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Curing Rheumatoid Arthritis With The Paleo Diet

Curing Rheumatoid Arthritis With The Paleo Diet | The Paleo Diet

Below is a recent success story from a Paleo Diet fan:

Dr. Cordain,

Thank you for answering questions I’ve had for the past 15 years about why this diet makes my RA better.  I just wish you could get the point across to all the rheumatologists out there!

I have had RA for 35 years….  first onset 1978 at age 37, finally diagnosed as adult onset Still’s Disease in 1983.  My rheumatologist had me on just about every high powered RA drug available for the next 20 years.  I was truly blessed by having side-effects to most of them and that kept me from taking them long enough to really shatter my health.

About 1997 or ’98 I decided I really needed to lose weight.  I felt I was already doing about all I could for the RA with medication and just getting rid of the excess pounds would at least make me feel better about myself.

I chose my own modified version of the Atkins diet.   I didn’t want to do ketosis so left meat and fat levels at the same moderate amounts I’d been eating and just left out all the starches (grains & white potatoes), sugars and fruit juices, legumes and milk products he recommended.  I did lose weight, but in the process noticed my RA was much better except when we would eat out or celebrate a birthday and I momentarily fell off the diet.

I asked my rheumatologist why this diet affected me like that but he had no answers.  At least he said, “If it works, go for it.”  So I have been on-again/ off-again with this diet since that time.  Anytime my RA flares, the diet works much better even than any of the new biologic drugs (such as Humira, Enbrel, etc).

Through the years I have read everything that has come my way looking for the reason this diet has this effect on me.  In the past year I began to notice more and more references to the Paleo Diet and decided it sounded like the diet I’ve been using.  I looked it up on your website and bought your Paleo Answer book and  IT IS THE SAME !  And then I found your research articles  Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis and Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double-Edged Sword in particular.

THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  for making them available on your website!  I printed those and gave them to my rheumatologist in July.  I will be interested in hearing his opinion at my next visit.  If this information had been available  when I first came down with RA, I can only imagine the pain and suffering I would have been spared (plus 2 artificial knees, 2 artificial hips, and reconstructive surgery on both wrists).

If I had known about lectins, saponins, etc. 15 years ago, perhaps I would have also avoided the on-again/off-again use of the  diet.  Or maybe this on-again/off-again pattern was the necessary proof that it really is the diet that is working!  (I’m thinking the healing of my body, because of the diet, is what allowed me to drift off the diet for extended periods of time.)  One thing I have found is that when initially beginning the Paleo Diet, depending on the degree of pain and inflammation, it may take 4 to 6 weeks for the symptoms to really clear.  And it is most important to not forget about the legumes and milk products…..  I was concentrating on starches and sugars and I had a tendency to forget them for a while until I read your research.

I am trying to spread the word about this diet to my many friends and acquaintances with RA as well as those with other medical conditions.  Sad to say, many of them feel they must rely only on what their doctor recommends…. after all the doctor is the “expert”.

What can be done (what can I do) to re-educate these “experts”?  Will you be having any seminars in the Austin, TX area in the near future that I can recommend to my doctors?  What can I tell them to spark their interest?  Do you have any new research coming up on this topic?

Dr. Cordain, thank you again for your research and for making it available.  I will be “on-again” forever thanks to you.




32 Comments on "Curing Rheumatoid Arthritis With The Paleo Diet"

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  1. Nice post !!
    osteoarthritis is mainly affects lower back, hips,knees and feet.

  2. Anndra says:

    Hello, I just started for the the paleo diet on Monday. On Thursday my RA flared up to the point that I had to go to the emergency room to get relieve so I could get some sleep because the Aleve, Tylonal and sleep air medication that I took was not working. (The narcotic they gave me did not help much with the pain but it did allow me to get some sleep) I also take methotrexate and humaria. I do know that paleo will affect my RA in a positive way from my previous attempts with paleo but this flare up has caught me by surprise. Has anyone ever had a bad flare up shortly after starting the paleo diet? I am wondering if it is not just my body responding to the change happing inside due to me paleo food choices.

  3. stotz says:

    My business is now not confident the places you have become your own information and facts, nonetheless excellent topic. Need to spend time mastering more or even exercising more. Thank you for exceptional facts I became looking for this data for my goal.

  4. Bianca says:

    I’m 37 and began having RA symptoms about 11 months ago. I deteriorated rapidly with chronic joint pain, raynauds, sudden allergies to everything and extreme fatigue. My first rheumatologist diagnosed MCTD and put me on plaquenil. My second rheumatogist diagnosed RA and said to stop the plaquenil and start methotrexate and endep. I decided I did not want to take them, so I looked into every other option I could.
    I first tried a superfoods/anti-inflammatory diet for 3 months, with no positive results whatsoever. I then found the paleo diet, and it made so much sense to me. I started it the day I found it. That was four weeks ago and OMG this diet works!!! The last week in particular I have realised how much better I am feeling, how much less pain, how much more ENERGY, it is brilliant. I am totally committed to the diet as my new lifestyle, I don’t really see the point in ‘cheating’. I served only paleo foods over Christmas last week, which was fun to plan and be a bit creative with. There were no complaints :) I have lost 2kgs although that wasn’t an aim for me, and despite eating plenty (and I do mean plenty) of fats.
    I do the ‘ordinary’ paleo minus all nightshades, not the autoimmune protocol, as at the moment I don’t feel I need to change anything. I can’t recommend the diet enough. Apart from the reduction in RA symptoms, I no longer get allergies, migraines, sinus pain, bloating or reflux problems. It is very hard to describe how good my body feels right now. It is as if it is breathing a sigh of relief. Best wishes to all here :)

  5. Lori says:

    15 years into RA, I started the Paleo Diet 22 months ago. I blogged about my experiences, which were up and down at first. My RA is under much much better control, and I’ve met the criteria for remission, which basically means as long as I keep doing what I’m doing (Paleo, Pilates, and Enbrel), my RA is not detectable. As a bonus, I’ve lost 52 pounds and am within 6 pounds of my pre-RA weight (gosh those steroids make you pack on the weight!). I also have allergies, asthma, a life threatening food allergy, Grave’s Disease, and Thyroid Eye Disease, all of which have shown dramatic improvement since starting Paleo. If you want to read about my journey, it starts here (and I included some bloodwork info at times):


  6. Heidi says:

    Though I am not on it right now (because I SUCK!!!)I have tried the Paleo diet and noticed a significant difference in my RA symptoms among other inflammatory things around the week before my period. I think the success that I had with this was that I followed the diet strictly, but I also eliminated foods that were also found to cause slow reacting allergic reactions (IgE and IgG reactions). I found a naturopathic doctor who recommended I get this test done to see what foods may also be having an impact on the inflammatory response in my body. (I actually found his explanation of how rheumatoid arthritis happens as a result of slow reaction allergies very interesting and made sense!)
    Now I have to pull up my socks and get back on the Paleo diet, but it is proving to be very difficult with how crazy busy I am. That might be another thing I should work on though too.. not being so crazy busy!
    GOOOO PALEO!! :)

  7. Veronica says:

    Hi, so confused about paleo diet and RA. My understanding is that I should avoid red meats But Paleo includes red meat. So is red meat good for you or not? Does red meat contribute to inflammation? I have been
    Recently Dx with RA and I am trying to find the right diet .

    If you can clarify this, this will help me out tremendously .


  8. Bonnie says:

    I am so grateful to find this website!
    I have Osteoarthritis which seems to have come on “all of a sudden”. It started in my collarbone and is now in my right wrist, hip, knee, and hand. I have been put on Mobic, the doctor saying I would need to be on it forever and that this was a overuse problem. Really? Overuse of my collarbone? Haven’t quite figured that out! ;)
    I am 52 years old and super active. I love to exercise….I am probably addicted to “chronic cardio” and weights.
    I am 5 weeks into the Low Lectin-Paleo diet. I was on Primal 10 months before that. I have felt occasional relief, but nothing substantial.
    I was having 1/4 cup of whipping cream every morning and am giving it up today after reading all these posts(I used coconut cream and stevia today).
    I fell off the wagon and had popcorn and Newman-os three nights in a row and am paying for it…I have been in a lot of pain since then.
    I am hopeful that this will pay off. My father has RA, severe debilitating Chrons disease and Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer.I was reading in Neanderthin that these I could also be prone to these diseases hereditarily.

    1) can a 1/4 cup whipping cream prevent results from Paleo diet?
    2) Is Stevia ok?
    3) Do I need to wait until all symptoms are gone before attempting to reintroduce any of the foods I have eliminated on low lectin?
    4) I went toff the mobic for a few days but had a lot of pain…could it also be causing a lack of results?
    THANK YOU!!!!

  9. Molly says:

    Hello, I also have RA and have had it since 2004. I just had my first baby in January and flared significantly during pregnancy. Although initially after having him I saw improvement, I am now declining once again making it difficult to take care of him and myself the way I want and need to. When I was first pregnant I was on a diet very similar to Paleo for 3-4 weeks but didn’t feel any relief. I actually stopped because I was so nauseous with “morning” sickness it was really hard not to have some bread! Anyhow, I came across Paleo recently, and I am now on day 11. However, I was reading that there is a modified Paleo for those with autoimmune diseases which limits eggs (this would be hard for the mornings!), nightshades, nuts and seeds as well. Is this the version of Paleo you did? I’m getting confused on how to move forward…if I am going to do this, I want to do it right so I can see if it really does help, but this is also the first time I’ve had success sticking with an RA diet and not wanting to give up because it’s so limiting! Also, were/are you extremely strict with having nothing processed and no type of added of sugars (say agave)? I’ve heard things like one drop of sugar can ruin the whole thing or one additive or fill in the blank. Have you found this to be true? Last question…coffee? I’ve stayed away from it because of the acidity which is supposedly awful for RA but haven’t found anything mentioned about it in regards to Paleo. Thank you for your article and taking the time to read all my questions! I need to do something, I am doing something, but want it to be the most effective something I can do!

    • Sharon says:

      Molly, I can appreciate your confusion about what to do next. I would suggest several things which were a tremendous help to me (1) read Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution….this book is excellent and will answer many of your questions. (2) Remember that Paleo is much more than a “diet”; it is a lifestyle, and Robb Wolf sets forth the crucial principles of the lifestyle clearly and effectively. (3) In the meantime, forget the sugars of any type, make sure you are getting sufficient sleep (at least 8 or 9 hours)and whenever possible, avoid extremes of environment, particularly heat, and, as much as you can, avoid emotional stress and unusual physical stress.

      I was diagnosed with RA and fibromyalgia years ago. Last year, as the RA worsened, my rheumatologist was insistent that I increase/change meds. I asked for 3 months to try the Paleo Solution approach before increasing meds. My Doc agreed. It was the best thing I have ever done…Paleo has worked a miracle in my life! It is definitely NOT easy….but it WORKS! Don’t get discouraged!

    • Linda says:

      I only just found your message….. I’ve been busy and haven’t looked at this website in a while.

      I use the regular Paleo diet for my RA, not a modified version. You need to stick with the diet for 4 to 6 weeks to really notice a difference in how you feel. You need to give your body time to heal from the “bad” foods you have probably eaten most of your life. You also need to totally eliminate sugars of all kinds. No fruit juices of any kind, only whole fresh fruit. Even with fresh fruit, you need to avoid those with a high glycemic index. I eat lots of blueberries because they are known to have high anti-inflammatory properties. I also concentrate mostly on pears, peaches, nectarines, plums, and occasionally melons if I can find really good ones.

      I eat an egg almost every morning. You can do that if you do not have a specific allergy to eggs. I don’t have a problem with tomatoes…. large red vine-ripened tomatoes are best. Potatoes cause a problem for me, but I don’t know if it is the lectins/saponins, the fact that they are nightshades, or the starch they contain. They are not recommend for the Paleo diet. I also don’t eat eggplant because I just never developed a taste for it. And I eat very little peppers, mostly sweet bell peppers. I don’t eat hot peppers because I don’t really like hot spicy food. From what I understand, some people with RA can tolerate nightshades and other cannot, but as you can see, I eat very little of the nightshades for various reasons.

      I hope you are continuing to follow the Paleo diet and that you and your new baby are doing well.

  10. Jenny says:

    I have been on a strict paleo diet as well as auto-immune diet (no nightshades, eggs, chocolate) for just over three weeks now and whilst my energy levels are up and I’m enjoying the diet (except for all the extra prep and cooking!), I am experiencing no difference to my RA symptoms.

    When did you start to feel better on this diet with re to RA symptoms?

    • Linda says:

      In response to Jenny:
      When I first tried the diet to lose weight, I was not thinking about improvement in the RA so I never thought about looking for improvement there. It was about 3 or 4 weeks into the diet that I attended an all-day meeting at work. At the “continental breakfast” they gave us (I have never learned to like coffee and did not want the pastries) I drank an 8 oz glass of orange juice and ate a couple of large strawberries. When we got up for a break an hour or two later, my knee had swelled up so that I could hardly walk on it. I worried the rest of the day about what I might have done to stress that knee. I thought about the orange juice, but didn’t see how it could be that. But then I began to pay attention and noticed that going out to eat or having a family birthday party caused me to hurt the next day. I finally realized it was because I “fell off the diet”.

      Through the years of being on and off the diet for periods of time I have discovered that beginning fresh on the diet after an RA flare, it takes 4 to 6 weeks for the pain and inflammation to subside. You have to stay on it long enough to clear out all the wrong foods you’ve been eating your entire life. One wrong food at one meal is enough to cause a flare lasting days to weeks. If you should be experiencing any kind of stress (illness, accident, emotional stress, too much work in the heat of a hot day), that will also cause a bad reaction. It is important to stay on the diet and to pace your activities to not get too large a dose of stress as well.

      Now that I know the science behind how the wrong foods cause inflammation, I am sticking with the diet all the time.

  11. Kim says:

    Thank you for this article. I was diagnosed with RA & Fibromyalgia at the start of this year (I was 29), and have been unable to work for several months due to worsening joint pain the renders me unable to walk at times. I have gone from a gym-junkie to how I am now basically overnight. My rheumatologist has started me on Plaquenil, and I am about to add methotrexate to the mix – I am terrified.

    I originally tried a vegan diet with lots of grains, on the advice of a naturopath, but I just got worse. I am hoping that the paleo diet might give me some relief! Looking forward to seeing what results I get.

  12. N says:

    Paleo also helped my joint pain. I was diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis, probable early ra. I started paleo and the change is dramatic. My hands are feeling like normal hands again!!! I am so grateful!!!!

  13. Sharon Aleman says:

    So good to hear. Thank you for the info. I have RA and would like to eventually get off the biologic drug (Enbrel). Starting the Paleo diet today. Will check back soon!

    • Mariellen Jacobs says:

      Cheryl, I see you started this past Spring. How is it going? I just started the paleo diet. I have had RA for 12 years and was diagnosed with Microscopic Colitis (also autoimmune) last fall. I would love to hear how you have fared. I take Enbrel, Arava and Plaquenil and would love to ditch all three.

  14. Trent Batson says:

    For me, paleo has a short history — only 7 months. In the first six months of 2012, I was seriously ill 3 times, once ending up in the hospital. I had asthma, which would flare up when I had a virus or bacteria of any kind. Despite using an inhaler, I had to sleep sitting up and had a very deep cough. In April I had pneumonia. I was desperate to find a solution since medications were having no effect.

    My wife was reading about paleo and when she told me about it, I said to myself “this is the first diet of any kind that makes sense to me.” I was not fat; in fact, I have been thin all my life, so losing weight was not my goal.

    We started in June and have been “compliant” ever since. Here are the effects:

    * lost 30 pounds unintentionally
    * asthma and allergies disappeared; am now titrating my meds to a lower dosage and have eliminated some
    * acid reflux disappeared as did esophageal spasms.
    * joint pain disappeared
    * my immune system works better — from high susceptibility to diseases to low susceptibility

    Since I have “data” from only 7 months and an N of one, I am making no claims with my friends or family. I just tell my own (and my wife’s) story. But on the other hand, to have had asthma from age 2, to have had joint pains for 15 years, to have had acid reflux and spasms for 40 years, and to be able to get off almost all medications and their side effects makes me want to write a book!

    Could it be that wheat and sugar have caused the obesity epidemic? Could it be that the MAD is behind many of the diseases in our society?

    I am so happy we found paleo. At my age to find a turnaround, a revival of my vitality, is astonishing.

    Thanks for having this Website.

    • Laura says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. It has giving me so much hope as I am currently being tested for an autoimmune disease as a result of having symptoms. Your story has motivated me to change my diet to paleo diet to improve my symptoms.
      Thanks again

      • j robinson says:

        Laura – I am in the same boat. Symptoms look like RA but being tested for some of the other autoimmune diseases that are similar. How are you doing with coping? :-/

      • cheryl says:

        DO IT! I have extreme joint pain from RA. I was put on methotrexate which I decided after six weeks was not helping the pain but making me feel horrible. I eat paleo now and if I stay on the diet…….I am 95% symptom free. I lost 13 lbs right away and am back to 120 lbs (early 20’s weight and I’m 56) and feel better than before the RA came into my life!!!

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