5 Common Foods That Trigger Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

Food does matter for your health and how you deal with RA.  It can be one of the main trigger that make your immune system react and cause flare-ups.

As I mentioned in my “7 Common Triggers of Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain” e-book, if you take ten people with Rheumatoid Arthritis it’s possible all ten can have different triggers.  This is the same situation with the foods we eat.   Different people react differently to the same foods.  Each one of is unique and there is a unique diet that will work best for you.

However, there are some foods that are more common for causing RA symptoms.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a reaction to these foods but it is always best to start with these first.  To find out if these foods trigger your RA you have to remove these foods from your diet for some time.  How long will it take depends since it varies from person to person and the state of your disease.  Generally, it takes about 30 days.

Why these foods?  These 5 common foods have the potential to damage and irritate your digestive system.  Of all the autoimmune diseases, RA has a strongest association with the intestinal permeability or leaky gut.  A leaky gut happens when the lining of our small intestine (or gut) has holes in it.  Then this allows some small content, like undigested proteins, toxins, bacteria or viruses to leak into the bloodstream and lymphatic system causing inflammation and trigger the immune system to overreact. What cause the leaky gut in the first place?  Eating foods that we are allergic and or sensitive.  So, we need to remove these foods first to create a healthy environment within the gut.

Here are the 5 most common foods that trigger RA pain

Gluten (wheat, barley, rye) – you will start to feel much better after eliminating just gluten and dairy alone.  Gluten can’t be broken down properly by human digestion, it causes a leaky gut and is a huge problem for overall health.  These large particles of unbroken proteins have an amazing ability to break through the small intestine walls causing holes in your gut.  Holes then let food particles and trillions of organisms escape into the bloodstream triggering your immune system.  And because particles of food can now escape through these holes your immune system reacts and you became sensitive not only to gluten but even to healthy foods such as broccoli or blueberries.  This could be happening to you with every meal.  To fix the leaky gut stop eating gluten and heal your holes first.  

Stop eating any bread which has wheat, barley or rye in it.  Watch for hidden gluten in prepared foods, medications, supplements, cosmetics, personal care products and what’s more important always read the labels to be sure.

Dairy – dairy proteins are like gluten proteins in that they are hard to digest and are considered a common food allergy.  That is why I would recommend removing all dairy products from your diet to begin with and then consider reintroducing high-quality dairy products slowly back into your diet once a recovery is made.  

Avoid all forms of milk products, including organic and good quality butter, cheese, milk, yogurt, kefir, ghee, and all other prepared foods containing or made from these ingredients.  Again heal your leaky gut first.  

Sugar – I have said so many times already … “if you are unable to decrease your sugar intake, you are far less likely to improve from RA”.  When the concentration of sugar builds up in your blood, it will stick to protein hemoglobin.  So, these proteins have a different shape now and are no longer recognized by your immune cells.  Here again the immune system is launching an attack against foreign invaders, this attack leads to inflammation and RA symptoms.

The sugar excess also leads to blood-sugar imbalance.  It is impossible to manage your autoimmune condition unless your blood sugar is under control.   Remember there is no healthy sugar!  While natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup are considered healthier alternatives, their effect on blood sugar is the same as refined sugar.

Eggs – are one of the allergenic foods and yet most people would never consider eggs (especially the whites) to blame for many of their health issues, including a leaky gut.  Eggs contain an enzyme, which will bond with undigested egg white protein. Together they float through the digestive system and resist digestion while picking up bacterial proteins, growing bigger as they travel and now have an easy ability to cross the gut barrier and enter the bloodstream.  These undigested proteins will trigger the immune cells to kick out inflammatory chemicals causing difficulties for those with autoimmune diseases.  But egg yolks might be tolerated.  Once the gut is healthy eggs can be a good source of nutrients, especially if eaten in moderation, and you may be able to reintroduce them after your RA is in remission.

Nightshade vegetables - tomato, potato (sweet potato is OK), eggplant, sweet or hot peppers, cayenne and paprika made from pepper, goji berries and tomatillos.  There are chemicals found in these vegetables, which may lead to a leaky gut thereby causing an over reactivity of the immune system.  I am personally familiar with people who by even touching tomatoes stimulate their immune system and cause a flare-up right away.   Others will eat tomatoes all summer and at the end of the season start to develop symptoms, while others won’t have a problem with any nightshade vegetables.  Some nightshade vegetables are a good source of nutrients.

Remember there is no one diet that fits all.  You may also be sensitive to any or all of the following: grains, legumes, corn, soy, citrus, nuts and seeds, beef, pork, shellfish, yeast, chocolate, coffee and alcohol.  The reason why I focus only on 5 is from my experience these are the most common trigger foods for people with RA.  If I tell people to remove all of these sensitive foods, there would be very little left to eat.  Some people even have food sensitivities to blueberries.  Watch your symptoms and if you react poorly to some foods, exclude it from your diet.  

The best way to know whether you can tolerate these foods is to remove them completely from your diet for 30 days, then introduce them back one by one.

When we are allergic or sensitive to these 5 common foods it activates our immune systems and/or causes a leaky gut.

What’s the difference between a food allergy and food sensitivity?

When a food allergy happens to someone with an allergy to peanuts or shellfish for example, the body has an immediate internal response and releases chemicals such as histamines, to quell it or shut it off.  The release of histamine and the corresponding flow of symptoms confirm this.

When we are talking about food sensitivity reactions they are trickier and unfortunately not so easy to detect.  That’s because the symptoms may not appear for several hours to several days after the food is consumed.  If that food is consumed regularly, then the symptoms are part of the chronic array of problems that plague you, either mildly or significantly and there are no mechanisms for telling us that they are there like we have in an allergy by releasing histamines.  

This means there will be more damage, and these sensitivities can kick the immune system into that overdrive phase that becomes a chronic inflammation.  It’s often hard to detect.  These symptoms cause people to be chronically sick, or somehow unwell and unfortunately most of them are not aware that the foods they eat are to blame.

Hidden food sensitivity causes some of the most chronic and incapacitating illnesses today.

What does sensitivity look like?  It could be any number of things.  It could be gas and bloating, or even incontinence for a child, a distended belly, congestion, sinus problems, lack of focus, low energy, mood swings, joint pain, weight-loss resistance, skin problems like rosacea or eczema, asthma, autoimmunity, migraine headaches and more.  I’d say that almost all or a high percentage of migraines are food sensitivity related.

How to deal with Food Sensitivities?

Before you even start to work with specialty doctors and spend $$$ on labs I‘ll start to clean the “muddy waters first” to remove the top inflammatory culprits in your diet and lifestyle.   This step reduces systemic inflammation (the cause of so many symptoms) and helps you see what is going on in your body that is unique to you.  Without taking this step, it’s hard to go to the next level of treatment and care.

- Lucy