Rotation Diet 101: A Detailed Guide that Helps You Refine Your Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet

Following my previous articles – Focus on Food Allergies or Intolerance: How to Stop RA in its Deadly Track and Clueless about Triggers of RA Flare Ups? Find out the Culprits with an Elimination Diet –  that pinpoint that food and by reciprocal, your diet can be the major cause of your Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms; meaning to say that RA can be a food allergy or food intolerance disorder.

In RA, our immune system is reacting to foods that we are ingesting, however in varying degrees. Foods that cause immediate allergies can be reasonably easy to figure out because once you have eaten them, you will definitely feel awful right after that. These out-of-control or inflammatory symptoms are all worthy of note-taking because it will become handy when devising your diet plan. The more difficult part about foods and flare-ups is when we do not know when or which foods are actually contributing to a delayed negative reaction. And the fact is, most of our RA symptoms are caused by low level food intolerance and sensitivity; these usually occur when we eat these foods more often than once every three or four days. So, the simple way out is to implement a rotation diet so that when we consume foods that we are mildly allergic to say, once or twice a week; our bodies will be give enough transit time for them to clear off the antigens before we eat the same food again. So, the focus of my blog post today is all about rotation diet basics and how one can best utilize this approach to refine a personalized and successful RA diet plan for maximum benefits.

Cooking for Family
Main Reasons for Performing Food Rotation

The food rotation diet accomplishes three main goals:

  1. Helps to maintain tolerance to foods that one can safely ingest, lessening the chance of becoming allergic to other foods.
  2. Helps in management of existing food allergies and intolerance
  3. Helps in identification of foods that are causing one’s RA symptoms

Due to the complex interrelationships of the cause-effects of food allergies, RA and Leaky Gut Syndrome, we must acknowledge the greater importance that is attested to the rotation of our foods, especially when our bodies are at their weakest because of the high likelihood that our bodies are already under attacks due to allergies to certain foods that we are eating. So, my whole point is that by diversifying the foods, you are able to let your body recover from the effects of these foods before you eat them again.

Speaking from my past experience, when you first get started with a rotation diet, you are going to feel deprived by the lack of foods that you love to eat and no longer can eat. Foods that you love and crave for in the past are unfortunately also the foods that you are most likely having an allergy or intolerance to. This is naturally understandable but it is also crucial that you do not over-indulge in the substitutes for the foods that you can no longer eat because this eating habit may increase the chance of you developing an allergy or intolerance to it when they are eaten too frequently.

Getting Started on Rotation Diet – Food Reintroduction

It is always a good idea to start off with an elimination diet. At this point, we start re-feeding in attempt to know whether the particular food to ingest is an allergen or not.
Variety of Food
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.

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 often is a concoction of multiple foods such as wheat, vegetable oil, butter, yeast, egg, etc.

5. Keep a detailed food diary or food journal with five columns (like the one below). Keep an accurate and clear description of everything eaten and time of eating the food, as well as any physical, emotional or psychological experiences. (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).

Food Diary
Possible Allergic or Intolerance Reactions to Foods

Apart from joint pains, swelling and inflammation, the following noticeable reactions (either immediate or delayed) are possible signs of allergy or intolerance:

Allergic Symptoms
Eating on Rotation – The Rotation Diet

While on rotational diet, you have at your disposal the discretion to perform a 4- or 5- or even 7-days rotation. The premise of the rotation diet is that you do not eat the same food consumed on a particular day until that day repeats again in the rotation. For illustration purpose, please refer to the table below for a sample 4-day rotation diet.

4 Day RotationI prefer a 4-days rotation diet because generally, it is long enough to account for the bowel transit time for our bodies to eliminate whatever waste products that are left behind by the foods. That said, if you however experience chronic constipation, then it will be a better idea if you can opt for a longer cycle of rotation to allow total or maximum bowel transit and once your health condition improves, you can switch to the popular 4-days rotation.

Five Basic Rules of a 4-Days Rotation Diet

Rule 1 – Eating the simpler, the better
Eat as whole, pure and organic as possible. Refined or processed foods are often inflammatory, high in Omega-6 fatty acids and do not retain any nutrition. You are encourage to take in a wide variety of foods with different types of protein sources (For example, for fish, open up your choices to salmon, cod fish, halibut, snapper, etc), vegetables, fruits, and so forth.

Rule 2 – Do not eat the same food more often than every 4th day
Say, if you eat rice on Day 1. You will not eat rice again until the next Day 1, with three days in between. This means that rice cannot be consumed on a schedule of every Sunday or Thursday, but that it will be eaten on whichever day of the week Day 1 of the rotation cycle falls. See illustration below.

Rule 3 – Within a rotation, food families are also rotated
Foods are categorized into botanical food families based on their biological origin. Each food family is assigned a name and a number for identification. You should also rotate using the food families because foods in the same family tend to share common allergens and may react similarly in your body.

Say, if you eat rice on Day 1, spelt on Day 2, oat on Day 3 and millet on Day 4, you are not actually rotation foods because you are still eating foods derived from the Grass Family every day. Please refer the table below on the common example of how foods from a particular family are eaten on an assigned day.

Refer to the appendix section (at the end of the blog post) on the entire and complete Botanical Food Family list.

Rule 4 – Different foods within the same food family may be rotated every other day
In Rule 3, remember that any foods must be eaten at least 4 days apart. This rule – Rule 4 – however introduces some flexibilities in the manner that foods that belong to the same botanical food family may be eaten two days apart. Study the illustration below. Each food is eaten every four days and foods in the same family are eaten two days apart. Examples, rice and spelt on Day 1 and oat and millet on Day 3 (all from Grass Family). Again, garlic and onion on Day 2, and leeks and asparagus on Day 4 (all from Lily Family).

On a caution note, if you have severe food allergies, you should not incorporate this very rule – Rule 4 – into your food rotation diet.

Rule 5 – Be kind to yourself and seek support where necessary
Be kind to yourself. Rotation diet takes patience, discipline, motivation, determination and a lot of careful planning and deliberate execution. You may be overwhelmed by your health condition and making such changes may mean taking something from your life when you’ve been much suffering from the ill effects of RA. Once you have gotten over this emotional crisis over your ill fate, spend a few moments to think about what are the best things that can happen if you make such changes? Then, what about the worst that can happen if all these fail? Isn’t that all obvious to you now? Nothing worse than your current state of health, I’d say. So, what are preventing you from giving this a good shot?

You can better deal with dietary and lifestyle changes if you develop a positive sense of helping yourself, understanding and embracing that these many changes are paving the way to help your body and system heal themselves. Be flexible, optimistic, resourcefulness and leeway as well as time to learn to abstain from temptation and cravings. Find the compulsive reason(s) why you have to make such a personal commitment, time and energy to make this a decision that you will tackle and adhere with. Forget about the past. If you fail before, do not become discouraged. Take it easy and start afresh. If you have added things too quickly for your commitment level, scale back to just rotating on certain food family and move your way up gradually. Do not aim to be a perfectionist. Give yourself a cheat sometimes to satisfy your taste buds (I always do this on special occasions and vacations!).

I believe that we are the only ones who are ultimately responsible for our own healths and whatever decisions we take and commitments we make with respect to our RAs will define how far we can follow through with this rotation diet. It is then only a matter of time that you will accomplish more than you ever dreamed.


Comprehensive Botanical Foods Family List:

Apple Family (Rose Family): Apple, Apple Cider, Apple Vinegar, Apple Pectin, Quince, Pear (The apple family is part of the bigger rose family)

Arum Family: Dasheen, Poi, Taro

Banana: Banana, Plantain

Berry (subfamily of Rosaceae): Blackberry, boysenberry, dewberry, loganberry, raspberry, black raspberry, red raspberry, purple raspberry, strawberry, wineberry

Birch: Filbert, Hazelnut

Buckwheat: Buckwheat, Garden Sorrel, Rhubarb

Cactus: Cactus, Prickly Pear, Tequila

Capers: Capers Cashew; Cashew, Mango, Pistachio

Cereals: Bamboo Shoots; Barley; Barley, Malt; Bran (wheat); Cane sugar; Cane Molasses; Chestnut, Water; Chestnut, Ling nut; Chestnut, Singhara nut; Corn ; Corn Meal ; Corn Starch ; Corn Oil ; Corn Sugar; Corn syrup; Corn dextrose; Corn glucose ; Corn cerelose; Farina (wheat); Graham flour (wheat) ; Gluten flour (wheat) ; Millet; Patent Flour (wheat); Oats; Rice; Rye; Sorghum; Wheat; Wheat flour; Wheat Germ; Wheat (whole) flour; Wild Rice.

Chocolate (Sterculiaceae): Chocolate (cacao); cocoa; cocoa butter; cola nut

Citrus: Angostura; Citrange; Citron; Grapefruit; Kumquat; Lemon; Lime; Orange; Tangerine

Cochliospermum Family: Karaya Gum, Guaiac Gum

Composite Family (Aster): Absinthe; Artichoke; Artichoke, Jerusalem; Calomel; Celtuse; Chicory; Dandelion; Endive; Escarole; Head Lettuce; Lettuce, Leaf ; Lettuce; Oyster Plant, Salsify; Sesame Seeds/ Oil; Sunflower/ Oil/ Seeds; Vermouth; Vermouth (Ragweed); Vermouth (Pyrethrum); Yarrow.

Crustaceans: Crab; Crayfish; Lobster; Prawns; Shrimp.

Cyperaceae Family (a Sedge): Chinese Waterchestnut

Curry Powder: not a single food but a blend of spices.

Ebony: Persimmon Flax – Linseed oil, flaxseed, flaxseed oil

Fresh Water Fish: Bass, Catfish, Croaker, Perch, Pike, Salmon, Smelt, Trout, Whitefish.

Fungus: Mushroom, Yeast/Antibiotics.

Ginger: Arrowroot, Cardamon, Ginger, Turmeric

Gooseberry: Currant, Gooseberry

Goosefoot (Beet): Beet, Sugar; Chard, Kochia, Lambs Quarters, Spinach, Thistle.

Gourd (Melon): Casaba; Cantaloupe; Cucumber; Honey Dew; Muskmelon; Persian Melon; Pumpkin; Squash; Vegetable Marrow; Water Melon. Grape: Brandy; Champagne; Crème of Tartar; Grape; Raisin; Wine; Wine Vinegar.

Heath: Cranberry, Blueberry, Huckleberry, Wintergreen.

Holly: Mate.

Honeysuckle: Elderberry.

Iris: Saffron. Laurel: Avocado, Bay Leaves, Camphor, Cinnamon, Laurel, Sassafras.

Legume: Acacia; Acacia Gum; Alfalfa; Arabic; Black-eyed pea; Carob; Carob (St. John’s Bread); Cassia; Chick Pea; Field Pea; Green Bean; Green Pea; Guar gum; Jack bean; Karaya Gum; Kidney bean; Lentil; Licorice; Lima bean; Locust Bean Gum; Mungo Bean; Navy Bean; Peanut; Peanut oil; Pinto Bean; Soybean; Soybean oil/flour/lecithin; Split Pea; String Bean; Talca Gum; Tamarind; Tonka bean; Tragancanth Gum; Urd Flour.

Lily: Asparagus, Chives, Garlic, Leek, Onion, Sparsparilla.

Litchi: Litchi Nut.

Mallow: Cottonseed meal, Cottonseed oil, Okra.

Maple: Maple syrup and maple sugar.

Miscellaneous: Honey (watch if you are allergic to bee venom).

Mint: Basil, Horehound, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Savoury, Spearmint, Thyme.

Mussels: Abalone, Clam, Mussel, Oyster, Scallop, Squid.

Morning Glory: Jicama, Sweet Potato, Yam.

Mulberry: Breadfruit, Fig, Hops, Mulberry.

Mustard: Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Collard, Colza Shoots, Kale, Kohlrabi, Kraut, Horse Radish, Mustard, Mustard Greens, Radish, Rutabaga, Turnips, Watercress.

Myrtle: Allspice, Cloves, Eucalyptus, Guava, Paprika, Pimento.

Nightshade: Brinjal, Cayenne, Capsicum, Eggplant, Ground Cherry, Banana Pepper, Bell Pepper, Chili Pepper, Green Pepper, Red Pepper, Sweet Pepper, Paprika, Pimento, Potato, Tabasco, Thorn Apple, Tobacco, Tomato.

Nutmeg: Mace, Nutmeg.

Olive: Olive, olive oil.

Orchid: Vanilla

Palm: Coconut, Date, Palm Cabbage, Sago.

Parsley: Angelica, Anise, Carrots, Celery, Celeriac, Caraway, Celery Seed, Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Parsley, Parsnips, Sweet Cicily, Water Celery.

Pawpaw: Pawpaw, papaya, papain.

Pepper: Black pepper, white pepper.

Pine: Juniper, Pinion nut.

Pineapple: Pineapple.

Plum: Almond, Apricot, Cherry, Nectarine, Peach, Plum, Prune Plum.

Pomegranate: Pomegranate.

Poppy: Poppy seed.

Rose: Blackberry, Boysenberry, Dewberry, Loganberry, Strawberry, Youngberry. (see also Berry family).

Salt Water Fish: Bass, Cod, Flounder, Herring, Mackerel, Mullet, Salmon.

Spurge: Tapioca.

Tea: Tea.

Walnut: Butternut, Hickory nut, Pecan, Black Walnut, English Walnut.




2 Comments on Rotation Diet 101: A Detailed Guide that Helps You Refine Your Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet

  1. Debbie Roberts
    November 11, 2013 at 1:40 am (10 years ago)

    I have read the report several times, lots of great information. I am, however, having trouble getting started on the rotation diet. Do you have an excel program or any download charts? It may be easier for me if I can pick food from a column(s) each of the 4 days. Not sure why I’m finding this so complicated. My brain doesn’t work as well after taking MTX. Which, I am no longer taking.

    thank you for your time


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  1. […] other really tricky part is that certain foods exist in “families.”  So if I eat cauliflower on “Day 1” of my rotation diet, not only can I not […]

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