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Gluten-Free Vegan Diets, Potential Solution for Rheumatoid Arthritis

30th June 2014

When we refer to arthritis, we tend to identify it with pain and inflammation of the joints. However, this term is used to define a group of diseases, and not a single condition.

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, a progressive degenerative disease that manifests through the loss of cartilage in joints due to the accumulated wear and tear. In the U.S., osteoarthritis affects over 25 million people, being more frequent in people aged 45 and over. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include stiffness of the joints in spine, knees, hips and hands, pain and loss of joint movement.

Rheumatoid arthritis, the other major form of this condition, is a systemic disease, which means that the immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells and tissues. The autoimmune response causes the inflammation of joints, and leads to swelling, pain, stiffness and warmth in the affected areas.

Although less prevalent than osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is still a widely spread condition, about 2 million people in the U.S. suffering from this disorder. Women are more likely to develop it, and people aged 30 to 60 are more prone to RA.

Rheumatoid arthritis has no known cure. There are medications that can reduce inflammation and help relieve the pain, but the results are temporary. Exercise, hot and cold compresses as well as avoiding stress are recommended as home remedies, but studies suggest diet could be an even more effective solution.

Gluten-free vegan diets may help reduce arthritis pain


A study conducted by Swedish researchers some years ago showed that a gluten-free vegan diet can increase the levels of antibodies, reducing the risk of inflammation and the levels of cholesterol. In RA sufferers, inflammatory processes favor the buildup of plaque in the arteries, leading to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Researchers at the Karolinska University Hospital showed that removing animal products and gluten-rich grains from the diet of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers improves a series of parameters, among which the level of LDL cholesterol and antibodies, lowering the body mass index at the same time.

Previous research showed that fasting, followed by a vegetarian diet, can help in rheumatoid arthritis. Two other studies conducted at the Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, respectively Karolinska Institute showed that long-term intake of probiotics and PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) may also be helpful in improving the inflammatory status of people with rheumatoid arthritis.

However, until more conclusive data is available for confirming the effectiveness of these strategies in managing rheumatoid arthritis, it is recommended to avoid risky solutions and to ask for your physician’s advice before switching to any diet.

If you suffer from RA and want to share your story or diet tips with us, please join our Facebook community and let us know your thoughts!

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