Has anyone tried to control their RA through diet?

I was diagnosed 3 years ago and have been able to manage my pain and stiffness with yoga, diet and Ibuprofen till I discovered their life threatening side effects. The flare ups in my hands and wrists mainly, but also in hip, knee and shoulder joints, have been more frequent and longer this year so I've been compelled to seek other remedies.

A book called healing with whole foods was suggested to me and as I prefer the idea of treatment through nutrition rather than drugs, I bought a copy. I started with 5 day detox - which miraculously got rid of all inflammation - I'd forgotten how slender my hands really are. This amazing reaction encouraged me to maintain the vegetarian diet. Unfortunately the pain and inflammation came back after a few weeks and after a month I'd lost so much weight and felt so weak I returned meat and fish to my diet.

I don't want to give up on this and would love to hear from anyone who has had success with diet.

My joint pains started with my menopause, but I was so young (42) I didn't even consider it could be RA. Did this coincide for anyone else?

28 Replies

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  • Hello there :)

    As far as I know, RA can NEVER be treated by diet and excercise alone, though they can help reducing the symptoms. For me, meat seems to aggravate inflammation so I avoid it. I do eat fish and eggs and dairy though and I try hard to meet all my nutritional needs. I have to say I am also on powerful RA meds so I would never put down any improvements in my symptoms down to diet alone.

    Have you ever been put on actual RA meds rather than NSAIDs? You would need these to stop/slow down the autoimmune process and prevent your joints from getting damaged.

    Have you talked to your GP/rheumy about this? It might be a good idea to mention it at your next appointment as I am afraid I can only offer when I know from my research, experience or what my rheumy told me. And RA can present and progress very differently!

    I hope you're feeling painfree today and all the best, Christine xx

  • "what I know from my research.." not "when" sorry, typing's not one of my talents ;)

  • Than you Christine, that's interesting what you say about meat. I suppose I want to explore every avenue before using powerful drugs and whilst I still have a choice.xx

  • Hi Knobbly...great blog! :)

    I am really interested in managing my RA with diet and exercise, so will be really interested in the replies you get also. I was a veggie but fairly recently before I was diagnosed I reintroduced some fish - I will check that book out you mention. Pineapple is supposed to be great for reducing inflammation but I can't eat to much as it tends to make my mouth sore.

    I think I will still need drugs but hopefully in time especially with having a anti-inflammatory diet most of the time and some exercise I will be able to get my RA under control or even into remission so I can reduce or even stop the medication...here's hoping!!

    My joints pains also started under very similar circumstances to yours and again I really interested in the fact that it first starts in a lot of women around menopausal age...maybe the dip in hormones??? I mentioned it to my GP but she didn't think there was a connection.

    Good luck

    Maddie

  • There just has to be a connection with menopause judging from this site. Maybe NRAS could do a poll?? x

  • That's a really good idea Luce....there surely has to be a connection?? Like you say a lot of us were around a similar age when it first appeared? Don't want to offend anyone younger or the men on here as I do realise it can strike at any age though xx

  • Thank you for your valuable feedback. I love the idea of doing a poll on the menopause connection. I found one female doctor in the states who supported this theory but I'm waiting for her to get back to me.

    The other thing I should have mentioned is that I took HRT for 5 years to get through my worse symptoms and it did get rid of the aches and pains too.

    The problem is, I was worried about the long term effects of taking HRT.

    So how do we go about getting a poll started?

  • That's interesting also that the HRT got rid of your aches and pains ....would support the menopausal connection more possibly??? Not sure how we set up a poll but hopefully somebody with more experience will answer....best wishes and good luck...hopefully we will see a poll soon!:) xx

  • Diet and exercise has helped me, but more that they help manage the effects of the drugs rather than instead of them. I rarely eat meat, and eat mainly fish and lots of coloured veg and fruit. I know if I eat badly (ie fatty and processed stuff) and don't exercise I quickly start feeling worse and get stiff and sore. But if I reduce my drugs I immediately start getting mega problems with inflammation and swelling etc etc.... However, everyone's different with this disease so maybe you'll have better success. If you do decide not to take drugs then do be careful about long term damage, as continual inflammation can also have pretty serious long term effects and not just on your joints. Let us know how you get on. Polly

  • Thanks Polly, I do worry about the long term damage, especially since it's a progressive disease. I suppose the optimist in me is hoping to stop it in it's tracks before it gets to that stage.

  • Yes my ra & the menopause were both around the same time, i was 41 with menopause and just after with ra. My gp said there is possibly a link between ra & menopause kicking each other off.

  • Thanks Josie, I hoped there's be a few other people. The problem is, there's so much going on when the menopause starts we don't always connect the many symptoms and if it's takes us by surprise, like mine did, all you want is to feel normal again.

    Lets hope we can do a poll on this.

  • Hi i had a full hysterectomy ovaries too. Did ten years with hot sweats no hrt just homeopathic i have . Last year sweats stop or lessen then RA just fabulous . I still swim small walk i still eat meat. i take RA meds and still eat meat. I can't say eating meat makes any difference to me. I have tried no meat symptoms still are the same for me. We are all difference so what works for me and you could be very different . Good luck xx

  • Hi I try and keep dairy free and gluten free no meat lots of veg and fruit and fish for me it help keep the inflammation down as when I go off and have more processed foods my hands and wrists swell. i don't think food alone can stop the disease but feel strongly that it helps me with the inflammation Andcgeneral well being . I take many supplements vit d vit b omegas turmeric milk thistle and antioxidants if need be boswella for inflammation this is a better alternative to antiinflammtories I have accupuncture every few weeks and do Pilates most days and walk and swim. I'm on mtx and Plaquenil to slow the disease down and try and do as much as I can to lessen the toxicity of the drugs. I'm interested in what supplements and other things people are doing to help with the ra. Hope this helps you xx

  • Hi I try and keep dairy free and gluten free no meat lots of veg and fruit and fish for me it help keep the inflammation down as when I go off and have more processed foods my hands and wrists swell. i don't think food alone can stop the disease but feel strongly that it helps me with the inflammation Andcgeneral well being . I take many supplements vit d vit b omegas turmeric milk thistle and antioxidants if need be boswella for inflammation this is a better alternative to antiinflammtories I have accupuncture every few weeks and do Pilates most days and walk and swim. I'm on mtx and Plaquenil to slow the disease down and try and do as much as I can to lessen the toxicity of the drugs. I'm interested in what supplements and other things people are doing to help with the ra. Hope this helps you xx

  • Hi I try and keep dairy free and gluten free no meat lots of veg and fruit and fish for me it help keep the inflammation down as when I go off and have more processed foods my hands and wrists swell. i don't think food alone can stop the disease but feel strongly that it helps me with the inflammation Andcgeneral well being . I take many supplements vit d vit b omegas turmeric milk thistle and antioxidants if need be boswella for inflammation this is a better alternative to antiinflammtories I have accupuncture every few weeks and do Pilates most days and walk and swim. I'm on mtx and Plaquenil to slow the disease down and try and do as much as I can to lessen the toxicity of the drugs. I'm interested in what supplements and other things people are doing to help with the ra. Hope this helps you xx

  • Hi I try and keep dairy free and gluten free no meat lots of veg and fruit and fish for me it help keep the inflammation down as when I go off and have more processed foods my hands and wrists swell. i don't think food alone can stop the disease but feel strongly that it helps me with the inflammation Andcgeneral well being . I take many supplements vit d vit b omegas turmeric milk thistle and antioxidants if need be boswella for inflammation this is a better alternative to antiinflammtories I have accupuncture every few weeks and do Pilates most days and walk and swim. I'm on mtx and Plaquenil to slow the disease down and try and do as much as I can to lessen the toxicity of the drugs. I'm interested in what supplements and other things people are doing to help with the ra. Hope this helps you xx

  • Hi

    I have had RA for 7 years and am on enbrel which i have been injecting once a week for about 5 years. I eat no red meat so that means all beef, lamb and pork which obviously includes ham bacon sausages etc. For a farmers wife - unheard of!! I was 42 and my consultant believes it was shock that triggered my RA as i had an accident with a horse. I also limit my dairy so i have Kara coconut milk, swedish glace ice cream (gorgeous) and Pure sunflower spread. My only indulgence is a bit of cheese occasionally! Dairy and meat make your system more acid which increases inflamation so it is best to try and alkali your body with other food. I eat fish occasionally and a bit of quality chicken - not the rubbish you get in some supermarkets. There are few health clinics in USA that claim to have cured people with RA through diet alone. My consultant says whatever works for you - he also said it would be impossible to do a proper trial with food as everyone eats, cooks and has different life styles. I dont take supplements - you can have a perfectly balanced diet with food and i feel supplements cannot take the place of the vitamins and minerals you get from food. I certainly dont have all the answers and i cannot go without my enbrel - yet! But i am ever hopeful that one day my immune system might recover and switch back to 'normal'. I am going through the menapause now so maybe when that all settled down i could try and live without the enbrel - scary. Good luck all it is great that others are using diet to help - its hard work but i believe very beneficial. A wholefood diet helps with all sorts of other problems too so win win situation. Take care.

  • Thanks Annie, it's good hear you're taking the diet route too. You confirm what I'd read. Over acidity in the body is responsible for a number of diseases. I'm also looking at going to a clinic in the states owned by the brother-in-law of a friend. They've had some great results treating stuff by diet analysis - it's a pity we don't have anything like it here.

  • How exciting! - good luck and let me know how you get on. The clinic i heard about - its founder actually cured his RA. I think it also helps to take control of your RA and not let it control you - positive mind and also focus on what you can do rather than what you cannot! Take care.

  • Yes - it started with me at the same time as the menopause - makes it difficult to know which is which for a while.

  • Yes it does, and I don't think anyone truly knows the answer. I'm on a mission to find out!

    Thanks for your response.

  • I did try a book once called Curing Arthritis the Drugs Free way by a lady called Margaret Hills who was also a RA sufferer.(which you can buy on Amazon) she has some very good ideas and some nice recipes and has lots of advise what foods can cause inflammation to your joints. Unfortunately most of the things she tell's you to cut out I like ALOT :). But I started on 7.5 mg of MTX once a week (whilst still taking Sulfasalazine twice a day) and this does seemed to have helped a lot - along with a cure for RA wish someone would find a cure for menopause :)

  • Thank you, I'll have a look at the book. I do know what you mean though, most of the arthritis diets rule out a swathe of food groups and you have to be mad or extremely disciplined to stick to them.

    At the moment, I'm of the mindset to try anything before drugs. Although I did resort to HRT for my menopause -only because I thought I was going mad. I took it for 5 years and as well as resolving my madness it got rid of my aches and pains. That was 10 years ago, I didn't know it was arthritis then and I have been tempted to try it again.

  • There is an awful lot written about diet and arthritis. But no good science to help us, only anecdote from individuals. And we already know that lots of people confuse RA with OA, let alone all the varieties of inflammatory arthritis.

    So what may work for someone may not for someone else.

    It's important, though, not to damage your health in any way by using exclusion diets.

    Whatever variety of arthritis we have, it makes good sense to have a moderate well balanced and varied diet.

  • I agree, it's good common sense to maintain a balanced diet, but I'm still curious. If I can manage without drugs whilst I'm researching diet, I prefer to do that.

    The whole subject seems a minefield of conflicting information, the more I read the more I think there's a lack of conclusive evidence to support any treatment.

  • Knobbly - I started on my own custom-made diet mid-January of this year following a flare-up; it seems to be working very well. I only got the motivation and the ability to be as disciplined as I now am because my rheumatologist told me that my next line of defense would be Rituxan starting February 1st. Yikes! The side effects were too scary for me, even though I had been on methotrexate, Orencia and Enbrel in the past. As I titrated down from prednisone, I madly researched about diet and RA with the Feb. 1st "deadline" looming - and also read lots of conflicting information. However, after reading the book, It Starts with Food (recent New York Times best-seller) I had the confidence to set my course on a no-grain, no processed foods, no refined sugars, limited fruit, no-dairy, no-beans diet. I currently eat lots of leafy green and low starch vegetables, healthy fats and quality animal products. I decided the reason meat has gotten such a bad rap with regard to RA is that grain-fed animals have a higher omega 6 to 3 ratio - more pro-inflammatory. This is avoided by sticking to grass-fed/ pastured raised animal foods. That doesn't address the acidity/alkalinity issue, but perhaps the bone broths that are also part of my diet are more alkaline? The leaky gut theory also seems credible to me. My regular rheumatologist said, "Hogwash!" when I asked him about diet to relieve symptoms, so I found another rheumatologist who did not hold the same view. She suggested probiotics and also believed a leaky gut could be a problem. I now include some small serving of a probiotic food at least once a day. (However, she proposed a standard Mediterranean diet which I ultimately rejected.) After just one week on my diet in January, I started to notice improvement. Just this week, three months later, the last bit of joint pain - in my left little finger - disappeared. No other joint pain. I was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis in 2010. I never believed diet could make such a difference - I only considered it a last-ditch, desperate effort. I was wrong! I think keeping the carbohydrates low was key for me. And yet, I read about people who swear by their vegan, low-fat diet. (I wonder if it is the elimination of processed sugars that offer initial success for vegan diets.) My diet is very similar to paleo, but stricter about no starchy vegetables. Well, that's a rambling bit of my current surprising success with diet. Shoot me an email if you want a more detailed description of my diet. This is a rotten disease. I wish you all the best in finding a diet that works for you!

  • I'm delighted to hear someone else is treating this awful affliction with Diet. I can't believe most of the medical profession dismiss the idea as hogwash, when it seems obvious to me what we put in our bodies has a bearing on the illnesses we develop. I love that you changed your rheumatologist to one that shared your beliefs.

    Anyway, I don't want to bang on about that, I'd like to know what you're eating please.The book you mentioned sounds interesting, it seems to be recommending the food groups I eventually arrived at through trial, error and research. It's good to hear this way of eating is being endorsed and I'm not on a lone crusade. I also subscribe to the leaky gut theory and am taking a probiotic every day.

    This has to be a better way forward than harmful drugs. Anyone who has RA should be prepared to try this diet if there's any possibility of reducing or eliminating the flare ups.

    Thank you so much for getting in touch and I would like more detail of your diet.

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