Diet and RA

Im recently diagnosed with RA and although my rhuemy has not given any advise on diet I'm keen to make some changes. I'm overweight so need to get some flesh off these sore bones so wanted to try to start with eliminating sugar first due to the well documented inflammatory effect as well as weight issues. How should I go about this? The obvious sugar in hot water drinks etc and confectionery...should I just go cold turkey or phase it in. Should I use sweeteners. What about sugar in sauces etc...should I be reading every label...excuse my ignorance but aside from the five a day fruit and veg advice I'm pretty oblivious to what constitutes a healthy diet.

Any advice appreciated. X

Sharon 🌸

20 Replies

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  • Hi Shazz,

    Hope you're having a good day.

    I would recommend going completely cold turkey on foods that could promote an inflammatory response. It won't do you any harm because these foods don't tend to contain any nutritional benefits anyway.

    I would cut out and foods containing Gluten, Wheat and Sugar straight away. Just doing this can sometimes have a profound effect on the way you feel.

    Depending on your individual triggers, you may want to take things a step further.

    Me and my wife have cut out Gluten, Wheat, Sugar, Nightshade Vegetables, Dairy Products, Nuts, Grains and Legumes. By doing this my wife's pain levels have dropped dramatically after about 6 weeks.

    This might seem like an extreme step to take, but all the foods on that list provoke an inflammatory response of some kind in your body,

    Here is a list of the foods we eat. If a food isn't on the list it's because it has been shown to trigger an inflammatory response in some people. It may not trigger an inflammatory response for you, but it's going to be difficult to establish what foods are making your pain worse if you don't eliminate all possible triggers and then slowly reintroduce them to see which ones seem to be your triggers.

    Based on what I've learned I would recommend going cold turkey and cutting Sugar, Gluten, and Wheat from your diet completely.

    Here is our "Shopping List". I hope you find it useful and I hope you find the right combination of foods that work for you. I'm sure you will. The fact that you are already seeking a solution to your problem is a major step in the right direction.

    Grass fed beef

    Grass fed lamb

    grass fed pork

    pasture raised poultry

    wild caught fresh fish

    wild game [Venison, Buffalo, Deer etc etc]

    vegetables

    artichokes

    asparagus

    bamboo shoots

    beets

    bok choy

    broccoflower

    broccoli

    broccolini

    Brussels Sprouts

    Cabbage

    Carrots

    Cauliflower

    Celery

    Chives

    Cucumbers

    Kale

    Leeks

    Lettuce

    Mushrooms

    Okra

    Olives

    Onions

    Parnsips

    Sea Veggies, Seaweed and Kelp

    Spinach [all leafy greens]

    Squash [acorn, burrnut, spaghetti kabocha]

    Sweet Potatoes

    Turnips

    Yellow Squash Zucchini

    Healthy Fats

    Avocado

    Avocado Oil

    Coconut Oil

    Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    Organic Fruits

    Apples

    Applesauce [unsweetened]

    Apricots

    Avocados

    Bananas

    Blackberries

    Blueberries

    Cherries

    Coconut

    Cranberries

    Figs

    Grapefruits

    Grapes

    Kiwis

    Kumquats

    Lemons

    Limes

    Mangos

    Melons

    Nectarines

    Oranges

    Peaches

    Pears

    Raspberries

    Strawberries

    Tangerines

    Seasonings

    Apple Cider Vinegar

    Basil

    Bay Leaf

    Black Pepper

    Cacao

    Cardamom

    Carob

    Cilantro Cinnamon

    Clove

    Cumin

    Dandelion

    Dill

    Fennel Seed

    Garlic

    Ginger

    Mustard

    Nutmeg

    Oregano

    Parsley

    Rosemary

    Sea Salt

    Tarragon

    Thyme

    Turmetic

    Drinks

    Homemade fruit and vegetable juices

    Teas Caffeine free herbal tea, organic green rea in moderate amounts if needed

    Water [filtered water, mineral water, seltzer]

  • Wow allsop. What a great reply. Looks like ill have to shop very differently. Your list is extremely helpful. Thanks a lot. Whatever about sugar which I will find difficult to eliminate...wheat in pasta and bread with be the worst for me I think. Still if it helps it's gotta be done. Wish me luck!

    Sharon 🌸

  • To me I think it's easier to take it step by step. I've always found that if I start things in too extreme a way then I don't manage to keep it up. So step one is cutting out processed food, there is hidden sugar and salt in just about all of them. And don't use sweetners, they have their own problems. If you crave sugar have a piece of fruit. Try to buy raw the raw materials (veg & fish) and cook simple meals. For example, if you like fish fingers it is very easy to dip some fish filets in breadcrumbs and get the same effect without the added extras, and only pennies more expensive. So don't make yourself miserable by trying to eat things you hate, but think about how you can recreate what you like but without nasty things in them, and to fit your budget and ethics. So we don't buy exotic fruit that is airfreighted, but cheap local apples.

    Quite frankly if you are overweight then getting down to a healthy weight is the priority. Worry about the details later.

  • Thanks helix. Yes this approach sounds more doable for me. Think I can manage that with main meals ie dinners. It's quick lunches and snacks where the sugar and processed foods come into play for me. That's where my attention is needed. I'm aware my diet has a lot of sugar both obvious and hidden so need to tackle that asap before I even contemplate eliminating wheat gluten etc.

    Thanks again

  • Carry fruit with you at all times, apples and grapes etc. If you have to get shop bought sandwiches then avoid anything with cheese and mayonnaise. Go for hummus and cucumber, plain chicken and salad and so on. Your taste buds will adjust very quickly!

  • Surely its better to go to a group like Weight Watchers (i'm not a member) and get some mutual support. Just don't go for the gluten is 'so bad' hype. I'm Celiac (properly diagnosed) and my RA stil lhurts. In my view its moderation and excerise and all the rest of the sensible advice you can find in numerous places in the GP's surgery; round here we have an NHS run diet advice and reduced gym membership opportunity for free. Good luck though dieting is never easy and every pound off does help no doubt about that. lol x

  • It's certainly a good idea to test the water with certain food groups but I would start with processed foods, limit them as much as poss & use the Internet for inspiration to replace them. Find some aimed at busy working mums, but don't be despondent if you choose any that say a half hour meal & it takes longer, the more it becomes a regular meal the quicker it will take. I would be very wary of choosing to be gluten free unless you're unfortunate enough to also be diagnosed Celiac, they're usually higher in sugars & far too limiting, plus grains are heart healthy. Why limit yourself to certain foods when there's no medical reason you have to?

    I eat a mainly Mediterranean diet, just basically continuing to eat what I did when living there, really healthy too. I'm fortunate I can eat tomatoes, potatoes, peppers/paprika & others in the nightshade family but they can contribute to inflammation so it's worth trying reducing the ones you have most of in your normal diet to see if you respond positively. Personally, I'd agree with helix, I wouldn't go headlong into an elimination diet, you're trying to lose weight sensibly. Also we need certain vitamins & there's no better way than to get them naturally than spend money on what you may well be able to have enough of by eating really well with different choices.

    Above all it needs to be sustainable. Cutting out a food group such as sugar when you'be been used to eating what you want is most likely going to really difficult, if you give in you risk a sugar rush & that's fatal, you could undo all the good you've being doing. If you still crave choc choose a high percentage cocoa one & just have a piece or two at given times of the day, something to look forward to if you're anything like me with choc! Water is fine, I drink lots but it can be boring all the time so try things like pomegranate juice now & again. A squeeze of a lemon, lime or orange in water may sound boring but it's good for the liver & vitamin C is an anti inflammatory too. We've cut our coffee consumption down, just 2 a day & drink mint tea instead, tea bags in winter, an infusion of what we cut in the garden until it goes over, lovely after a meal & aids digestion too. There are lots of tea options nowadays in the supermarkets, ginger ones are nice.

    It's certainly a good idea to test the water with certain food groups but I would start with processed foods, limit them as much as poss & use the Internet for inspiration to replace them. Find some aimed at busy working mums, but don't be despondent if you choose any that say a half hour meal & it takes longer, the more it becomes a regular meal the quicker it will take. I would be very wary of choosing to be gluten free unless you're unfortunate enough to also be diagnosed Celiac, they're usually higher in sugars & far too limiting, plus grains are heart healthy. Why limit yourself to certain foods when there's no medical reason you have to?

    I eat a mainly Mediterranean diet, just basically continuing to eat what I did when living there, really healthy too. I'm fortunate I can eat tomatoes, potatoes, paprika & others in the nightshade family but they can contribute to inflammation so it's worth trying reducing the ones you have most of in your normal diet to see if you respond negatively to them. Personally, I'd agree with helix, I wouldn't go headlong into an elimination diet, you're trying to lose weight sensibly, also we need certain vitamins & there's no better way than to get them naturally than spend money on what you may well be able to have enough of by eating really well with different choices. Weight loss is your aim just now so don't be too concerned about other things like specific anti inflammatory diets, safe & sensible eating is the way to lose weight slowly & that's better than feeling as though you're going without.

    Above all it needs to be sustainable. Cutting out a food group such as sugar when you'be been used to eating what you want is a most likely going to really difficult, you risk a sugar rush & that's fatal, you could undo all the good you've being doing. If you still crave choc choose a high percentage cocoa one & just have a piece or two at a given time of the day, something to look forward to if you're anything like me with choc!

    If lunches are a problem try pre-preparing healthy wraps, pitta bread can be a change too. I enjoy avocado with cottage cheese, tuna or pasta, lots of other ideas for recipes online.

    Really good luck, your joints will be ever so thankful. 😊

  • Ask for a referral to a dietician Shaz10......or maybe your GP practice have a diet sheet you could refer to. If you know you are overweight & admit you eat too much sugar, you don't need to either starve yourself or go on some sort of exclusion diet....the old adage "eat less move more" would help if you are not too restricted by RA.

    You will read here that most of us just eat sensibly & unless you have been diagnosed by a doctor, (not a private nutritionist), you won't need to cut out the supposedly arch enemy ....gluten...from your diet. A recent study published showed that the number of people with a genuine wheat allergy is far,far less than people who have excluded gluten from their diet.

    Good luck with your weight loss.......but don't starve yourself, slow & steady is the way to go.......that's my take on things.....not very scientific I'm afraid, just boring old common sense!

  • I have lost more than 8 stone with the help of slimming world and the great support of my friends and inspirational leader at my weekly meeting. It is not easy to loose weight and keep it off. Trying to have a very restricted diet just makes loosing weight harder and more difficult to maintain over the long term and may well mean you miss out on vital vitamins and minerals. I eat very little process food now and lots of fruit veg and protein ( lean meat and fish). I cook with little fat. My sugar is my treats - syns to slimming world. Usually chocolate or wine! This illness is depressing enough without every meal being a misery as well. It has taKen me 2 years to loose the weight and I know I can keep it off for the rest of my life now. I am very stable with my RA (which was very aggressive and damaged joints very quickly in the beginning) and am very slowly reducing my drugs and increasing my exercise.

  • I'm dairy intolerant so have lots of soya milk and yogurt. If you buy the supermarkets own brands they are much cheaper. I cut out refined sugar (did a sugar free challenge on Facebook) which wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I eat lots of fruit, have lemon and lime in hot and cold water and decaf tea. Overnight oats with fruit and yogurt is easy to do for breakfast and I usually make my own soup or salad for lunch at work and have rice cakes with it. You soon get used to it. Good luck 🌸

  • Unfortunately soya is not recommended for AI sufferers. Soya raises among other things your estrogen levels. Estrogen is very inflammatory and an imbalance of progesterone-estrogen levels is very common in RA. It really stands to reason to keep away from foods that raise your estrogene levels. If you are dairy intolerant coco milk and youghurt really are good substitutes. It isn't easy to find the diet that helps you the most🤔Good luck. xxSimba

  • Oh I didn't know that about soya. I'm stuck then as the soya has def helped my hot flushes (menopause) but strangely enough my AI pain has increased.

  • It's not strange at all, it's because you are feeding the inflammation😕Best to take for hot flashes is progesterone cream or drops, natural. Estrogen against hot flashes is old news, progesterone does a much better job and also protects you against cancer. Lots of recent research and info on the net. Search for estrogen-progesterone balance. Good luck😊👍🏻

  • Thanks Simba 🌸 I guess I'm off to buy coconut or almond milk and yogurt then. I'll def do some research. Take care x

  • 😊😊😊👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

  • Try reading The Paleo Approach by Dr Sarah Ballantyne and see what you think. If you want to try it, thepaleomom.com, phoenixhelix.com and autoimmunewellness.com are great sources for recipes and support. Best of luck to you!

  • Summer's a great time to start cutting out sugar from lunches and snacks. Personally I'd recommend treats .... seems counter intuitive, but if you identify some foods as a treat to enjoy and savour from time to time, then it can be easier to make sugar-free (or nearly sugar-free) foods the core of your diet without feeling deprived. It's a bit like trying to drink less .... if you build good associations, a bit of a ritual, around the occasional drink then regular swigging at home doesn't seem so attractive. Possibly!!

    The one reason summer's so great is salads. If your idea of a salad has got a bit samey, then you could consider experimenting with more ingredients. Raw cabbage, raw fennel, peppers, different kinds of salad onions (red ones are cheaper than spring onions) and loads of other stuff can help to ring the changes. I make up a jar of salad dressing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar plus garlic but there are loads of other combinations. Internet recipes may help. To my knowledge a hard-boiled egg has no sugar, nor does cheese. Shop-bought hummus may have a little but that's good with salads too. Do you like mackerel? Another easy to find thing. As are fresh tuna steaks (or tinned tuna). I'd go for boiled spuds or ordinary bread or pitta bread or oatcakes but then gluten's not on my radar!

    As a general rule most take away foods do seem to pack in the sugar whether it is needed or not. Oh, what about breakfast? Most breakfast cereals, including muesli, contain loads of sugar so that's quite an easy one to change. The muesli available in health-food shops doesn't usually contain it, though if you're buying something that might become a staple, you only need to read the label the first time! I have porridge with blueberries on top.

    I could go on and on as you probably gather. Just in case you think other people are sooo much more virtuous than you, I should add that I've had loads of vices but have managed to shed some while retaining others. One day I'll be perfect. Yeah right!

    But yes, reducing sugar really isn't too hard. Especially as the taste buds really do adapt pretty quickly so your tolerance for sugar may well decrease and you just won't want too much of it.

  • It depends on how addicted you are to it and how you feel, but I have been off sugar for a while now and find even the natural sugars in fruit or sweet potatoes will send me into a flare so baby step it and listen to your body! You can do it!

  • Thank you all for your replies. You have definitely given me 'food for thought' If you pardon the pun! My weekly shop at the weekend will look very different anyway.

    Thanks for all your recommendations and meal ideas. And the links to recipies. I'm aware there's lots of diets/info on line and have been to slimming world in the past but it's great to here direct from the horses​ mouth so to speak what actually works for people. Weight loss is an ultimate goal obviously to help my joints in the long term but really feel I have to tackle what is definitely a sugar addiction so sugar and processed foods is where I'll start I think. I like the idea of high % cocoa to wean of choc...and I will definitely ask to see a dietician and I've plenty of reading to do online now for recipies and food relating to inflammation. Feeling a bit empowered!

    Thanks again everyone and keep well

    Sharon 🌸

  • I've started taking smoothies every morning, they did help with the tiredness and stomach problems with the medication, I've had RA for 10 years and I haven't found any food that makes it worse or makes it better but eating healthy is always better then eating junk. There's loads of fruit and spices that meant to have anti inflationary effects such as pineapple and turmeric, I add them to my smoothies. Fish as well has oils that help with bones.

    Another note is my boss husband went vegan he had horrible back problems before this surgery everything nothing helped till he stopped meat and dairy products and he says he's never felt better it be a dramatic change tho lol.

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