Plant-Based Diet For Arthritis

While I’m here, I may as well post Dr. McDougall’s diet prescription for arthritis. By the way, the mechanism he describes in his article, Diet: Only Hope For Arthritis, for how animal proteins aggravate arthritis is the same as I was taught when I was an undergraduate. I imagine it’s still taught in medical school.

Dr. McDougall recommends a whole food, plant-based diet that is very low in fat and devoid of animal foods:

“The importance of the overall diet cannot be overemphasized. Proper foods keep the intestinal barriers strong and the immune system in a fighting condition. Those foods are whole starches, vegetable, and fruits. In addition to being free of animal products, the diet must be low in fat of all kinds — vegetable oil (even olive oil, corn, safflower, and flaxseed oil) and animal fat. When it comes to blaming individual foods, dairy products seem to be the most troublesome foods, causing the most common and severe reactions. Many reports indicate grains, such as corn and wheat can also aggravate of symptoms.

My experience and this research has lead me to prescribe for the past 22 years a starch-based diet with the addition of fruits, and vegetables (low-fat and devoid of all animal products). If no improvement is seen within 2 weeks, I suggest wheat and corn be eliminated. The final step is to follow an elimination diet based on the foods least likely to cause problems, such as sweet potatoes and brown rice with the addition of noncitrus fruits, and green and yellow vegetables. All thoroughly cooked. Water is the beverage. If improvement is found (usually within 1 to 2 weeks), then foods are added back one at a time to see if there is an adverse reaction.”

I’m including this testimonial below because it drives the point home … that diet really can have a profound effect on pain.  I also like her next-to-the-last sentence:

“Diane of Walnut Creek wrote to me last year. “I had what I can only call a miserable life until about five years ago. Nothing seemed to go right for me. In late 1991 I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and degenerative arthritis. I was declared permanently disabled and left my job as a daily newspaper journalist. My therapist gave me a wonderful gift–she suggested I try your program. I shrugged off her suggestion at first. I swore that I ate well anyway: only dairy and shellfish and white meats. Only! She did not push the point, wisely waiting for me to think about the idea. I did wait for two years. Then two years ago she suggested your program again. I told her I didn’t believe it would work, but agreed to try it for two months. I was overweight, very overweight, by 100 pounds, most of my life — carrying all that poundage caused a lot of wear on my joints. That was two years ago, and I’m a lifelong convert.”

“Of course what you predicted happened: My migraines went away completely; I stopped swelling in my joints; I could sleep easily; I had no indigestion problems of any kind; and I began to drop weight. As you probably know, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Before I started the McDougall plan, I was losing weight slowly. Afterward, the weight loss was dramatic. After about six months, people started noticing and commenting. They kept saying things like ‘you look ten years younger,’ or most often, ‘You look great. What did you do?’ I no longer take the anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers that I was taking before the McDougall way. My knee and low-back are virtually pain-free. Now, what I’ve found is that nobody believes it can be as simple as eating carefully and exercising. They all want some magic or some pill.” “

There was something else she said that hit home for me, “I swore that I ate well anyway: only dairy and shellfish and white meats.” Here’s that reference to eating in moderation again. People tell me that they eat dairy “in moderation,” meat “in moderation,” eggs “in moderation,” seafood “in moderation, “oil and fat” in moderation.”  Then it’s a donut “in moderation,” pizza “in moderation,” cookies and chips “once in a while,” hoagies “only on Friday nights.”

Eating “in moderation” has become is a euphemism for eating the Standard American Diet, the one that delivers diagnoses of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer. People think if they eat broccoli in a Chinese take-out and an apple at lunch a few times a week that they’re eating healthfully. That their chronic diseases can’t be linked to what they’re eating.  It must be their genes.

2 thoughts on “Plant-Based Diet For Arthritis

  1. Pingback: FDA: Naproxen Not Safer Than Other NSAIDs | Fanatic Cook

  2. RB

    Most plant based foods are anti-inflammatory so it makes sense that a plant based diet could ease arthritis pain and symptoms. I think I would prefer a diet of plants over a diet of NSAIDs.


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