Flares caused by food: Hi everyone, I’ve had RA for a... - NRAS


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Flares caused by food

Sunshinereturns profile image
30 Replies

Hi everyone, I’ve had RA for a year and still finding effective medication to bring things under control. I recently (5 weeks ago) switched to methotrexate injections and I’ve been following a healthy anti-inflammatory diet over these 5 weeks. On the whole I have felt well with 3 exceptions of short-term very unpleasant flare. Admittedly I had a steroid injection around 5 weeks ago too as I just couldn’t get on top of my multiple aches. I have a great consultant I trust.

I’ve been away for the weekend with friends and although I have not thrown caution to the wind I’ve allowed myself cakes and coffees, had a burger and chips and by mistake ate some nightshade (red pepper) when I’m realising nightshade is a trigger for me, particularly tomatoes (would never eat them now).

Been in agonising pain all night and just wondering what experience people have when they slip up food wise. Do others feel a largely anti inflammatory diet helps control things and if you slip, you flare? How long does the effect take to happen? How long does it last if you return to your managed diet? I’d be so grateful for any info. I’m finding this site so helpful. Many thanks

30 Replies
bpeal1 profile image

I think everyone’s experience is very different and unfortunately you have to work out works for you by trial and error. For me food makes no difference at all. Hormones make the biggest difference to me but there’s not a lot I can do about that!

Neonkittie17 profile image

Some foods from the nightshade family didn’t/don’t go well with me either. Not as noticeable the last 8 years whilst my RA has been very much under control. Cherry, sweet tomatoes I can just about get away with. Just as well as I’ve grown loads of them this year. (Mainly for my husband.) Red meat, excessive sugar and alcohol all aggravate, and make me feel sluggish. I don’t rule them out totally but I only have them occasionally.

I did feel jumping joints and stabbings in them due to certain foods before my RA was uncontrolled when meds weren’t working properly and effectively and you have said you’re still quite recently diagnosed and trying to find the right treatment. Things do settle down once you get an RA med working properly for you but you may find that the nightshade and sugar are big triggers for your joints hurting anyhow. I hope you are back on track soon.

medway-lady profile image

I'm sorry and don't think food has any relevance at all. If it did the NHS would just prescribe diet and off you go. But the mind is a powerful tool so who knows ? I've read gluten free helps and know thats not true as diagnosed Celiac many years ago with camera into tum after a blood test, and I had that years before the RA set in. It might be of course we all feel better if a healthy weight and exercise helps but even then its not the same for all. I truly believe that testing positive for RA and some don't that it might well be easier to treat. I suppose in time medical science will prove the cause of RA and for me I know I have the pANCA gene so antibodies at a nuclear level, but of course wether that makes any difference I don't know. I think its just trial and error if it works for you, stick with it and if he don't then don't beat yourself up about it.

Dobcross1 profile image
Dobcross1 in reply to medway-lady

Since June my diet and alcohol intake have been awful but blood tests this week came back better than ever - so i know what you mean!

Blackberrywine profile image

Yes I certainly find grains and sugar set me off. I do far better on a ketogenic diet.

LinaM profile image

I don’t follow any specific diet as I’ve not found them particularly helpful . However , without a doubt, artificial sweeteners and diet sodas are a definite no no for me. I love a Diet Coke but have stopped drinking it as I suffer for days after with painful fingers ( like someone sawing through my knuckles) . I also feel very tired if I eat a lot of sugary things for days after . … just not worth it 😩

AgedCrone profile image

I don’t think RA is necessarily responsible for your food intolerances…….I & I’m sure a lot of people with AI diseases eat exactly what we fancy with no problems at all……however eating cake, burgers & chips don’t figure in my understanding of a healthy diet.

Maybe you tummy us just reacting to foods it’s not used to?

cabbie profile image

I find for me sugary foods & drinks definitely make my joints painful.

Swanfull profile image

cream, dairy and sugar, is a big problem for me 😩

Jackie1947 profile image

Cant say that a certain food causes problems. Only stress sets off a flare up

Sunshinereturns profile image

Thanks so much, all very helpful and can see the rule is, there is no rule! However I definitely feel I fall in the camp that food does affect my symptoms and it’s interesting to hear from others who experience this that sugar is a major trigger. I’m still in the early stages of learning what I can/can’t tolerate. Many thanks

madme1 profile image
madme1 in reply to Sunshinereturns

if find im affected by tomatoes and peppers joints become very painful if i consume them.

juliea793 profile image

I can defiantly say certain foods upset my RA. Like you , indulgence in Peppers and Tomatoes. Sometimes Cheese. And it will happen about 4 hours after eating. Fine one minute then a sudden stiffness that affects my shoulders and elbows and sometimes my neck.

Sunshinereturns profile image
Sunshinereturns in reply to juliea793

Thanks, this is so helpful. I was really hoping someone would give an allergy response timeframe. It helps make sense of my own situation.

runningbracken profile image

Food does affect your RA in my experience. The thing i find is eating becomes boring once you follow a strict diet and what others have done. I stopped almost everything for 12 months. Nightshades, sugar, starch, dairy and red meats etc. You do feel better but like people mention it's because you're eating healthier, more energy less fatigue. The thing with me i tended to slip back to eating the things i shouldn't. Potatoes tomatoes and dairy. Me personally do and did start to feel more tired and fatigued when i let the healthier eating lapse, which doesn't help the RA. Flaring and localized pain in the joints starts to become more acute. I've also tried and tested most of the supplements that are supposed to help and again they help the body overall which can only be a good thing for RA. One supplement i did and still take is Frankincense (Boswellia Serrata) it's had clinical trials over in the states and the results are very good for people with OA. It's a natural anti- inflammatory. So, I've been taking it twice a day for almost 3 months now and i have to say it's great. feel much better. My missus has also been taking it for her bad back. She has noticed the change in her movement and overall pain. Diet wise am back to eating potatoes the odd tomato and drop of milk in my coffee.

Am still feeling a little localised pain but i only had to gently knock my hand or lightly stub a thumb or finger and it was excruciating, that's all gone now. Am going to continue to try and help my body cope with my RA the best i can. Am a runner and recently had to give my place on the Snowdon Marathon away because of the right ankle, there's been a lot of pain down there when i run so been difficult to get the miles in. But as long as i can still run a few miles and ride my MTB out in the hills and keep doing that I'll be very happy.

So overall it can only be a good thing to eat properly to give your body every best chance of coping with RA, they talk about gut health a lot. Exercise is also very important, keeping active the best you can is vital. As for supplements the only thing that's worked for me (noticeable difference) is Frankincense. (No wonder baby Jesus was given a bottle by one of the 3 kings). Great stuff.

Good luck Sunshine with your journey. It can only be a good thing eating a healthier diet to promote a happy gut and help with your RA.

Sunshinereturns profile image
Sunshinereturns in reply to runningbracken

Huge thank you for the detailed and really helpful answer. I’m a runner too and been so afraid these days are past so this gives me such hope. Many thanks, everything you’ve said makes sense.

Boxerlady profile image

I'm one of the ones where it doesn't seem to affect me although I do try to eat healthily in order to give my body the best chance to cope with RA. I've always tried to do that but have made a bit more effort since diagnosis - more oily fish for example. Still enjoy my treats though!

oldtimer2 profile image

In addition to the food problems, it might be that the extra stress of socialising and increased activities has some contribution. I do worry that concentrating on the food aspect can make us avoid more and more foods when we should be looking at other possible causes.

Although I enjoy socialising and doing things with other people very much, I do find that I put on my 'brave face' and do more than I would otherwise. From long experience this usually causes an increase in pain for several days afterwards. Now I'm on adalumimab, it isn't so marked, but still apparent.

I have sometimes resorted to increasing my steroids slightly in response (I have been advised to do this as required), but I do try not to take extra, as I then find I feel less well for a few days when I go back to the maintenance dose.

RichDC profile image

Hi Sunshinereturns, for me food is huge. Sugar, caffeine and red meat are all big no-no’s . I notice the bad effects within a few hours and they last for two or three days. So I really try to stay away from these, tho not always successful.

aod75 profile image

I follow an anti inflammatory diet (low sugar/ red meat/ gluten / dairy and eating lots of veg, fish, pulses) and this really helps with overall fatigue, stiffness and aches from RA. But only to compliment my meds (Humira and LDN). I’d be lost without those. 

I find the most noticeable negative effect is from either tomatoes or alcohol. These typically cause painful joints in the evening or night after I’ve had them. Usually my hands and feet. And it wears off over the following few days. 

Maggsie profile image
Maggsie in reply to aod75

sorry to hijack your post but I'm interested that you are prescribed LDN. Are you in the UK?

aod75 profile image
aod75 in reply to Maggsie

Hi Maggsie. I’m in Ireland. I was on Humira for around 12 months. It was working but not well enough. I can’t take methotrexate. I had crazy high liver enzymes on it. And so my rheumatologist put me on LDN. It made a big difference. I’ve been on it now nearly 3 years. I find it really helps with both fatigue and pain.

Maggsie profile image
Maggsie in reply to aod75

thanks ffor the reply. I was interested because I believe it has good results and costs significantly less than some of the current treatments. I'll try to remember to ask my rheumy about it at next appt.

Mmrr profile image
Mmrr in reply to Maggsie

I'm in Scotland, I tried LDN which I paid for privately. It did not make any difference at all. After 3 months I stopped taking it.

But we are all different.

Sophia1111 profile image

An antiflammatory diet does help me. It took a month or so for it to take effect and be on the minimum dose of meds. I take Chloroquine and Sulfasalzine. Could not tolerate MTX at all. Once you get on top of your inflammation and blood markers, you can cheat once in a while. For me it is gluten i.e bread which I feel triggers it. I also avoid red meat, sugar etc. I take predinosone 5 mg a few, 3 -4 times a month if I feel too much fatigue and to cope up at work. Like a SOS. Not very scientific but works for me. Keeps me away from too many NSAIDS. It is a balancing act. And yoga, meditation and prayers.

I think menopause brought it on for me.

Celticdancer profile image

Everybody is different but I've been on an anti inflammatory diet a while now and it's helped me alot as I don't take any medication just painkillers when I need them and I avoid foods like tomatoes, oranges, junk food, processed, refined foods like white bread, white rice etc and eat more anti inflammatory foods like carrots, celery, beetroot, goat's milk, goat's cheese, oily fish like salmon, trout etc. I noticed the difference straight away. I avoid regular tea and only drink herbal tea, I don't like coffee. I only drink alcohol minimally. I try my best and avoid stressful situations so I don't socialise when I don't want to, I only socialise with friends and family. I take daily vitamin and mineral supplements like krill, klamath lake algae etc. I exercise daily and keep positive. Some foods make me flare straight away (within minutes) like tomatoes, oranges so I know they're to avoid. Keep a food diary as I did in the early days to see what works and what doesn't.

Find what works for you

Tourk profile image

it used to be tomatoes for me, i could eat only small amounts but over time i got used to not using my left hand and dealing with the pain. Fortunately/ unfortunately I've got a spinal injury so have some (mostly) effective painkillers.

Becouse of my spine i mostly ignored the restrictions ra imposed. But when i statred to loose the use of my right hand i realised it was time to do something about it.

I struggle to get to the doctors and going to hospital is just to much for me. So ive tried alternatives. Creatine monohydrate has been extremely effect for me. I read about it being good to treat ra in a Patient Patient access Patient access email. Its enabled me not only to start using my hand again but given me the incentive to exercise more and look after myself better. I feel less exhausted.

As always with trying anything new do your resurtch if in dought talk to your doctor and follow the instructions. I only take half the recommended dose as i find that suits me best. Other things help as well like vitamin D and drinking plenty of clean water.

As im stuck in bed quite a lot of the time bed soars and thrush where a problem i found the most effective treatment was mouth wash. Ive been experimenting with grapefruit seed extract, only a few very bitter drops a day and it cleared up on it's own. A bounas from this is when one of my step children brough home the flu from school i was only slighly ill. As in felt a bit off for a day.

Always keep up with recommended treatments follow doctors advise. But you can do/ take things that help, or as you say avoid certain foods

Sunshinereturns profile image

This has been the most amazingly helpful thread and I so appreciate everyone who has answered. I had wondered if I was kind of kidding myself that diet could make a significant difference and now I see it really can and I’m so grateful to have something I can control. Also feel so glad to have found a place I can ask questions and find out so much from people who actually live with this as I know no-one else at all with it. Thanks

LitChief profile image

Hi, I control my RA ( Psoriatic arthritis)with diet alone, avoiding red meat and any dairy. I was on methotrexate and then biologics and would still flare a lot with those when i had my old diet which was full of inflammatory food, whereas now i have no symptoms ever unless i slip up and can do whatever physical activities i want. I would really recommend reading Inflamed by Shelley Malone for lists of inflammatory foods. It can take 2 weeks to recover completely if i accidentally eat even a tiny bit of dairy now, and something like chipshop chips or lots of sugar will cause sore joints but are easier clear out of my system. It would be easier to take medication alongside even a slightly a better diet but the medications caused side effects and, for me, were never as effective as diet anyway. For me making some Golden turmeric milk or having spirulina in apple juice calms a flare and gives almost instant relief.

Sunshinereturns profile image
Sunshinereturns in reply to LitChief

Thank you so much for this, so interesting to hear!

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