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Food Allergy and Joint Pain – Is There a Connection?

Arthritis Pain and its link to glutenMost, doctors specializing in the treatment of arthritis, joint pain, and autoimmune diseases affecting the musculoskeletal system never even consider diet as an important factor in the development of these conditions. I was formally trained in rheumatology at the VA hospital in Houston, TX, and I can say that diet and nutritional recommendations to patients were discouraged and in most cases frowned upon by our attending physicians. It was actually this experience that prompted me to dig deeper into the connection between autoimmune disease and food. Over the past 10 years, I have treated thousands of patients with arthritic conditions. The most single effective therapies have always been diet and exercise. The paradox with exercise… It is harder to stick to if it flares up the arthritis. The problem with food…everyone reacts uniquely based on their own unique chemistry. But it only makes sense that if drugs can target inflammation as a treatment, why can’t food. After all, isn’t food a drug of sorts? I have found that medical research greatly supports this connection, but more importantly, I have found that patients get better after eliminating inflammatory foods from their diets. As a matter of fact, one of the quickest ways for these patients to feel better is to perform a fast or a liquid diet. What foods should we avoid to help recover from arthritis? Depends on the person. Everyone is unique.
Learn more about how Dr. Peter Osborne came to found the Gluten Free Society

The Problem With Pain Medications

Drugs only mask inflammation, they do not correct the source. Many pain meds also cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. This side effect can prevent long term healing. For example, NSAIDS (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can cause folic acid and vitamin C deficiency. Both of these vitamins are crucial for the body to be able to repair damaged cartilage, joints, tendons, and ligaments. See the diagram below: Fox News recently interviewed me on this very complex topic. You can watch the interview below. If you think that the information will benefit someone (including your doctor), please share it.

Forms of Arthritis That Benefit With Diet Changes:

Common Foods Associated With Joint Pain

In my clinical experience the following short list of foods commonly contribute to arthritis. The list is not comprehensive.
  • Grain (all grains including wheat, barley, rye, oats, corn, rice, millet, sorghum, etc)
  • Lectins
  • Nightshades (potato, eggplant, tomato, peppers, tobacco)
  • Hydrogenated Fats (hardly a food, but added to a lot of processed food items)
  • Sugar (in all processed forms)
  • Coffee and Tea
  • Soy
  • Peanuts

Foods That May Help Reduce Inflammation

Always looking out for you, Dr. Osborne – AKA The Gluten Free Warrior  

44 Responses

  1. Very true. For years I kept going to my rheumatlogist, who said my only options were drugs or exercise for my unexplained joint pain. I refused to accept this, as exercise made me feel worse, and I did not want to take painkillers or drugs, I wanted to find out the CAUSE. I finally figured it out myself without the help of any doctor, that I was gluten intolerant, and also could not tolerate any grains. To this day if I eat rice, my joints will begin to hurt again.

      1. Actually, rice only meets the ‘traditional’ definition of gluten free. It is not actually gluten free as all grains contain some form of the family of proteins that are ‘gluten’. Doctor Osborn has a great article on ‘all grains contain gluten’.

      2. Yeah, I ate rice for years until it began causing me more problems than wheat. Gluten free or not it causes me more pain than ANY other grain. I need to be completely grain free.

  2. Interesting information on food allergies in relation to joint pain. My clients have experienced reduction in pain when they changed what they ate. Good stuff Pete.

  3. It is absolutely true – I had an extremely sudden onset of Arthritis 3 months after the birth of my son – I literally got excrutiaing pain overnight – and after a couple of weeks, I could no longer walk or hold my baby! Not being a fan of classic doctors, I took matters into my own hands and went down the dietary route immediately. I refuse to take toxic drugs for a condition that cannot really be effectively treated (!)After only a few days, my pain dramatically reduced. As you say, every person is different, so it took a while to realise how MANY foods I was reacting to! And to subsequently find enough information to realise I was suffering the RA as a secondary immune reaction to Leaky Gut Syndrome. Thank God for the internet and the few decent doctors that are working for our cause!! I am now treating Leaky Gut and on an extreemly strict diet – coming up to my second year now. It’s a long process but better than a lifelong arthritic condition, even if I never eat grains again. Who cares! Thanks for publishing this…

  4. I am sure this is all true as I was in pain until I became a Breatharian 6 years ago. It was the foods I was eating that caused my pain, so I stopped the grains all grains, all dairy, all meat/fish eggs. It is amazing how much better I felt when I removed food from my diet. I was a classically train medical doctor, and when I was a resident I BECAME INTERESTED IN FOOD And what it could do to the body, all the damage caused by food. Food that is poison, food that is served to children, elderly and all the weak people in hospitals daily. It must stop and I am glad to see someone is doing something about now. I praise this movement!

  5. We seem to be rather backward here in the UK, at coming forward with information on a level like I have been reading here for the last couple of years.. I’m Coeliac, and suffering many auto immune diseases. Osteoporosis being the worst of them 🙁 I suffered with Coeliac disease undiagnosed until around my 45th birthday. Am 57 now and going downhill fast, even though on a Glutn Free diet (British Govnmtn recommendations). I have proof that diet improves my health and wellbeing having been on an exclusion diet for a couple of years when first diagnosed eating only meat, vegetables, fruit (not potato, onion,soya,dairy, eggs or wheat, oats, barley and rye) the physical improvements where enormous !! I returned to dairy, eggs, maize and onion with an ‘Ordinary’ Gluten Fre diet and within a month my health changed for the worse..

  6. I lost contact with the people who used to do testing for allergy etc here in UK. I think they were York Nutritional Lab’s… would anyone here be able to shed some light on who is closer to me around Cambridge, UK ?

  7. Hi there. Was wondering if anyone knew of anywhere in Brisbane Australia I could get these blood tests for food intolerances. Desperate!!!
    Vicki 🙂

    1. Kate Mandoo – my husband is a Vegan. We would love to hear more about how to transition to Breatherian. Can you please tell us how you did it? Any book recommendations?

  8. Glutens are added to medications because they are useful as fillers and as
    a substance that will either hold the medication together (binder)
    or thicken it. Cook time: 10 minutes (or until meat is done) 1 pound ground
    beef, turkey or chicken Pinch of sea salt. Popcorn, a dieter’s dream snack is also on the okay list.

    Also visit my blog; dr peter osborne reviews

  9. I feel pain in my bones whenever I eat peanuts. I am 18 years old. But sometimes the pain is so unbearable that i have to take some painkillers. Am I allergic to peanuts in any way? Or do I have an arthritis being triggered by peanuts?

  10. I have suffered for 3 1/2 years with joint pain. I realized that I might have allergies to gluten. So after reading this site, I will go to an allergist and watch my diet. Thanks for your site!

  11. Gluten was my hot button. Getting rid of it got rid of my joint pain. Funny thing, though. I started taking fish oil supplements to make my joints healthier but they made my joints hurt! Then I tried coconut oil supplements and coconut oil itself, same thing! Then I tried curcumin supplements and same thing! Why would things that are supposed to be good for joints hurt them?? All these supplements claim to be gluten free and none of the other ingredients in the supplements are the same. There was no doubt that these supplements were causing the pain. As soon as i stopped taking them, the pain went away. Could it be because I’m introducing a new substance into my diet?

  12. Hi, my fingers joints sche and swell in the morning if I have meat for dinner specially with chicken. Is there such thing as meat allergy ? Or is this a condition?

  13. Hi
    When I have eggs and cheese my joints get inflamed and extremely painful resulting in reduced mobility of my legs and hands stiffen.

    1. Cheese I’m ok with, it’s the salt in the cheese that causes the joint issues, eggs cause issues too.. but salt is a big influence on joint and muscle pain.

    2. I have suffered from allergies since 1989. Chronic joint pain and allergies to corn, sulphites and nitrates. Diagnosis back then was Lupus. Recently diagnosed gluten intollerant after 3 yrs of chronic joint pain, stiffness from neck to tailbone so bad I could hardly sit, sleepless nights,I battled to walk and had recurring bouts of excruciating stomach pain for 3 to 4 days followed by 3 to 4 days of diarrhea. I have now been gluten free for 4 months and my pain has gone. I have also had to have all my pharmaceuticals compounded due to becoming intollerant to microcrystalline cellulose and corn because of same bone pain. Its in all Pharmaceuticals and that wasnt the end of it. Gluten free and compounded meds didn’t have me pain free and what I am about to tell you will amaze you. The first compound med was Levothyroxin using Jasmine rice as a filler instead of corn starch, microcrystalline cellulose and all other chemicals in vegie capsules…..still chronic bone pain. Compound chemist then suspected microcrystalline cellulose in vegie capsule, (I only took three). A second compund script still with Jasmine rice fillers was done and a change of capsule to so called beef and water only was used…still chronic bone pain and now neurological symptoms, could hardly walk, mind in irrational mood changes, panic mode and awful brain fog. (Only took one capsule, sick for 6 days. A third compound script, still with Jasmine rice only as filler but TAKEN OUT OF THE CAPSULE SPRINKLED ON A SPOONFUL OF YOGURT and MIRACLES DO HAPPEN, you guessed it 9 days later no pain just a lower than normal thyroid reading after 5 weeks off my Thyroid meds……..the capsule shells have, corn, microcrystalline cellulose and other chemicals in. I still find this UNBELIEVABLE to say the least. So if anyone has my problem ditch the capsules.

    1. This is what I was looking for. Recently avoided all grains due to joint pain, but was so hungry in the evenings I made my favorite snack, air-popped corn. Throughout the night I was awakened with more joint pain. I came looking to see if corn could trigger this, and now I see it can. One more food to remove from my diet. Once all is said and done, i will reintroduce one item at a time and see how I feel. Loved my Einkorn bread and oatmeal. I am hoping to be able to eat those again in small quantities.

  14. This was a great read! I’m going on 10 years as a celiac but have had on going joint pain for several years now. A recent food allergy test showed that I am also allergic to dairy, corn and eggs! I can’t tell you how upsetting this news was to hear. Having given up gluten for 10 years already I now have to give up more! So what am I suppose to eat now??? wish me luck because I’m about to do a MAJOR overhaul on my diet!!!

  15. Thank you for being my personal instructor on this topic.
    My spouse and i enjoyed the article very much and most of all enjoyed reading the way in which you handled the aspect I regarded as being controversial.
    You happen to be always incredibly kind towards readers really like me and
    assist me in my life. Thank you.

  16. I’ve had periodic back pain much of my life with symptoms similar to ankylosing spondylitis though I’ve never bothered to have it diagnosed. Recently I put myself on a keto diet, no carbs, in order to lose a bunch of weight, nothing to do with my back pain. While I was on this diet, for several months, I noticed that my back pain had completely resolved, nothing, and that later after I ended the diet my back pain returned within a week or so. This has made me a believer in the connection between food sensitivities and arthritic type reactions. Next I’m going to try an elimination diet to see if I can pin down exactly which carb is causing it, likely wheat, gluten or some grain based source. Thank you.

  17. Hello, my son is 5 and has JIA. He has had it for the past three years and the doctors just want to keep pushing drugs and I feel like it is doing him no good. I have to do methotrexate which is a small medicine for cancer patients to him in shot form and he can’t handle that anymore. What would be the best route to go to figure out if he has a allergy to some type of food.

    1. Hi my daughter is also the same age and going thought same. Is there is any tips how should I can help my daughter. My hurt is millions peace now.

  18. Can we become lactose intolerant if we have rhumatic arthritis?? I kind of find if I eat diary products especially curd i start to develop joint pain mostly on my shoulders..

  19. Hi I went vegan for the past 4 months. On a occasion I had a small amount of sour cream. Within the hour my joints in fingers swelled and got red with pain, had to go to bed . Yesterday a friend took me for breakfast, had scramble eggs for the first time. Again soon after my knees started hurting, felt not well all evening. Is this because I haven’t had dairy for 4 months and my body is not use to it, or is it food sensitivities?. Thank you for your suggestions.

  20. Lately I have a lot of pain all over the left side and more than anything in the back, leg and arm. This is happening more often. For more than seven years, I have followed a gluten free diet. the symptoms seem that I am sensitivity to gluten. For more than seven years I have not had problems, but lately I’m feeling a lot of pain and discomfort on the left side,( it seems sciatica or lumbago). On the other hand, I’m gaining weight and it’s very difficult for me to lose some weight, plus I am very weak and tired especially in the mornings.

  21. I am struggling with bakers cysts in both knees. I’ve had xrays which reveal good knee structure, no arthritis. I recently had an MRI and it came back with no meniscus tears or injuries. I am starting to believe it might be good related. I dont have actual joint pain in my knees but just large cysts which cause discomfort in the back of my knees if I fully straighten or bend them. I have just started a night shade free diet this week. Next I will try gluten free if this doesn’t resolve the pain.

  22. Try the lifestyle AIP (auto immune protocol diet) Remove foods to find out what you are allergic to. Easier than the Allergy panel poke. Blessings to all.

  23. Will brown rice cause pain in joints too? How about Jasmine rice? I have terrible pain and stiffness in my knees and back. Also; does popcorn cause joint pain? I ate it and woke up with horrible knee pain.

  24. My joint pain started years ago when I drank diet soda with aspartame. In the past few years I started realizing that my joint pain correlated to specific foods I ate. No two people will have the same triggers. I suggest eating a few safe foods (I ate a lot of sweet potatoes) while tracking your triggers. I don’t care what your doctor, your neighbor, your friend or your mother might say… need to take care of your body. My big triggers are aspartame, ALL night shades (watch out for paprika, it is everywhere), eggs, corn, red dye 40 and nitrates (bacon, pork, lunch meat). I can tolerate dairy and gluten on a small scale. I drink coffee with no issues. I never had joint issues or food intolerances when I was younger (female in 50’s). An added bonus to figuring out my food triggers was losing 25 pounds because there were so few foods I considered safe for my joints. I can say that most in traditional medicine think this approach is silly but they are the ones that prescribed strong pain meds for my arthritis. I know my body and decided it was up to me to take care of my body! Best wishes to all!

  25. I’ve been pain free on AIP diet but after Covid I’m down to 97 pounds. I’m desperate to piut in weight and can find no help in how to do that. Also cannot tolerate citrus or any sugar including most fruits. Help!!!!

  26. I’m a Veteran with PTSD…and joint pain. Sometimes my joint pain is so bad that I’m unable to do simple, everyday things. I was told there’s a connection between inflammation and PTSD so I did some research. I started with the FODMAP diet. I then looked at the AIP (auto immune protocol) diet. It took some time, but I found there are a number of foods that cause my joint pain to flare up, but it seems to be a cumulative effect. If I eat a limited amount of an offending food, it’s ok. But if I eat limited amounts of several offending foods, then my pain flares up. The only exception to that is dairy. If I eat dairy, even a slice or two of cheese, I have pain. So sad…I’m a Midwesterner…we love our milk and cheese!
    I read a journal article about how the heating method used to prepare foods can impact inflammation. Because I’ve adopted the methods in that article, I’m able to eat a broader range of foods. For example, fried eggs cause my pain to flare up, but poached and scrambled eggs (using lower heat) don’t.

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