Has anyone tried following a special diet?: Hi there, I... - NRAS


29,901 members35,744 posts

Has anyone tried following a special diet?


Hi there, I was diagnosed with RA just over four years ago, been on the usual meds but when started to deteriorate further I recently have looked into special diets eg: cutting out dairy. It is very early days but there seems to be some improvement. I wondered if anyone else has tried this route?

24 Replies

Since my RA started over a year ago I have cut out wheat and don't eat a lot of dairy now. I can't say whether it's made a difference because I think food elimination has to be done much more systematically than I've done it by keeping a food and symptom diary and cutting out one food at a time. But I can say it's helped me to lose a lot of weight (3 and 1/2 stone) and stopped my gallstones from giving me jip (i.e reduced IBS type symptoms) so I'm staying off the wheat and eat very wholesome food all the time and not too much of it either.

I haven't noticed that my flare ups have occurred following a change in diet and I don't drink any caffeine and avoid all refined sugar too. But I also try and follow a strict exercise regime using the Nintendo Wii Fit Plus and I feel quite sure that this keeps my RA at bay more than anything although it's quite a thought when I'm stiff or in pain - but I can be selective about which exercises I do according to which joints are bad. If I stop for a few weeks as I have recently then I pay in hot, painful swollen joints it seems so that's what I'm having to do in a moment this Sunday morning! Tilda

martha in reply to Hidden

Hi Tilda,

many thanks for this advice. I think it will be a bonus if I can lose a bit of weight as well. It sounds like the exercise works for you, hope this mornings session went well! Martha

Hidden in reply to martha

Yes thanks it went well although my hips (at least I think they are my hips at the top of my thighs on the sides?) are always aching and today I'm really struggling to move around but I think this might be from dancing the night away last night rather than the RA!? TTx

Hi Martha

I have only recently been diagnosed but I was already starting on a pH balanced diet to try and improve my health and I had already read a book on the use of amino acids plus mutli vits to treat health issues so I have been taking these as well.

I have only been on it a few weeks and so it is early days and my RA, if it is RA (the diagnosis is still to be confirmed), is still in the early stages.

Interestingly enough, a friend of mine with very severe RA had, years ago, looked into the Margaret Hills diet (I think she was a nurse who had RA and cured herself through diet and supplements). I don't think my friend persevered with the diet because it is quite strict. She did however give me a leaflet about Margaret Hills (I think that's her name!) and in there it said that she followed an acid/alkaline balanced diet supplemented with vitamins and aminos! The very things I am doing. She also recommended taking apple cider vinegar with a teaspoon of honey dissolved in a cup of hot water according to my friend.

As mentioned, it's too early for me to say if it will help. I do test my urine with dipsticks and it shows that my body is still very acidic. From the books I've read, it says it can take months to a couple of years following the diet to rebalance the body so health benefits may take some time to show.

Anyway, hope this is of some help. x

martha in reply to KJay

Hi there, thank you for this advice. I think that I came across her book when I was first diagnosed with RA but dismissed it as when I raised dietary related questions with the medics it was dismissed . However several years on It seems that all of the meds I have tried, that is the ones which I could tolerate, have worked for a limited time. I feel there is nothing to lose in trying. I will try to get hold of her book and see if I am following a similar diet. Many thanks, Martha


Hi Martha

Many years ago our local hospital RA consultant put MANY of his patiests on a non-dairy diet for several weeks. All our findings were logged and processed. The outcome being that although it was thought by many that dairy produce aggrevated RA, the test results did not back this up. When we did it we had soya milk. This was in about 1987. Don't know if this is of any use to you? Good Luck. Kath

Hi Kath,

This was the answer that the medics gave me when I enquired soon after I was diagnosed and I was feeling so awful at the time I didn't pursue the diet. Four and a half years on and a lot of pain and side effects of drugs I am giving it another go, also looking into certain herbs etc. that are thought to be anti -inflammatory. many thanks for your advice.

I don't have the will power for anything that requires too much planning and organisation. But I do believe that what I eat can help or hinder my RA alongside the drugs, exercise and sleep. And since I paid more attention to eating well (lots of veg and fish, little dairy and sugary stuff etc) I know I feel better. And lost weight which has also helped. Loret did a blog on anti inflammatory foods, so look under her name.

martha in reply to helixhelix

Hi there, Thankyou so much for your advice. I agree with you that it certainly makes a difference to our general health by eating carefully, something I was really bad at doing when I was trying to manage this illness and working full time, then it was about survival. Since stopping work, although I missed it at first I have been able to be a bit more careful. Thanks, Martha

I was the same, and it's only since I stopped working that I've had the time/energy to think about eating properly. But I'd be cautious about any diets that are too strict or restrictive as I think they can do more harm than good. Everyone's a bit different so may be that you do need a certain amount of something, and cutting out a whole class of foods entirely may not be for you. I'm also very sceptical of anything that requires me to spend money on expensive supplements, as our bodies are designed to create things from the basic building blocks that are in most foods. But that's not to say that some of these approaches Don't help anybody, as what you believe is quite powerful. Hope things work out for you. Px

martha in reply to helixhelix

Likewise, I am trying to avoid supplements, rather am trying to be much more selective about what I eat which include the vitamins and minerals which we need. So far so good, day 9 and I do believe am slowly losing the craving for chocolate! Thanks, Martha

Hi Martha, I am recently diagnosed too, I am taking the drugs, but I have also tried to help myself with diet...well I did until a few weeks ago, when I was feeling too rotten to organise myself..

Acupuncture has really helped with the pain, I have trapped nerves in my wrists and elbows at the moment, and it's helped with that.

I was lent the Margaret Hills book by someone who reckons it stopped her RA affecting her.

She did also go on a very restricted diet as well.

If you are thinking about the acid/alkaline thing, cider vinegar is actually alkalising.

I am feeling a lot better at the moment, so my thoughts are turning back to diet again, as I feel I have enough energy to give it another go.

I cut out wheat and gluten, and my IBS symptoms haven't bothered me for weeks.

I think that a healthy diet and everything in moderation is the key. We do tend to overload on wheat, which in turn can cause an intolerance, as with any food.

My rheumy said that a mediterranean diet can be helpful for our health in general, and if our general health is improved then we should feel better.

The one thing that has really helped is epsom salt baths, It really helps the muscle aches and is supposed to get rid of toxins in the body and it is full of magnesium. Really worth a try.

Nic x

martha in reply to elsa123

Hi Nic

Thankyou for your advice, a couple of people have recommended acupuncture so will give it a go.

Am pretty much following a Mediterranean diet, minus meat and dairy but eating lots of nuts, seeds to compensate,

I have never had much willpower to diet but the pain and fatigue was so awful I knew I had to do it, at least give it a go before agreeing to more combinations of drugs. Day 9 and I seem to be losing my craving for chocolate!

Hi Martha

Just to let you know that the books I have been reading about the acid/alkaline diet are The Acid Alkaline Food Guide by Dr Susan Brown (it lists food and whether they are acid or alkaline) and The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health by Christopher Vasey.

From what I have read, the body generally should be in a slightly alkaline state (can't remember what the pH was!) to be healthy. Obviously there are exceptions in the body like the digestion which needs to be acidic.

From what Susan Brown says, some foods that are acidic are actually classed as alkaline because that's what the body converts them into when digested. Christopher Vasey says that this depends on whether you are digesting food properly. As somebody has already said and as Vasey points out, you still need to make sure you eat a balanced diet but with emphasis on alkaline foods.If you eat purely alkaline foods (most proteins are acidic) then your diet will be unbalanced.

I can't say whether it helps in the long term because I haven't been on it for long enough but am willing to give anything a go!

martha in reply to KJay

many thanks for all of this information, will get hold of the book. let me know how you get on, I only started 9 days ago so very early days!

Hi Martha,

I've only been diganosed a few months ago, but felt that for the last few years I hadn't been eating a very good diet, so have resolved to try to eat more healthily with a view that my symptoms may also improve. I hardly now eat any red meat (and don't even miss it).Am eating loads of fish + vegetarian meals, especially curries. I'm trying to eat a lot of anti-inflammatory foods - cherries, chili, olive oil, fresh turmeric (which you can now buy at Morrisons!) Also eat masses of ginger every day.Must admit I would struggle to cut out dairy - love cheese too much. Am keeping a very basic food diary to see whether this will actually benefit, but fingers crossed, reckon its worth a go!

Best of luck to you.


martha in reply to cazh

Hi Caroline, sounds like you are well on the way to eating healthily, I do miss cheese but chocolate was my thing! I read somewhere that you can buy a concentrated form of cherry juice, not sure if you have heard about it? Am having chilli in just about everything and fresh ginger tea!

cazh in reply to martha

Hi Martha,

not heard of the concentrated cherry juice, have just been drinking the normal stuff. Will try to look out for it, thanks. Today for first time since RA started, have no joint pain, but am afraid it's more likely to be effects of 6 weeks on MTX rather than diet, but will persevere anyway.


Hello, I've just joined the site, and it's such a relief to read this and other stories, realising my experiences are normal! I was diagnosed about 3 years ago, and I am certain that cow's dairy is a major cause of my flare ups. I have eliminated it entirely, and now if I eat even a small amount (so many things have added milk it's hard when I'm eating away from home) I will get pain about 36-48 hours later. I am OK with goat/sheep and soya products though.

I do think keeping a diary is well worth while, as well as asking friends and family. It was a friend of mine who suggested cutting out dairy and seafood as those were what formed the largest point of my diet at that time, and she was right enough. Very grateful still to be able to eat my beloved seafood!

Good luck with whatever you try.

martha in reply to seaside

Hi there,

The diary sounds a good idea, I decided to keep to a very basic diet, but nutritious and then slowly introduce different foods one by one to see if anything seems to trigger a flare. easier said than done though! many thanks for your advice


Hi there, I think I have psoriatic arthritis - very recent diagnosis so provisional - but lots of similarities with RA, so I'm told. I've smoked for 35 years & when I got really ill in May I still felt the need for a cigarette (not surprisingly!) but every one made me feel faint, woozy and even floppier than I did already. So I gave up - went cold turkey - & that was six weeks ago.

Anyway, I started thinking that actually cigarettes had been having that effect on me for years, maybe always, it was just that when I was healthy I ignored that first knock-back. And then that, also, some foods made me feel very similar e.g. the first bite of a piece of cheddar & I'd go all weak and feeble for a few minutes but persevered 'cos I like it!

So basically I've discovered my inner hippy & am really listening to my body - no more cheese (well, much less than usual) & that goes for any food or drink that isn't instantly welcomed by my bod! And, on the whole, I have been really well - not my joints - but how I feel in myself & energy levels. And I think it's fair to say that I haven't felt this well, in some ways, for years.

Hope I haven't gone on too much! I'd be interested in hearing how your dairy free diet goes.

All the best x

Hi Martha, Ive been following the Margaret Hills Diet for three years and yes it is very strict! However I moved to Spain last year and found it very hard to maintain the strict lifestyle required so my ra got worse. I have now decided to try some drugs alongside my margaret hills diet so I can still maintain a healthy lifestyle and am still getting those important vitamins my body needs. I do take cider vinegar but also I have found that when I drink cinnamon and honey drinks it really helps with pain and movements. Also if you can add turmeric into your diet both turmeric and cinnamon are natural anti inflammotary drugs.In term of exercise yoga and swimming have been recommended but Im very bad at these and I think it is important to exercise like Tilda says so god luck and let us know how your doing :) Poppy

Hi Poppy,

Thankyou for your advice, it is as you say so difficult to stick to such a rigid diet. Although whenever I think about going off track I remember back to the awful pain levels and think twice. I don't really know yet if this is proving to be positive but am going to keep going. I do agree that the exercise is important so I am going to make the effort to swim more and once I move home, which should be quite soon will look for a yoga class. Martha

I started Slimming World 2 weeks ago and the last few days i have got up in the morning with only mild stiffness in my joints (RA&OA) usually it takes me about an hour to get properly motivated. I believe its cutting down on the dairy,processed and fatty food. I'm sleeping better have more energy all + points in my view. And 1lb off your weight is 4lbs of weight bearing on your knees. I am enjoying a variety of foods with treats so all good and lost 4.5lbs in the 1st week just the boost to carry on. You can do it online aswell so no need to struggle to classes. Hope this helps.

You may also like...