What you eat can affect many different aspects of your health, including arthritis.
What is the Connection Between IBS and Arthritis?
There is a strong connection between IBS and arthritis. Both are the result of inflammation, and both can be triggered by food allergies. Food allergies lead to systemic inflammation, which can be manifested in many ways, including IBS and arthritis. We have seen a connection in our patients, and improvements in both conditions, which is why we are writing about it here.
What is Arthritis?
The word arthritis simply means joint inflammation. There are many different types, but according to the Arthritis Foundation, there are three common types; osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is an inflammation caused by the degeneration of the protective cartilage inside joints and is due to chronic wear and tear. Over time, the movement of the impacted joints becomes painful. Osteoarthritis often happens in the knees and hips.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) happens when the body’s immune system attacks joints and organs, often causing pain. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and is most commonly seen in the hands, although it can affect just about any joint in the body.
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is also an autoimmune inflammatory disease that often results in joint pain and a skin condition called psoriasis.
Arthritis is one of the most debilitating conditions in our culture causing pain and leading to many lost workdays. Unfortunately, conventional treatment is limited and is focused on anti-inflammatory medications, not on eliminating the original trigger of the inflammation.
Rheumatoid arthritis is considered by conventional medicine to be an autoimmune condition of unknown cause. In my opinion, this belief ignores a large volume of scientific evidence pointing to food allergies and food sensitivities as a major cause of arthritis. The medical community has focused almost solely on treating arthritis with anti-inflammatory medications, either prescription or over-the-counter. These medications offer temporary relief of the pain and swelling, but they never cure arthritis. Over the long term, this type of treatment also comes with a host of side-effects.
Very often, it is possible to eliminate the cause of the inflammation without resorting to treating it with drugs. Inflammation is caused by the immune system, so it is important to find out why the immune system is creating inflammation.
Finding What Triggers Inflammation
There are many reasons for the immune system to be triggered to respond, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Anything that triggers an immune response also triggers inflammation, including foods the body’s immune system incorrectly identifies as not belonging in the body. Therefore, an allergic reaction to a food can result in inflammation of the joints.
The body can be allergic to any food, therefore any food allergy is capable of causing inflammation and arthritis. This is one of the reasons why it can be so difficult to recognize the relationship between what you eat and arthritis symptoms.
Let’s use a dairy allergy as an example. If you eat any form of dairy, be it milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, or even dairy in the form of casein or whey in another food product, such as bread or milk chocolate, you are ingesting dairy and can trigger the symptoms of your food allergy, in this case, arthritis. And if you read all of the ingredients in everything you eat, you’ll be surprised at how many times you’ll see a dairy product.
Another challenge is that the reaction can very delayed, not appearing until long after you’ve eaten the food. Allergy symptoms may show up hours or even days later, well after food is absorbed into your system.
Changing Diet to Treat Arthritis
Proper testing can help to determine what foods are causing your allergic reactions and eliminating those triggers can often improve arthritis symptoms.
One example is a study published in an issue of the journal Rheumatology which showed a vegan and gluten-free diet improved the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in many of the 66 patients the scientists studied.
Many patients I have treated also say dietary changes helped their arthritis. A patient named Cindy shared allowed me to share her story.
“Without the foods that I am allergic to, my joints felt at the least 10 years younger. Somehow moving doesn’t seem to feel restricted and gravity isn’t as heavy.
Seven months ago, I was told I have piriformis syndrome in my left hip. I haven’t seen any improvement in the pain until now. I had tendonitis in both of my elbows and couldn’t hold even an opened book in my hands without my elbows feeling like they were stiff and going to break. I had to stop crocheting and knitting because it hurt too bad to do anymore.
I was sent to a neurologist, but since I wouldn’t take the cortisone shot there wasn’t anything he could do for it. I spent eight years on and off antidepressants for migraines with no real help. Doctors put me on arthritis medicines, but I didn’t trust the stuff and wouldn’t take it. I didn’t believe getting to the root of the problem with IBS would make a difference in my whole body.
Living with [this] is a nightmare. It makes you feel like you are terminally ill. I know I still have a way to go, but every day I remind myself where I was and I am amazed how great I feel!
Thank you so much for the job you and everyone who works with you do. So very few take the time to understand!”
If you are suffering from arthritis and want to know if food allergies might be causing your symptoms, the professionals at the IBS Treatment Center can help you.
Dr. Wangen is the founder and medical director of the IBS Treatment Center, the award winning author of two books, and a nationally recognized speaker on digestive disorders. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio, and was named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.