news artices etc that said "this foodstuff should be eaten daily/weekly," and "that foodstuff should be avoided at all costs" then I fully expect I would still be taking a collection of drugs for the rest of my natural life.

As an example of a foodstuff, yes, I take turmeric daily and yes I would recommend anyone to try it. BUT, and this is where it gets complex. Sorry about that! Life just is not simple. There are principles that one can adopt. And yes, I think a whole food plant based diet is a good principle. But it is not THE answer. I am convinced that had I just adopted a whole-food plant-based diet I would still be taking medication for the rest of my life!

THE answer to resolving chronic conditions is the process.

This in part is trial and error. But even trial and error is not the total solution. I must have read a million times, "oh I have tried that diet and it did not work for me." In fact I went to see the head person of an arthritis charity and was told in no uncertain terms that dietary changes were no final solution, and should not be recommended for anyone.

The thing is I agree with this person almost 100%. At the time of my meeting I did not have the words to explain the key difference. But that "almost" is critical. It is key. It is a nuance that is not understood. That's what I hope, through my waffle, to help others facing chronic conitions to see.

That difference might be summarised as no-one diet fits all. However we do have a common trait of all being humans. One trait of being human is we have intelligence. We have the intellegence to listen to our bodies. That's the difference.

If I can digress to my own experience, I went through the Paddison Program (PP), and a key aspect of that program is it teaches you thoroughly about your own body, especially in the context of heavy medication. It does not advocate hard and fast "eat this and you will be well." Instead it goes through the process of helping you to try foods out and listen to what your body is telling you.

To prove to you that I am not joking, some people who have gone through PP still eat fish, even though for many it is a no-no.

That process of learning about your body takes time. For me I largely healed in a year, I know of some people who have healed in weeks, but some people are still healing after many years. So for most people this is no instant cure, no magic pill.

Underpinnning this if you blindly ate what the PP advised and yet did not listen to your body, then time and energy etc would be totally wasted. Let me restate that, if you are not going to listen to your body each and every day then you will not have success.

The process is about structuring the order of how foods are introduced into your body to give you maximum chance to discern the resulting pain levels associated with each foodstuff. But even this is not simple. What might trigger a reaction one day, might become tolerated over time, especially as the gut heals.

People with arthritis are lucky. They are lucky because they have a feedback system. Eat some particular food and within hours, possibly overnight pain levels will go up. That feedback system means that they can - if they are listening - begin to discern what foods are good and which are bad for them.


So the next time you see a website or news article offering up a magic pill in the guise of a foodstuff that will solve all your problems, take it with a very large pinch of salt.

2 Replies

Hi Andy,

Thank you for your post, and I will start by saying that I agree totally with you on both the principle of finding out what suits you best, whether it is diet, exercise, or medication regime and the mix of the three, and secondly on the principle of learning (or re-learning) to listen to your body. I am reminded that Susie Orbach was saying as much in Fat is a Feminist Issue way back in 1978, and no doubt if she was to re-write it now to be more inclusive genderwise, the principle would remain the same.

But I am particularly grateful to you for highlighting in your post the significance of diet for arthritis, as I hadn't really properly taken this on board - but now I will! And, in the spirit of the second principle above, I shall take note of when pain is better or worse in relation to what I have been eating - and perhaps I shall learn something really valuable. At the very least, it will remind me to be more mindful generally of what I am eating. Thanks again.

Zest profile image

Hi Andy,

I will look forward to reading your post later, and I hope you're enjoying your day so far.

Zest :-)

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