Comments I made on gluten and its connection to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in the Irish Independent Weekend Magazine have caused quite a reaction this week, and I would like to explain exactly what I said and what I meant.
Firstly, I completely agree with Arthritis Ireland, in that those who have been diagnosed with RA must manage their disease with the advice of their GP and consultant, and not through diet alone.
My qualification in Nutritional Therapy from the College of Naturopathic Medicine enables me to advise on a client’s diet and nutritional needs, but always in conjunction with their GP if they’re on medication, have a disease or need to get tests done.
During the course of the interview, I was asked whether my friends and family had benefited from my influence on their eating habits. I replied by saying that my husband had experienced huge benefits from embarking on a gluten-free diet. Earlier this year, he began to show the clinical symptoms of RA, with intense fatigue and painful swollen knuckles in both hands and inflamed knees, which he would have upon waking and would only ease up a few hours later. I was naturally very concerned, and having worked with a number of clients with RA already, I recognised the symptoms of this autoimmune disease.
Possible non coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) was my focus here, along with potential gut permeability, dysbiosis and inflammation.
Wesley decided that he’d rather look at dietary options first, so I designed a diet specific to him and his nutritional needs, that was free from known pro-inflammatory foods, including gluten products, as his diet had been high in them in the weeks and months leading up to the onset of his pain. To our amazement, his pain cleared up completely in under three weeks, which made a huge difference to his life. However, when he decided to see if he could eat gluten-containing foods again, the pain returned within 24 hours and it continues to follow that pattern if he does eat gluten.
I was asked what I thought about gluten-free diets and the controversy surrounding them, to which I explained that non coeliac gluten sensitivity is an emerging concern, with research showing it being possibly implicated in a number of autoimmune and neurological diseases.
I was by no means stating that gluten causes arthritis or any other diseases, or that they can be cured by removing it from the diet. But I felt that it was acceptable to share the experience that my husband had with making dietary changes to control his pain.
Arthritis in all of its forms is a serious and debilitating disease, and sharing my personal story was the intention, not to create any sense of false hope for sufferers or state that a change in diet is all that is needed to cure a disease.
I have included the studies below to demonstrate that this issue is a legitimate area of enquiry. I do not, however, endorse every claim made therein.