Food Allergies and Rheumatoid Arthritis: One of the Missing Links?

These are questions that I get asked quite a lot: Do food allergies, intolerances, or glutens make rheumatoid arthritis worse?  Is there anything that can be done to ease arthritis pain or prevent flair ups that doesn’t involve taking more medications?

Let us, first, remember that rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the immune system.  If the immune system is irritated by illness or stress then it only makes sense that the immune system on the march will only continue to attack the its original target with new fervor.

Studies have shown that food does play an important role in rheumatoid arthritis management, but in more ways than the what.  How much food is eaten is important.  Weight loss has been shown to decrease stress on the joints and being overweight has been shown to increase the body’s inflammatory response and, thus, increasing the inflammation of the joints and concentrating the immune system so it attacks the joints further.

As far as food allergies and food intolerances go the evidence is good that the immune system reacting to food can cause rheumatoid arthritis to flair.  There are tests that can be done to rate food intolerances and allergies, but these tests are not wholly reliable.  Sometimes an allergy is present, but won’t test  positive on a skin or blood test.  The most accurate way of testing an allergy is to actually ingest the food.  For potentially severe allergies this is usually done in your doctor’s office so that emergency care can be provided in the case of anaphylaxis.  The other way to discover food allergies is to keep a food journal.  If stomach upset or an arthritis flair up occurs after eating a certain food it is good way to discover allergies and intolerances.  This can sometimes be complicated by the fact that a lot of our modern food is processed and contains many different chemicals which can also cause food intolerances.  I normally suggest that people go on a fresh food diet and gradually add food back into the diet to eliminate any confusion of food allergies.  Eliminating these allergies and intolerances may help reduce flair ups.

There have been suspicions of some grains and glutens causing rheumatoid flair ups, but unless you have allergies or intolerances to these food products, then there really isn’t any reasons to believe that these are causing additional joint pain. 

Low impact exercise has been shown to reduce joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis flairs, but the one that seems to reduce joint paint he most seems to be Tai Chi.  Not only does it stretch and build muscle, but it also seems to reduce the stress that can cause exacerbations.

This was a great question brought to us by a reader!  Please keep the questions coming folks!!  Leave a comment on facebook or email me at

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