Clueless about Triggers of Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare-ups? Find Out the Culprits with an Elimination Diet

Toxic Food

The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient
while nature cures the disease.”
~ Voltaire

According to Arthritis Today, a new study suggests that food allergies may have a linkage or connection to Rheumatoid Arthritis after all.

The biggest revelation is that most studies have it wrong when their work are solely focused on researching on antibodies in the blood. The researchers at the University of Oslo, Norway, looked at food-related antibodies that show up in the gut rather than blood of people with RA.

Interestingly, they found higher levels of antibodies in the intestinal fluids of people of RA to proteins of dairy, cereal, eggs, pork and codfish than that of people without RA.

Jonathan Brostoff, DM, professor of allergy and environmental health at Kings College London explained that “the gut is the first site of exposure to food and the immune system in the gut is the first to recognize the potential allergens.”

Less is More – Do We Eat Without Fears?

With RA, you can no longer eat without guilt because if you continue to not bother with taking care of your diet and nutrition, you will forever be clueless about the food triggers that always set off your flare-ups. Remember, any food can be addicting and even the best foods – fruits and vegetables – are capable of inducing allergies or intolerances to your immune system.


I have always prefer a variety of foods at my lunch table because eating is a hobby and having good foods is part and parcel of enjoying life for me. But as RA entered my life, I can no longer eat like a king because foods which are harmless for anyone else may be a poison to me, and I have for a long time, suffered flare-ups after eating a sumptuous meal. Gradually, as I learn about food allergies and RA, I come to appreciate “less is more”. I grow fearful of the foods I eat on the daily basis and I no longer want to settle for foods that “kill” rather than “heal”. This is where elimination diet plays an important role of assisting us in identifying our foods allergens.

Starting an Elimination Diet

An elimination diet methodically removes the common food allergens or problematic foods and reintroduces these foods one by one back into the diet. This method works really well because it involves our own unique body in the testing of foods and as an accurate measure of whether a particular food is toxic to our body or not.

In fact, if you get started on an elimination diet, you will soon be able to tell for yourself whether your RA and its symptoms are actually diet-related or they are potentially caused by another factors or processes. Typically, if you  feel better as you progress into the elimination diet and steer clear of problematic foods, you can then confirm that food allergies or intolerances do play a role in triggering your RA.

The issue with identifying food allergies and intolerances is primarily dependent upon recognition of the possibilities. There are hundreds and thousands of possibilities in the world, so are they really no easy way out?

Blood test 2My personal preference before commencing an elimination diet is to get a blood test done. ALCAT test is by far today’s most reliable and effective blood test on detecting allergies and sensitivities to foods, chemicals and additives. This step has taken a lot of detective works off my load and with this result, it was a lot easier to confirm my allergens through elimination diet later on. Of course, this is not a MUST but something nice to complement the whole process.

Considering that you decide to first go for ALCAT test, the next step to start an elimination diet is to perform fasting for a period of time, usually not less than 4.5 to 5 days. Fasting is both diagnostic and therapeutic in nature and it allows our body system to eliminate and flush out all offending allergens so that we can begin a fresh start in our detective work (which is similar to a baby receiving his first feed of a new food that is introduced one at a time).

ALCAT Sample

Success or Failure – Reintroduction of Foods Is Crucial
A well-planned elimination diet can typically take up to several months to complete. The success and failure of an elimination diet lies with a careful, deliberate and well-planned reintroduction of food. At this point, we start re-feeding in attempt to know whether the particular food to ingest is an allergen or not. Therefore there are several ground rules to strictly follow to ensure that we maximize the best of the experience:
Eating Again
1. Reintroduce only one pure food at a time (waiting to see if there are any reactions).

2. Choose a food that you think will not cause allergy or intolerance. This usually means food that are not in your typical routine diet (perhaps exotic food such as buffalo meat, etc).

3. Continue ingesting the same food for 4 days and observe. If there are no negative reactions, you may then incorporate it into your diet (preferably eating it every 4 days on a food rotation diet).

4. Eat as fresh and unprocessed, and organic as possible. And eat only pure food. Say, if you are testing wheat for allergy or intolerance, do not test complex food like bread as your yardstick for wheat because bread is a concoction of multiple foods ingredients comprising wheat, vegetable oil, butter, yeast, egg, etc.

Food Diary5. Keep a food diary or food journal with two columns.In the first column, keep an accurate and clear description of everything eaten and time of eating the food; where as in the next column, be sure to document any physical, emotional or psychological experiences. (Do also keep a pulse reading for 1 minute before each feeding and every 15 minutes for an hour after feeding. A change of 12 or more beats either way is suggestive of an allergy).

6. Proceed this way through foods that you are avoiding until you have found a group of foods that you can enjoy without having to worry about whether they will harm your body. Then, start testing those foods that you crave for or foods that you eat regularly. (Strange as it may seem, we often crave for foods we are allergic to).

7. Start eating on rotation.

Food Rotation

Rotation of foods does not only help to maintain tolerance to the foods that we can now eat, it also helps to lessen the chances of becoming allergic or intolerant to other foods and in treatment of current food allergies.

For someone with RA, due to the inter-relationship of causes-and-effects of food allergies/intolerances, Candidiasis and leaky gut syndrome, it is important to rotate our foods. The whole point of this diet rotation is to let our body recover from the effects of a food before we eat it again. When we crave and abuse a food by eating it too frequently, it increases our chances of developing an allergy to it later on.

By following a rotational diet, we can gain control over our exposure to the foods that cause cyclical food reactions. I particularly prefer a 4-days rotational diet, which means that each food eaten on a particular day is not eaten until that day repeats again in the rotation. Why 4 days? Because 4 days is generally long enough a rotation for allowing maximum bowel transit time, ie for foods to moved through the digestive tract and its waste to be passed out from the body.

Diet Words

Some basic rules on following a 4-days food rotation diet are:
1. Stay simple and eat as organic, whole and unprocessed as possible. Choose from a variety of different types of ‘okay’ foods.

2. Do not eat the same food items more often than every 4th day. For instance, foods you consumed on Day1 must not be consumed again until the next Day1, with three days in between.

3. Foods that are typically grouped into the botanical food families (due to their biological origin) must be rotated as well. They tend to share common allergens and may react similarly in our body. Say, you cannot eat cauliflower on Day1, broccoli on Day2 and cabbage on Day3 because they belong to the same ‘Mustard’ family.

Patience. Discipline. Commitment.

There are many who have claimed that solving food allergies and intolerances will resolve RA once and for all. What I can say to this is that it may or may not hold true for you. Every individual is different in terms of their RA causes and onsets. For many others, they also have to address other underlying causes such as Candidiasis, stress (emotional or external) and pathogenic infections, etc. Nonetheless, majority, if not all, of RA sufferers will suffer, to certain a degree, undesirable effects of allergies and intolerances from foods and environments.

Do be patient and give your body a chance to heal itself. It is definitely going to take some time. As chronic as RA can be, I am not surprised if this some time may mean years. Imagine, some people are taking as long as 2 to 5 years to just heal from gluten intolerance.

Light at End of Tunnel

As I have mentioned in the previous post – ‘Food Allergies or Intolerances: How to Stop Rheumatoid Arthritis in its Deadly Track‘ – do not view eating foods as an enjoyment, instead, see it as an activity that is only necessary for your survival. That is, eat till the point that you no longer hungry. As simple as that. Do not let the thought that life is not treating us unfairly bother you with your endeavour. Channel your thoughts with positive affirmations and motivations that will help you to stick with the program and enhance your control, knowing clearly that foods you can now eat are leading you onto a well-nourished and healthy lifestyle, one that will guide you to eventually heal from RA. Be prepared to work yourself up to a higher level of commitment. Who can actually do this for you if it is not yourself? We have done the damages and now, we have to repay and rebuild. With patience, discipline and commitment, we will be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel.


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