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Gluten Sensitivity and Rheumatoid Arthritis – Is There A Connection?

Does Celiac Disease Mimic RA?

Is there a connection between gluten sensitivity and rheumatoid arthritis? A recent study finds a strong correlation between RA and celiac disease. The findings of the research state that patients with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis may be misdiagnosed and may actually have a form of polyarthritis caused by gluten. The authors of the research paper state:


It is possible that CD may be the correct diagnosis in a patient with polyarthritis, even if the patient meets the ACR criteria for RA. In other words, CD should be considered among the differential diagnoses in a patient with poly-arthritis.


Research Source:

Reumatol Clin. 2011 Jan-Feb;7(1):27-9.
[Anti-transglutaminase, antigladin and ultra purified anti-gladin antibodies in patients with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis].

Gluten Free Warrior’s Comment:

It is no mystery that gluten can cause autoimmune arthritis. A number of published studies have linked the two. Unfortunately, most rheumatologists (the doctors responsible for treating RA), dismiss diet and claim that it has nothing to do with the disease. They would rather pump patients full of immune suppressing drugs that have the potential to cause cancer than ask a patient to change their diet. They would rather prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to suppress pain than look for the origin of the disease.

These “Experts” are letting down thousands of patients. If you have been diagnosed with a form of autoimmune arthritis, insist that your doctor rule out the possibility of gluten sensitivity with genetic testing. Common forms of autoimmune arthritis and soft tissue diseases are listed below:

In my clinic near Houston, TX, I commonly see patients with these conditions. Most of them come to me after being told how unimportant nutrition is. The story is always very similar, their doctors have prescribed a number of medications and they have not responded to the treatments. In my experience, diet always has a huge impact on these conditions. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with any of the diseases listed above, make sure to investigate food intolerance and allergies. The findings may just change your life.

No Grain No Pain

If you suspect gluten is causing your chronic pain, I would highly recommend reading my best selling book, No Grain No Pain. Take the 30 day diet challenge. It could save your life!

Wishing you excellent health,

Dr. O – The Gluten Free Warrior

23 Responses

  1. I am headed to the rheumatologist tomorrow for this type of issue so this information couldn’t be more timely. I will definitely address this during my appointment. Thanks.

  2. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 16 and irritable bowel syndrome. I was sick on and off for years until I was approx 36 and told my family physician I wanted to go to a rheumatologist. After a complete body scan the results were negative and the specialist said he suspected I may be celiac. Although it wasn’t his specialty he suggested U go back to my family doctor and look into this. I had no idea what he was talking about and at this point was fed up of doctors. A few days after seeing that specialist I googled celiac and went on the strict diet. Keep In mind at this point I had already eliminated a lot of foods and wheat was one of them. After 3 days on the no gluten diet I felt 1000% better. That is without a test confirmation or a doctor telling me an official diagnoses. Now at 41 I tell everyone I can about my story and that I have all eliminated all gluten….which means all grains such as rice and corn. Since quitting gluten other allergies came out such as dairy, shellfish and nuts. This is probably due to my villi absorbing everything as opposed to it being flushed out.

  3. Going gluten free for me was in response to an allergy and head to toe hives … the fact that it helped my arthritis was a bonus in my mind, and one that I was truly grateful for!

    After being gluten free since April 2011 if a little bit of gluten sneaks into my food somewhere, one of the first things I notice is my hand feels stiff and my knee throbs with pain.

  4. I left a career in corporate to study natural health cause I cound not get well, on my own or with the doctors I had at the time. I had CD and at the time had no idea I had it or exactly what was wrong with me. I have/had Alopecia, stomach issues and arthritis. I am coming along pretty well now, but have not healed totally,(if ever). I am happy now that I know whats wrong after all this time. I am 58 years old. I have suffered a really long time in more ways than six. I dont mind continuing on the mission to recover my health especially now that I know what the main contributor was. Thank God!

  5. I developed severe, sudden Poly Rheumatoid Arthritis after the birth of my son when he was 3 months old (I was 30 years old). It hapened literally overnight! I was in AGONY, just to touch my skin made me yelp with pain! I decided after looking into the nature of RA and it’s treatments that it was not possible to go on all that toxic medication for the rest of my life and suffer side effects and probably take a few years off my life – especially consdering most people don’t even get relief from it! So I looked into healing through diet – and this Whole World opened up to me! Through all my research I was led down all the right paths and eventually found that the whole world seemed to be mistaken about Gluten…I was on a self-imposed very restricted diet by then but it took me about 3 months to realise (after dramAtic improvement) that I should also stop eating rice and millet. Which I did – and the result was incredble, after only a couple of weeks I could walk with much more ease…and after a few months I felt like a new woman! It has now been 16months and I am virtually pain free – but am now embarking on a plan to heal my gut and sort out my vitamin deficiencies – on to the healing!! I will probably never eat grain again – but at least if I heal I may be able to eat the odd thing like a potato or be able to use almond flour and other such substitutes for a grainless life! REMEMBER ‘Gluten Free’ foods are only Gliadin free!! Let’s hope the law gets changed in favour of correctly labelling foods (these three proteins: gliadin, hordein and secalin, are in a category of proteins called prolamins that are present in all the grains of the grass family (includes oats, corn, rice, millet…)

  6. HI. I am on a Paleo Diet – grassfed meat,seafood, local veges and fruit, eggs, nuts, no grains, no gluten, low dairy,low legumes, low sugar, low salt. And my Rheumatoid Arthritis in my feet has stopped getting any worse and the pain has gone. Number 1 factor that I know caused my RA is Gluten – especially from commercial (white/wholegrain,vitagrain etc )BREAD .

  7. @Faith van Dam
    SO TRUE dude…That is exactly what happened to me!
    I had just started using Wholemeal bread from super market as a substitute for white bread and it took only few weeks to turn my fingers pale and swollen and one night I had severe chest burn that made me walk to doctor, who diagnosed me with RA. Now I have to live inflamed all my life ….

  8. I wish it was that simple for me. I was diagnosed with celiac 5 years ago and have been gluten free ever since. The mirgraines continue but have gotten better. The joint pain and stiffness have gotten worse. I’ve tried elimination diets for everything else I can think of, with no luck. And my recent celiac panels all came back good. :/ heading to the rheumatologist soon to see what the next step is. Oh, did I mention I’m only 29? 🙁

    1. Your story connects with mine that I have been gf since 9/14 and my joint pain is worst with watching them (joints) grow bigger and more abstract,
      Where are at with your journey now?

      1. Same with me – celiac diagnosis about 5 years ago, GF ever since, joint pain is worse and worse. I would be interested in any follow-up or input on this. For example: am I more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis because I have celiac, even though I am gluten free?

        1. Sarah, Jeanne, Kris,
          Any updates on your CD/RA symptoms and progress? This sounds strikingly similar to what my 12 year old with CD is experiencing. Was just referred to a Rheumatologist…

          Any feedback you have could be helpful for others.


  9. I have discovered that soy oil is in everything and is GMO 90% of the time in the US and can cause me great pain in all joints. My rhumetologist is investigating RA right now. I asked him if it could be connected to my problems with soy and lactose intolerance but he said no. I think I’m going to be stricter with my diet from now on. Also being lactose free my colds have gone down to almost 0.

  10. Stem cell therapy is another treatment alternative.
    If you have a chronic illness than you have a body that is telling you “Stop; don’t; be careful; you shouldn’t; not a good idea; rest; skip it. This type of pain triggers a series of physiologic and anatomic changes in the human body that are not adaptive, but rather, maladaptive (the body is injured by the changes).

  11. I have severe ra and lupus nd Mctd. I am allergic to wheat, so I gab up all grain and dairy. It has had absolutely NO effect on my arthritis. None, nothing. Diet only helps a small minority of people. Great if it works for you, but calling it a cure for everyone is just wrong.

  12. To everyone commenting that dietary changes didn’t help them. I do hope you realise that by eliminating gluten that means absolutely any and everything that says MIGHT contain gluten, that includes ALL processed foods as most foods label as GF still contain some traces. You really need to knuckle down and do something like the AIP diet – there isn’t a single human being on this earth that does not benefit from a diet designed to reduce and address inflammation. Good luck!

    1. 100 percent agreed. It’s not as simple as going to the local market and buying stuff that says “gluten free”, etc. and all autoimmune issues resolved. There may be no “cure” but remission is absolutely possible.
      I’ve recently been diagnosed with RA and feel devastated, at only 46, but now my quest for good health will include a stricter path. This condition will not stop me from living a healthy, positive life! Discernment people! Best wishes to all💫

  13. Personally I have never seen a Rhematologist, have had multiple symptoms since I was in my mid fifties that would make a doctor wonder if I had RA, unfortunately no one ever even suggested the diagnosis. Slowly, over a 2 year period of doing my own research I have come to my own conclusion that I have mild to moderated RA. I have to mention that I am a retired RN with 40 years experience. Yes, it took me much to long to take care of myself, you see before I retired I was just to busy. I think had I had a more sever case I would have been forced by my symptoms to deal with it sooner. I can’t help but notice that of all the people that I talk to that eventually get diagnosed the ones that it is the ones that have moderate to sever RA. Unfortunately, the people with mild to moderate like me, rarely or never get diagnosed. Shortly after realizing what I most likely had RA, I started to related my RA to Celiac disease. Why did I related my RA like symptoms to Celiac disease? First because I had two friends that had already gone down that road, second because buried in my electronic record was a test done about 13 years ago by a GI doctor I was seeing for all my GI symptoms. He had tested me for Celiac disease and never told me he had done so. It had a strange result that said, “you do not currently have Celiac disease but at some point you may come down with it”. That still has me scratching my head. I always though Celiac was a positive or a negative. But then I heard another GI doc saying it was not as simple as that, that some people got some of the genetics that cause the condition but not all of the genetic that cause the disease and they can still have problems. Well the older I get the more symptoms I get. I went from just GI symptoms to anemia to joint paint. I also wonder if my respiratory symptoms are somehow related. So in summary about 12 weeks ago I went completely gluten free, I am experiencing about 80% improvement in joint pain, 50% improvement in GI and respiratory difficulties. However it is going to take a while to see about the improvement in anemia. Though I am noticing a improvement in energy levels and like most people with RA, fatigue was a big problem with me. Let me tell you something about the anemia. About 7
    years ago, my immune system engaged in an attack on my BLOOD that almost killed me. I was hospitalized and on massive doses of IV steroids for several days and then on oral steroids for weeks afterwards. Even then no one had a reason for why it happened and no doctor ever said to me, “maybe you should see a rheumatologist”. The near fatal incident was just shrugged off as one of those things. To many times I have had doctors shrug at me and my complaints. Thanks goodness for the ER doc who didn’t minimize my symptoms, he recognized that I was in trouble and admitted me for observation. My Hgb on admission was 8.9, a lot of docs would have blown that off and sent me home. But by the time time they got some fluids in me typed and crossed matched me again it was 6.3. That is how vicious a person’s immune system can be and just one instance of how many time the medical establishment has had opportunities to investigated what was going on with my immune system and never did. Perhaps it was a good thing all in all because I was never on a biologic, have been on a lot of steroids and that means are we will be watching my bones carefully. So just to restate the sequence by which this disease unfolded, about 20 years ago I started having respiratory problems, about 15 years ago I started have GI problems, 10 years ago the anemia, then joint pain became a problem about 5 years ago. Each condition was treated independently by a specialist, no one ever connected them. It was me that started to connect them and that wasn’t until I retired.

    1. Thank you, Ellen, for sharing such insightful story. I, too, am putting the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s explaining why the manifestation of joint discomfort on the smallest joints on my fingers, Metatarsalgia, and TMJ. Devastating but there is hope for all of us💫 Thank you for your service. Now take care of YOU! Be well.

  14. I had so much pain some days I was completely incapacitated for more years than I care to admit. Sharp pain, muscle pain, joint pain with movement AND deep bone ache. Three days into a water only fast I noticed NO PAIN! And so began my quest. For a year I went gluten-free and was pain free, but gluten-free is nasty. It’s crumbly, tasteless, and stinks. So I began wondering if there might be something in bread, etc., that I might be reacting to. I noticed Barley as a constant ingredient, so I purchased and baked a loaf of really whole wheat, barley-free bread. The result? NO pain. Now I am trying to source regular white flour without barley flour, malted barley flour, modified food starch, enzymes, and any other code word for barley. I want to be able to bake something that is a bit lighter than my very heavy 100% stone ground wheat flour will allow.

  15. Hi Sarah. I am discovering that I have the same issue. I’m wondering if you have any advice or specialists you’re working with. Can you help?

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