Friday, March 21, 2008

Gluten-Free Vegan Diet helps Rheumatoid Arthritis

Who would have guessed? A gluten-free diet appears to benefit an entirely new target-audience beyond just the traditional Coeliac / Celiac Disease sufferer or the wheat-free dieter. A brand new study coming out of research performed at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm surfaced some rather fascinating results. Researchers used a Gluten-Free Vegan diet as a means to improve the long-term health of people with rheumatoid arthritis - and the results were quite promising!

Some of the key findings of the gluten-free vegan diet among the test group included:
  • Reduced LDL and oxLDL levels (a good thing!)
  • Raised antiPC antibodies (more good news, since these are hypothesized to protect against cardiovascular disease!)
  • Lowered the body-mass index (BMI) of the volunteers in that group (I think we can all appreciate the promise of lower BMI) :)
  • Levels of other fatty molecules, including triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) stayed the same.
These results have now shown that diet (in particular a gluten-free diet that is vegan in nature) could benefit the long-term health of people with rheumatoid arthritis. It was note d that a larger study group will be needed to figure out which aspects of the diet helped improve these various markers the most, as this particular group was 66 persons total, with 38 randomly assigned to the gluten-free diet, and 28 assigned to a well-balanced (though non-vegan) diet for a period of one year.

I find this encouraging on a few levels. As always, anything that raises awareness of even what a "gluten free diet" is can certainly be a good thing, as it will likely also make more people interested in clear gluten-free labeling laws and the like. In addition, I extracted from this outcome that the gluten-free vegan diet offered some health benefits that we can all enjoy, regardless of whether we suffer from Rheumatoid arthritis.

I am not vegan personally, though I don't consume very much in the way of animal products. Certainly some of my favorite gluten-free diet foods happen to be vegan, and I actually tend towards that side of the grocery aisle, but I still have a weakness (especially) for some wonderful dairy products now and then!

Now, if only this study could have included a third distinct group - gluten-free with dairy and eggs - and shown that to be equally healthful... that would get me close enough to culinary bliss! :) Perhaps wishful thinking, but it wouldn't surprise me if there is still plenty of benefit to being a gluten-free vegetarian (that occasionally consumes some dairy and egg products).


Anonymous said...

These findings are very, very interesting, and hopeful. Much like your desire for a distinct "egg and dairy" group, it'd be nice to know how much to attribute to the GF diet as opposed to the vegan facet of the diet. Or perhaps it truly is the combination of the two that proves beneficial. If nothing else, I hope this triggers a larger study.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I was visiting your blog and read about this study. I write a blog about the Seignalet diet, which is gluten-free, dairy-free and promotes high amount of raws. This diet was studied by the Dr. J. Seignalet in the Montpellier university on rheumatoid arthritis patients, and they improved a lot. He tested it in many other diseases, and always seemed to have an overall beneficious effect.
The results of his investigations are in the book : "Alimentacion, la tercera medicina" (french and spanish edition).
Maybe you could find this information useful.

Lynn Barry said...

HI Mike,
In a menopausal moment I dumped my free to eat blogsite. But I am ok because I started a new blog and am pleased with it. I feel more organized. Just wanted to let you know. Thanks as always for all you do to enlighten others. HUGS
my new site is

Mike Eberhart said...

I'll update the gluten-free news aggregator to pull from your latest feed when it's ready (if you recall the feed setup process). Glad you are feeling more organized and all! M

Anonymous said...

I would love to have a recipe for GF Cinnabons. I really miss them. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks Sherry

Mike Eberhart said...

Gluten-Free Cinnabons... now that is a serious request. It all comes down to how close to the real-thing you want to get. I've seen a few attempts, both commercial products and home baked, and I tried some commercial type ones, and nothing has come close yet in my opinion. But, I think it could be done with some serious time and patience getting it perfected.

I'd say the first thing to get "right" is a good sweet yeast accent dough. If I was to try making such a thing, I'd probably start with a hybrid of the couple dessert-bread recipes, like the panettone and the orange-nut ones we have posted on our book website recipes page. I'd combine aspects of each, and definitely use whey-protein to get some elasticity, since you'll want to roll the stuff. But, this is all conjecture, and I would need to try it to see what happens. Fact is, when it comes to gluten-free baking, I consider anything possible, though it may take considerable effort to perfect.

Unknown said...

I have two dear friends under the age of 30 with RA. Both of their doctors suggested going gluten-free years ago. I do find this posting very interesting. I am not sure if I could go vegan, but going gluten-free is not the worst thing that can happen. And if it helps reduce the pain that is associated with RA, then I would encourage everyone to go gluten-free.

Anonymous said...

Hello. Your information interests me, as I have RA. Can you please send me the Karolinska University Hospital study reference to review? I was unable to find it on their website. Thank you.

Mike Eberhart said...

I found the original article on Science Daily. I'd suggest searching that site, and I presume they include the link back to the university article (they typically do).

Anonymous said...

I had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis from age 6 to 22, when I changed my diet to become a vegetarian. My doctor was convinced that the JRA was an allergic reaction to the hormones /steroids / or preservatives used in the meat. I remained "in remission" until I was 46 and I was diagnosed with RA. I was seeing a doctor for severe migraines at the time. He put me on a gluten free, lactose free diet. The arthritis pain was gone in three days, and I only get migraines with a severe drop in the barometric pressure. Some people ask "How can you stay on such a restrictive diet?" But I don't feel deprived, on the contrary, I feel liberated! Now I can enjoy eating-and feel great! Thank you for sharing the research. Because even doctors that I have seen turn their noses up at the idea that our diet can effect our bodies this way. I would rather pay a little extra for organic foods, then spend my money on chemical prescriptions full of toxic side effects.

Dana said...


My daughter is living proof that a GF diet(and DF AND eggless) can, indeed, improve the quality of life for those suffering with JRA. At 22 months old, she was diagnosed with JRA. She had several joints affected - her big toe, ankle, knee and elbow. After being on the diet for a year now, her sedimentation rate has gone from 40 to 15 and, currently, her knee is the only joint affected with VERY minimal swelling/inflammation.

Thank you for this post! :)


Unknown said...

I am not vegan but went gluten/dairy free over four years ago to help my RA and have had wonderful results. It takes committment, but the results are worth it. I am now off all medications.

Anonymous said...

My daughter was diagnosed with RA after the birth of her third child. A year later, she wss found to have celiac disease and after going strictly on a gluten-free diet for three months, her RA symptoms almost disappeared. That was 14 years ago, and she could find no one who had ever heard of such a thing!

Anonymous said...

I have Ra, and after reading the study on Gf, vegan diets, I decided to try it for a few weeks. The results were remarkable and stayed that way even after adding eggs, lactose free milk and a small amount of meat back.
I'm currently on a gluten challange for four week before having a celiac panal done. I can't wait for the four weeks to be over, I'm having a joint flair and lots of GI problems. I think I'll go back to the GF diet no matter the outcome of the testing

Unknown said...

I am 35 and have had RA for almost nine years. I have been on a number of medications, and am currently taking Prednisone daily and Remicade infusions every 6 weeks. I am a vegetarian, and exercise daily. The gluten-free diet is a new concept to me, but I will try just about anything to be able to reduce medication dependence. Can anyone tell me how to go about this GF I simply eliminate gluten from my diet and see what happens? Any tips you can offer would be much appreciated. Thanks! :)

Mike Eberhart said...

As for how to go about this diet - yes, you just eliminate gluten and meat/dairy - given that the study I referenced was about vegan gluten-free diet.

That can be a bit rough... all dairy, all meat, and anything with the major grain in our society (wheat) as well as barley, rye, and anything derived from those or containing those ingredients.

We gluten-free Celiac people have to deal with 1/2 that equation already, and it can be a challenge. But, it can be done. There are a lot of GF/Vegans out there, so it is certainly possible. And, since you are already a vegetarian, that should make the switch easier -- you know how to limit your diet already.

I hope this helps. Check around this blog and others for good GF-Vegetarian foods and recipes. m

Anonymous said...

wow, it is really encouraging to read these comments. i am so glad others are trying this. I have JRA and have been following a gluten-free and vegan diet for awhile now and have also found relief from joint pain. I hope that everyone with ra tries this! it really does help

Anonymous said...

These comments have brought me to tears...I was diagnosed with JRA at 3 years old and am now 35. I've been on all types of meds over the years, but not once did ANY of my many rheumatologists EVER mention a wheat or dairy-free diet to ease my symptoms. Shame on them!

Someone told me just last week about her struggle with RA - she was able to determine which foods caused her symptoms to worsen and remove them from her diet. Those foods were mainly wheat and dairy, along with sugar and fried foods. She also takes several supplements (acidophilus, magnesium malate, Caltrate D, multivitamin and VIT B-150). She says this regimen has worked miracles for her and she has never had to take any RA meds.

Reading everyone's posts and hearing her story makes me wonder if foods have been the culprits for me all along? It's scary to think I've suffered for almost 30 years and all I had to do was eat differently :( I'm so motivated to try this for myself now that I've seen proof it works. I'm also hoping to maybe find a rheumatologist or allergist who would perform the antibody tests for me to confirm my specific food allergies/sensitivities.

Thanks to all for your posts and positive information. What a Godsend!

Sarah Clarke said...

I have psioratic arthritis. I'm 38 and have had the disease for 3 years. I have been on methotrexate/humira etc. I just recently stopped all meds and have stopped eating gluten and almost all dairy and I feel fine. I have my meds on hand in case I flair up again, but so far so good. Does anyone know if eating fish is bad? Salmon etc. for the omega 3's or fish oils?

Neena said...

I an 51 and was diagnosed with RA 20 years ago and have been on anti-TNF medication for 11 years. This medication gave me back mobility and was able to return to the tennis court and now play intermediate-advanced levels as often as 3-5 times a week. A miracle. However, I have now been gluten-free for 8 months and a experiencing an even bigger miracle now. I am completely sympton free and going off all medication completely. Who would have thought that all these years my RA was being triggered by something I was eating that my body had been trying to tell me was poison to my system. I am not Vegan but elimiating wheat/gluten from my diet completedly has improved almost all aspects of my health. I sleep better, no more bouts of depression and anxiety and without trying I've also lost 15 lbs bringing my weight down to pre-childbirth state at 125 lbs. The reason for this is that I don't have that continuous hungry feeling I always used to have -- I eat a regular healthy meal and I feel full with no cravings for sugary high-carb type snacks and desserts like I used to have. I don't think I have ever felt that 'i've had enough to eat' feeling before and fought weight issues all my life before now. I am still amazed each day at how my RA has gone (of course the damage to my joins can't be undone) but the pain and inflamation is completely gone and I feel great -- and with no medicine! I wish Rheum doctors would talk more about the possible effects and triggers of gluten with their patients -- my doctor didn't argue with me about it when I said I wanted to try it -- but he definitely did not promote it. WHY????? I know Pharm companies won't promote it because they don't want to lose the business -but this information needs to get out and doctors need to make it available to their patients to consider. Thank you for helping those of us with RA get this information and tips about gluten-free menus. I recently found a pizza place Jules Organic pizza that makes gluten-free pizza that is the best pizza I have ever eaten - even my non-gluten free friends and kids love it. And you can buy the dough for making lots of others things like rolls and cinnamon buns. Woohoo!!! Life is good!

Anonymous said...

I was diagnosed with RA a year ago and recently met this book:

I have tried the way the DR has tried on his patients in Surrey while he was working for NHS and I found that wheat was what makes my symptons worse. When I eliminate wheat, I have much less swelling and monring stiffness. I truly recommend this book to everyone. It changed my life.

Dianna said...

Finally I find someone else looking at diet. I read the Book Eating Away Rheumatoid Arthritis. At first I thought it was wheat and other foods that factored into my RA. I had blood work done and determined it wasn't wheat but baker's yeast. Read more on my blog http:/
My RA is in complete remission and NO MEDS!!

Unknown said...

I found out I suffer from Celiac Disease about six months ago. I had been suffering increased incidences and problems with joint pain, including needing an injection in my knee so that I could function. To my surprise, after going gluten-free, my long-term knee pain all but disappeared. Back pain, less advanced, also went away, as did some pain in my wrists. An unexpected but welcome bonus!!!

Scott Larsen, Newburgh, IN

Low Fat Recipes | No-Bake Power Bites Recipe said...

I've read this article and it rekindles my desire to keep myself healthy! I have family members who suffer from this rheumatoid arthritis and I would like to share this blog with them (thanks to the author I happened to read by!).

achymom said...

so nice to find this post - diagnosed with RA last month (I'm a37 mom with little time for all this!) Saw a naturopath around the same time I was getting diagnosed and she put me on a no gluten / dairy / sugar / processed foods + alcohol diet, plus took away tomatoes and peppers. On lots of supplements as well. Started RA drugs at the same time, but am feeling a lot better, so not sure what to thank, but I'll take it. Morning stiffness is down, except for a couple of active joints. I feel way better and have knocked of the last of the baby weight. I still have chicken fish and eggs. It's not a terrible diet, but it takes planning, which is a) tough, and b) making me realize how much processed stuff I was eating. The kids are moving towards GF, only because I don't have time to be a short order cook -- at least with the pasta they didn't blink an eye.

Fat Burning Jim said...

This is good news. Anything that can combat RA, I watched my great grandmother suffer from the effects and it was horrible. I am worried that I will have to go through those symptoms myself one day.

Valerie said...

I have psoriatic arthritis, not RA, though the two are so similar it's splitting hairs to differentiate. My rheumatologist has suggested I try a GF diet (which is how I found your blog), because he's had a number of patients who've gotten excellent results going GF. They didn't go vegan or even vegetarian, only GF, but it made a huge difference in their pain and inflammation levels. This is purely empirical, but encouraging, I think.

I plan to try GF but won't be going vegetarian at this point. Later, if it seems indicated, I may do that, but for now I think going GF will be enough of an adjustment for my family.

Thanks for the article!

Unknown said...

I've enjoyed reading all the comments. I have been on a gluten free diet for about a month now. I saw immediate results within days. I have been keeping a food diary to see if any other foods trigger pain. I don't want to give up dairy and meat (chicken) if I don't have to. Some days I am totally pain free and others I am bothered with pain and weakness in my wrist. I have heard that Soy products can trigger pain. So going to a vegan diet doesn't seem like the right thing to do. Any comments?

Jenny from Nashville said...

Thank you to all who have posted here…I'm currently one year into a RA diagnosis and deciding to do a gluten free vegan diet (i hate the word diet…too many negative connotations of restriction)…2 days in and already feel my energy picking up! I'm still on methatrexate/humira but will try stopping these a month or so into this new venture! I have so much hope reading all of your comments so please keep them coming and feel free to pass on any favorite food recipes/websites etc! I will read often…Jenny from Nashville TN!

Unknown said...

I am 74 years old and have R/A since 3 years ago. I started with a GF diet totally vegetarian non dairy.
I was never overweight and from 65 kg i went down to 55 !! which now the doctor got a fright and checked me up for cancer. All my tests where negative so the loss of weight is either the R/A or the diet???
I am afraid that going back to the Gluten free diet will made me loose more weight ! what should i do?
please help
thank you