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Should I avoid certain foods?

Back to Diet and arthritis

Some people feel that certain foods are bad for arthritis and that cutting them out helps. These foods include:

  • citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit
  • vegetables from the nightshade family (solanaceous plants) including potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, chillies and aubergines.

We don’t recommend leaving these fruits and vegetables out of your diet because of the important nutrients they contain. There’s no scientific evidence that cutting out these foods can help with arthritis. In fact, they're rich in antioxidants – oranges and red peppers contain an antioxidant called β–cryptoxanthin which studies have shown may slow down the progression of arthritis.

Fasting for rheumatoid arthritis

Fasting for short periods can bring a short-term improvement on the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, although they quickly return once you go back to a normal diet. We don’t recommend fasting as a treatment for arthritis. However, if you do wish to try it, it should only be done for one day at a time and under expert supervision.

What about food allergies?

Some people are allergic to certain foods such as peanuts or shellfish. Allergic reactions occur quickly after the food is eaten and there’s no real evidence that food allergies are relevant to the development of arthritis or its treatment.

Some people are also intolerant of certain foods. Symptoms of food intolerance develop fairly slowly after eating a food – after hours or even days. So food intolerances can be difficult to identify without the help of an expert.

Research has shown that some people have an improvement in their symptoms if they cut out particular foods. The reasons for this aren’t yet clear and the foods involved vary from person to person. Some books even suggest diets which cut out nutritionally important food and could leave your body short of important vitamins and minerals if you followed them for a long time.

The only way to be sure that you have a food intolerance is by dietary 'exclusion and challenge' where you leave out a certain food from your diet, for a period of at least a month. This is followed by a ‘challenge’, where you reintroduce the food to see if it causes a reaction. If your arthritis is related to a food allergy you’ll notice a flare-up of your symptoms within a few days. It's important to cut out each food you're testing completely and reintroduce them one at a time. We recommend that you speak to a registered dietitian who can make sure you’re excluding foods completely and check that you’re not excluding important nutrients.

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