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Can Food Heal Arthritis?

Can Food Heal Arthritis

Can Food Heal Arthritis?

Today I get to share with you the first beautiful success story that came in! Before we get to that, I want to ask again: Please will you share your success stories, too, short or long?! (, please put SUCCESS STORY in the subject line.)

MANY are healed of all sorts of health issues with Real Food. I’d love to start regularly publishing your success stories here on the blog. Maybe you’ve cut only a little of the junk out of your diet but you already feel better. Maybe you had major health issues and went on the GAPS diet and have been healed. Or you may have lost weight, seen your kids’ behavior improve, or gotten pregnant! (This was one of my favorite posts here on the blog: Real Food Makes You Fertile!) Whatever you can share with us, we’d love to hear about the benefits you’ve seen in your life since incorporating more Real Food. Thank you!

On to today’s story, but first a bit of a disclaimer…

Will Real Food heal arthritis in everyone? I doubt it. Will it heal many? Most definitely! Will it heal those who don’t even give this a try? Absolutely not.

Keep that in mind as you read.


Thank you for all you do! Your site has been one of my go-to resources as I muddle my way through these things. Here’s my story.

In the fall of 2011 I started noticing that some of my fingers would hurt. It would last for a while and then go away, so I didn’t pay much attention to it, but then by spring of 2012 it was becoming fairly constant. And by summer of 2012 I couldn’t bend my fingers when I woke up in the morning. They would just ache so badly and be so stiff, and was starting to spread to my toes, wrists, and ankles.

Naturally, I went to the doctor, who told me it was arthritis. Arthritis! And I’m only 37!

I was not happy with arthritis at 37, but he told me there really wasn’t much I could do about it unless I wanted to go on medication (and arthritis medication is scary stuff, man.)

My chiropractor recommended that I look into an “anti-inflammation” diet, so I did. It basically called for cutting out all the man made junk in our diets – but also all sweeteners including even honey and juice and maple syrup. Between cutting all sweeteners and all refined grains, I wasn’t very excited about this diet. I kept thinking about soft, hot rolls dipped in olive oil and warm, gooey brownies and all the things that make life happy. So I kind of put it to the side, but over the next week several other people mentioned this same diet to me, saying that they or someone they knew had a lot of success with it. Since my joint pain was growing steadily worse, I finally gave in and decided to give it a try.

The first week was torture. I mean, pure torture.

I got really weird about food. I started fantasizing and dreaming about it all the time. Things that I used to not really like – like hard candy, or Coke – suddenly seemed irresistible to me. I roamed my kitchen obsessively, hunting through cabinets and the refrigerator in search of things that I knew weren’t there, but I couldn’t stop. The idea of food – specifically sweet, junky food – became all I could think about. I, quite literally, was not in my right mind.

Now, I thought I was fairly healthy before…

I cooked my own food, read labels, avoided HFCS and preservatives, did all the right things (I thought). But I did eat sugar, and the hold sugar has on our bodies is unbelievable! You have no idea how addicted you are until you try to go off it.

After two weeks I was less of a crazy person and less of a terror to my family and it got considerably easier. And then after three weeks miracles started to happen….

All joint pain – as in ALL – was gone. Not even a hint or trace of it. Not only that, but I was sleeping straight through the night every night for the first time in years and years. My digestion was superb. My mood was more stable. PMS and menstrual cramps were gone. Headaches were gone (and I used to have bad headaches several times a week.) And I had started to steadily lose weight, even though I was constantly eating.

One of the big things I’ve changed that isn’t specifically a part of an anti-inflammation diet is the way I consume grains. Technically, you can eat anything that’s not a refined flour on that diet, but for the first couple weeks I just didn’t really have any grains at all – not on purpose, but just because I was still trying to figure things out. Then I made some lasagne with whole wheat pasta for my son’s birthday and got sick. Like, bending over “I think I’m going to die” sick. After feeling so much better, it was a real shock to feel SO bad! I don’t know why I reacted so strongly when I never did before, but I wonder if those weeks without wheat made me more sensitive to it? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that my body was not happy. Since then I’ve dramatically reduced the amount of modern grains I eat, and only have them if they’ve been traditionally prepared (by soaking, sprouting, or fermenting). I have absolutely zero problems with any of it now, and the low–lying, vague nausea that I’ve had all my life and kind of thought was normal is now completely gone.

It’s been three months now, and I feel better than ever.

My body just seems to work better now. Like before it was fighting itself, but now it can do what it’s supposed to do. I’ve lost 17 pounds without even trying, just by eating (and not eating) the things on the diet. I eat butter and whole milk and meat and coconut oil and nuts and all the things that we’re told will make us fat…and I’m losing weight! Let me be clear: I’m not doing this for weight loss purposes, and I don’t recommend that. I’m doing it for health purposes, but this is a nice (and needed) side effect!

I do still have cravings, and this time of year the holidays are proving to be especially challenging. When I fall off the wagon, I pay for it in the form of achy fingers the next day – which, actually, I’m kind of glad for. Such immediate negative reinforcement certainly is effective at keeping me focused! I am able to cheat a little with things sweetened with maple syrup, palm sugar, or honey as long as I am careful to be very moderate about it, so I don’t have to be as strict about no sweeteners at all as I was in the beginning. And while the idea of gooey, sugary brownies does still hold some appeal, the appeal of feeling this good is much, much stronger and so I’m able to resist fairly easily. Once you feel how your body’s supposed to work it’s hard to go back to the way it was before.

As I’ve talked to friends and make posts on Facebook about all I was learning and going through with this, everyone’s had questions and wanted to know more, so I started a blog as an easier way to inform people and keep them up to date on recipes and things I’m learning along the way. It’s by no means an exhaustive resource, but my hope is that it helps provide a bit of guidance for others who might be on (or be interested in) the same journey as I am. If you want to learn more about the anti-inflammation diet and my experiences on it, the blog is

My quest for recipes that would fit into this diet is what led me to sites like this one and Food Renegade and lots of other great resources. They have been absolutely invaluable! Thank you for being a guide to me as I learn more and more about how to help my body be the way it’s supposed to be through proper food!

Rachel, thank you so much for sharing this awesome story with us about the power of REAL FOOD! :)


  1. This just rocks! Thanks for sharing such an easy-to-relate-to and inspiring story! There are thousands upon thousands of folks searching everywhere but the most simple, obvious (to us Real Foodies anyway) places for answers for all sorts of health problems, both mysterious and easily defined. Getting at the root instead of masking symptoms with drugs is the way to go whenever possible!

  2. Sounds to me like she’s gluten intolerant. I went on a GF diet and I became more sensitive to it, and had the same gut wrenching reactions like Rachel described. Now even a small amount of wheat will have me doubled-over. And the minor nausea she had for many years – dead giveaway that gluten is the culprit.

    DH and I had our testing done by EnteroLab and, even though DH had no symptoms, his results were worse than mine. Now we’re both GF and enjoy lots of safe starches like corn, rice, potatoes, tapioca, etc.

    • I’ve wondered the same thing, ever since that episode with the lasagne! The rheumatologist is having me tested for food allergies. I wonder how many of my symptoms that have cleared up are because of a food allergy I never knew I had? However, I am able to eat sprouted and soaked wheat just fine with no adverse reactions, as well as spelt (which technically has gluten). So I don’t know what that means, I just know it works for me!

      • Rachel, congratulations for making wonderful changes in your life! Very inspirational.

        I have also gone off wheat, and when I’ve cheated since then, I really paid for it with stomach pain. Makes it so much less tempting! And I’ve noticed that the occasional achey joints I was getting (I’m 55 but that’s still too soon for arthritis as far as I’m concerned!) are gone. Well, not the joints, just the pain, hah!

        You’d probably enjoy “Wheat Belly,” by Dr. William Davis. It explains not only gluten intolerance but many other problems with grains, with the science explained very clearly.

        Best wishes!

  3. Real food healed my arthritis as well! But, what makes the most difference for me is fermented cod liver oil with high vitamin butter oil and lots of butter from PASTURED cows. Two weeks without any of these and it comes back.

  4. “I wasn’t very excited about this diet. I kept thinking about soft, hot rolls dipped in olive oil and warm, gooey brownies and all the things that make life happy.” …..I find this line so interesting because this is something we’ve all said about one food or another at one time or another. Since switching to real food, I find myself fascinated with people’s obsession with food and the warm fuzzy feeling we associate with eating a particular food -myself included.

    Have we been brainwashed by TV or what? Why does a certain food in life have to make “life happy”? Shouldn’t being blessed with another day make us happy? The sunshine? The rain? A roof over our head? Why do we associate food with happiness? If you really allow yourself to think about it, its weird!

    It’s just food! This isn’t to say that it shouldn’t be enjoyed with zeal or shared with family and friends. After living in Europe for a year, I understand that a meal can be the center of many wonderful times, however, I don’t want it to be my driving force of happiness, because really, its one true purpose is to sustain us. Once I was able to disassociate myself from feeling a certain way about a certain food (probably because TV told me it was this way), I found that walking away from food that I associated with warm, fuzzy happiness feelings, no longer seemed important and no longer were necessarily appealing. I’m able to have a bite or two -or none at all- and walk away so I can focus on food that will provide real health.

    You will also notice that once you stop putting food and happy feelings about eating it together in one thought that everyone else’s eating habits will surprise and amaze you. Just walking through Costco and listening to people “oooh and ahhh” about food makes me chuckle now. If only more folks would get excited about the health benefits foods can bring instead of the “feelings” it brings we would probably begin to see a real turn around amongst all of us!

    • @Susan – Except that many foods do have an effect on the brain, especially the pleasure centers of the brain, and can be addictive. The addictive ones are often called comfort foods. Starchy and/or sugary foods are definitely addictive. Read “Wheat Belly” by Dr. Davis for more on the drug-like effects of wheat.

  5. @Susan,
    This is very interesting and an indication of that so called” comfort foods” have a real physiological basis. It is a fact that some foods become substances that have neurological (and psychological) effects. Gluten is one and casein is another. This is very clear with children and especially those with learning issues.

    When people clean up their diets and go off these foods, the drug-like effects go away and so do the symptoms.

    Great post and great series, Kelly!

  6. I’ve had the same joint pain – fingers, toes, ankles, and wrists. I removed sugar and grains from my diet in the summer, and noticed the same thing. (Trying to get my mother to do it too, because she has terrible hand arthritis.) It takes a few days of being off the wagon before I notice the pain coming back. But sugar is extremely addicting for me and it’s all or nothing – I can’t just have one sweet thing and then return to sugar-free easily. I’m hoping that gets better with time! I look forward to reading your blog.

  7. I don’t know why people are so skeptical of real food as being healing, ESPECIALLY if you believe in a higher power. Most people have no problem believing that something man-made from chemicals in a laboratory can heal at least to some extent and yet can’t believe that God would actually provide us things in nature to keep our bodies in check. I’ll have to write in our success story soon!

    • Julie – they’re pretty sure it’s some sort of auto-immune condition, although I tested negative for the rheumatoid factor. They think some other condition is the trigger. Autoimmune arthritis is basically inflammation, so that’s why this works so well with it. I’m not sure how it would be with osteo-arthritis, but it could be worth a try.

  8. I had the same experience of stiffness in my fingers on both hands. For me, the answer was to eliminate nightshade veggies from my diet (tomato, potato, eggplant and especially bell peppers). Once I did so, I was fine. I tested each food individually and found that tomatoes, especially as tomato paste or sauce, caused my right knee to hurt, and bell peppers stiffened my fingers. It hurts not to eat these great foods, full of nutrients. But as you say, Rachel, feeling well is a great motivator to help me avoid temptation. Good for you for trying the anti-inflammation diet and then sticking with it.

    • That’s interesting, I didn’t know that! I don’t typically eat many peppers or eggplant, but I have been eating potatoes and tomatoes. I’ll have to pay closer attention to what my body does after I eat them. Thanks!

  9. Kelly this post is so timely! I’ve been struggling with hand pain for 4 months ping ponging between doctors with no answers. Is it RA/autoimmune or carpal tunnel? The tests have come back negative for RA but my hands are so swollen and stiff, they look like some kind of autoimmune.

    Just yesterday I finally saw a neurologist who can help me and it looks like I have BOTH severe carpal tunnel and some kind of arthritis/autoimmune. Discouraging news but I know changing my diet can help.

    I have a 10 month old baby and my problems started quietly after giving birth (naturally), with the flare up starting this past August. I am scheduled to see another top rheumatologist in a week and a half but I am starting this diet today to see if it helps.

    Before getting pregnant I was on an 85% real food diet and completely fell of the bandwagon after giving birth. I am really hoping this helps because I know any kind of medication they will give me will probably require me to stop breastfeeding. I live in NJ so obtaining raw milk is super-hard.

    ANYWAY, thank you for this reminder. I hope to have the pain settle (they won’t do the carpal tunnel surgery until we know for sure what else is happening) with this diet in the next week before my next appointment.

    I know God is good, but its been a hard four months. My sweet girl sleeps 12 hours a night but unfortunately her mama doesn’t!

    Did I mention I’m 37 also? God works in such funny ways :)


    • Oh, Lisa, I really hope this diet will help you! It must be so hard to have sore hands AND a baby! If you’re like me, cutting ALL sweeteners will be very intensely hard in the beginning, but it really does work (along with cutting the other things on the list). Stick with it past the crazy first couple weeks! If it makes a difference, the doctor is pretty sure that my problem is some sort of autoimmune condition too, and it’s completely stopped all my symptoms, so hopefully that will be true for you! Please, before you get surgery, give this a try – it might help your wrists as well. I don’t know where you live in NJ, but I live in PA and raw milk is legal here. If you live close to the state line you may be able to find something. I live just over the river from Trenton, and the source near me is in Newtown. If I don’t get raw, I get low-temp pasteurized grass-fed milk from Whole Foods in Princeton, which is at least better than ultra-pasteurized. Good luck!!!

    • (Oh, also, it took three weeks for me to notice a difference in my hand pain, so you might not notice anything after just a week. But, when it went it went COMPLETELY! Stick with it!)

  10. Thanks for responding Rachel! We’re right outside NYC, but I am willing to take a day trip to get raw milk! (Also – I went to TCNJ so I am somewhat familiar with your area :) )What is the name of your sources? I think I can also get it in NY State, as opposed to NYC of course. And yes I do pick it up in Whole Foods – same thing you do.

    • The farm in Newtown is called Birchwood Farms, but it would be rather a hike for you if you’re near NYC. I bet there would be something closer. Check out this site. They list sources for raw milk by state – it’s how I found Birchwood. If there’s nothing close to you in NJ, there might be a listing closer in NY or PA. If you have any questions about the diet or anything else I can help you with as you start out, there’s a “contact” page on my blog where you can email me. I’ll help if I can. :)

  11. Rachel, you’ve mentioned Newtown, NJ a few times in your comments, so I know it must be near you. I pray you and all your loved ones and friends are OK after the horrible tragedy there today… My heart is breaking, as is everyone’s, over what happened there this morning.


  12. I lost my arthritis pain and limitation after going on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). I recommend it to anyone who has joint pain. No sugar, no starch. Now that I realize how bad starches are, I’m not looking for a way to eat them (sprouting, soaking, etc.) but I don’t want to eat them at all, ever.

  13. I have recently been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Im 27 and have been finding it hard to deal with. The doctors want to put me on strong medication but I have decided to give myself until the end of the year to sort it out naturally. At its worst I was in constant pain almost everywhere. My fingers, wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and feet. I went on steroids for about 6 weeks and that has taken most of it away but since stopping them its starting to come back a bit and now I also have pain throughout my spine. Anyway, seeing this gives me hope. I have already cut out gluten, soy and dairy, but like I say, Im still experiencing a bit of pain. Im going to spend the next week mentally preparing myself for the next step and then follow in your steps. I have everything crossed that I can find a natural way of eliminating all of my pain, as the thought of having to take strong drugs for the rest of my life scares me so much. Wish me luck!

  14. Hi, Kelly. Thanks for sharing the above information. Early Oct. 2013, suddenly I started to notice pain on the base of my thumb and in a few days, it got swollen and so painful, I couldn’t put any pressure on my left thumb. It unable me to do many things with the hand. First I was taking Ibuprophen and put anti inflammation cream on my hand, but I knew that the pills have side effects. So I went to google and searched for success stories of arthritis being healed. I read several of them but yours was the simplest and the most economical. I cut all sugar, brown one and honey as well and all refined flour made food. With prayers of friends and this therapy, my condition improved in a few weeks and in one month it was pretty much gone. Now it’s almost two months later, I have no pain in my left hand and I enjoy some of sweets and refined flour made goods such as pizza and other goodies. And it doesn’t affect me. I also did exercises for my hand, following the video clips posted at Mayo clinic.

    • What a fun comment to read on Thanksgiving – I’m sooooooo thankful to hear that you’re better – all from the power of FOOD. I love it.

      Take care and thanks for sharing your story. :)


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