Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Could Gluten Be Triggering Your Arthritis?

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance have become increasingly popular diagnoses in the medical community. That may be because more people have the conditions, or because science has helped us learn to recognize them more easily. Either way, researchers are looking at how gluten affects all kinds of conditions, from acne to arthritis.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is an amino acid found in wheat, barley, rye and other grain foods. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that interferes with the body's ability to absorb nutrients. When a person with celiac disease eats food that contains gluten, an immune response is triggered and the body begins attacking itself.

The immune system makes antibodies, proteins that the body creates to destroy harmful substances. These antibodies attack and destroy the lining of the intestines over time. Ultimately this can leat do malabsorption issues, malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies.

Celiac Disease Mimics Arthritis

Symptoms of arthritis which include joint pain and stiffness are also symptoms of the immune response caused by celiac disease. People who are gluten sensitive or who have been diagnosed with celiac disease may experience joint pain, swelling and stiffness if they eat food with gluten.

These similar symptoms make celiac disease difficult to diagnose. In fact, it's commonly confused with other conditions, such as arthritis. As such if you tell your doctor you're experiencing sore joints, they first may look to your bones not your intestines.

Arthritis Increases Your Risk for Celiac Disease

You have an increased risk of developing gluten sensitivity or celiac disease if you've been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). If you're gluten sensitive or have celiac disease, gluten could cause arthritis symptoms.

Like celiac disease, RA is an autoimmune conditions. In other words, your body mistakes normal, healthy parts of itself as foreign. Your body's immune system attacks and tries to destroy these harmless invaders. In the case of celiac disease, your body responds to gluten by attacking and destroying the villi,  which line your small intestine and help your body absorb nutrients.

Be Smart With Your Food Choices

What you eat can affect how you feel. If you've been diagnosed with RA, be aware of how food affects your symptoms. Talk to your doctor about your risk for developing celiac disease.

If you've been diagnosed with RA, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of adopting a gluten-free diet. Today, more food companies are making gluten-free alternatives. Plus most whole foods are naturally gluten-free.

5 Foods Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Should Avoid

It's time to kick that morning donut and coffee habit. Research shows that eating particular foods like  sugary treats and certain  caffeinated beverages may worsen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. There are a range of drugs that treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but don't ignore the simpler ways of reducing RA pain like diet modification. Though the research surrounding diet and RA is still inconclusive, many doctors recommend cutting out common foods that trigger RA symptoms to see if this improves symptoms. As of now there is no agreed upon diet for rheumatoid arthritis, but there are some people who do seem to have food sensitivities. However, here are five foods commonly reported to aggravate arthritis symptoms:

1) Dairy 
RA symptoms may flare as a response to specific proteins found in dairy products. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis who report intolerance to milk have antibodies to milk proteins. The body forms these antibodies to protect itself from what it mistakenly perceives as a harmful substance, but the antibodies attack other parts of the body in addition to the milk. Cut dairy products from your diet to see if that reduces RA symptoms.

2) Meat
Changing to a vegetarian diet often improves RA symptoms. Consumption of meat is associated with higher overall fat and calorie intake, which are markers for an unhealthy lifestyle. The fats in meat are more easily metabolized into pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body. Production of these inflammatory chemicals are good in certain circumstances - like when you are fighting an infection, but they can also cause painful inflammation and swelling in spaces like your joints. Instead of eating meat, supplement your diet with plant sources of protein  such as beans, lentils and soy.

3) Gluten
Research shows that many people with RA also have celiac disease, which is triggered by gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains that gives dough a chewy texture. When someone has celiac disease, eating gluten causes an immune reaction within the small intestine which can leas to bloating and diarrhea. 

4) Refined Sugar and Sweets
While certain carbohydrates may be an essential part of our diets, refined sugars and sweets are not, as much as we may enjoy them. Refined sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup, are empty calories devoid of any nutrients. Cutting down on refined sugar is even ore important for people with rheumatoid arthritis because the chronic inflammation in RA impairs the body's ability to break down sweets. Risk for cardiovascular disease is also high for patients with RA and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol is crucial.

5) Coffee
America is powered by caffeine: more than 150 million people drink coffee in the US, with each individual consuming more than three cups daily, according to the National Coffee Association. The health effects of coffee are controversial especially in regard to rheumatoid arthritis.

Diet modification is not for everyone. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about meal planning before making any notable changes. If you do not see any improvement in your symptoms after cutting out a food for four weeks, you may want to reinsert the food back into your diet.

Early Warning Signs of Arthritis Infographic

Early Warning Signs of Arthritis Infographic