Your arthritis joint pain could be aggravated by a protein called gluten found in wheat, rye, oats, barley, and innumerable processed foods made with flour or added gluten. Gluten causes inflammation in those who are sensitive to it, and that could be making your joint pain worse. Gluten and arthritis can make for a painful combination.
1. How gluten causes joint pain. Scientists have found that people who are gluten-sensitive generally don’t produce the enzymes necessary to break down wheat protein, which irritates the immune system. Sensing “foreign” gluten molecules, the immune system unleashes cytokines and other inflammatory substances to combat the perceived threat. This can inflame your joints and make them sore.
2. Gluten’s relationship to arthritis. One study found that as many as 66% of people with celiac disease (a severe form of gluten sensitivity) display symptoms of joint inflammation. In another study, people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who followed a gluten-free diet for 14 weeks felt dramatic improvements in their symptoms.
3. Are you gluten-sensitive? Researchers estimate that one in three people has some degree of gluten sensitivity. It’s also one of the most common genetic conditions in the world. Researchers theorize that gluten-sensitivity started when humans moved from being hunter-gatherers to grain farmers; not everyone evolved to be able to digest some grains. Since gluten is an irritant unless there are enzymes to neutralize it, gluten may in fact be a completely unnatural part of the human diet to which some of us have yet to adapt.
4. How to go gluten-free. To test its effect on your arthritis symptoms, you’ll need to avoid wheat, barley, oats and rye (and anything made with them) for one month. Read food labels carefully and learn the variations of these grains used by manufacturers of processed foods. These include semolina, spelt, matzo meal, triticale and graham flour, among many others. Gluten is also used as a texture-enhancer and thickening agent in thousands of packaged foods.
5. Whole plant foods are gluten-free. Of course, it’s best to avoid all commercially processed food products anyway. Industrial processing strips away any living nutrient value and replaces it with sweeteners, chemical additives and harmful fats. Instead, stick to the beneficial foods of The Arthritis Healing Diet, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, beans, lean grass-fed beef and omega-3 rich cold water fish. Instead of pain-producing products made from wheat, rye, oats and barley, enjoy brown and wild rice. Look for brown rice pasta on your natural food grocer’s shelves for a real treat.
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