My Arthritis Diet: Healthy Food Tips for Everyone

I accidentally stumbled upon diet changes that eases joint pain and nausea associated with rheumatoid arthritis. After several months of digestive upset and negative test results for celiac disease, I decided to informally try an elimination diet.

Before making changes to my diet, I talked with my family doctor and rheumatologist. Both indicated that diet changes may help my digestive upset, but food won’t affect rheumatoid arthritis.

They were both wrong.

Before attempting to alter your own diet, talk with your doctor. Eliminating any food group deprives your body of nutrients. To stay healthy you may need to take supplements or eat new foods to balance your diet.

Reducing Wheat, Oats and Barley

Since I already have two autoimmune disorders, I suspected my digestive upset might be celiac disease, another autoimmune disorder. I eat oatmeal several times each week, bake wheat bread often and add barley to homemade soups. Since I eat gluten-laden foods regularly, it made sense. After two negative celiac disease tests and avoiding some of my favorite grains, I still experienced digestive problems.

Is White Flour Bad for Me?

I started reading more about autoimmune disorders and learned pesticides, herbicides and chemicals used to grow and process many of the foods we eat can cause inflammation and digestive problems for people with sensitive systems.

Organic wheat flour has a tan color and varied texture. All-purpose bleached flour is perfectly smooth and white as snow. After researching more about the bleaching process of flour, I decided to eliminate it from my diet. Sure, grabbing wheat bread instead of white sounds easy, until you start reading food labels. Many wheat flours are bleached or bromated then enriched with nutrients lost during processing.

After giving my bread machine and Kitchen Aid a good workout, I started to notice less digestive upset. My morning joint pain began to lessen. Instead of needing a hot shower to limber up or 10 minutes of exercise to reduce the swelling in my ankles, I was able to get out of bed without holding onto nearby furniture for support.

I was on to something.

No More Processed Sugar

Since I love to bake, I decided to examine the sugar I was eating: that pure white, fine grain magic that I pour into cookie batter, sweet breads and my morning tea. After learning my lesson about flour, I searched the grocery store shelves for less-processed sugar.

I now use raw sugar in my baking. The irregular shaped honey-colored granules take a little getting used to but are less processed and chemically treated than white sugar. Actually, my husband loves when I bake with raw sugar. It makes my favorite homemade chocolate chip cookie recipe yield soft, thick cookies.

My Unofficial Two Month Experiment

For the next two months I watched my diet like a hawk. I resisted my nephew’s birthday cake, avoided calling the local pizza place in lieu of making dinner and said “no thank you” to a buffet of homemade desserts at a local function. It was hard. But, I began to notice an improvement in my day-to-day life. My knee pain lessened, I was able to leave the house for more than an hour because I didn’t need the bathroom as often and my fingers didn’t hurt as much.

My rheumatoid arthritis symptoms lessened and my digestive problems nearly subsided. So, I started changing my entire diet. I pay more for organic produce when I can, bake bread weekly, make homemade salad dressing and rarely buy processed foods anymore.

I’d rather spend the extra time making mashed potatoes from scratch than eat a boxed mix containing over a dozen “ingredients.” I just want potatoes! It’s cheaper to make pizza from scratch than call for delivery service. And, it tastes better. As a side bonus, both my husband and I have shed a few pounds and my energy is slowly increasing.

The True Test

Recently, I purposely made unhealthy choices. I ate delivery pizza, coleslaw at a buffet, a Blizzard from Dairy Queen, a super sugary lemonade drink from Applebee’s and — the reason for this gluttony — several slices from the top layer of our wedding cake. I splurged and loved every bite.

In the next few days my fingers were sore. My toes ached. My feet swelled. And the bathroom became my favorite room in the house.

I’m glad I splurged and tested myself. Obviously eating healthier is good for you, but it makes a huge difference in my day-to-day health. Since the cake is gone, it’s time to get back on the healthy bandwagon. Oatmeal with fresh blueberries, homemade veggie patties and all the garden produce I can eat top my upcoming menus.

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