Arthritis? Trigger Foods To Avoid To Relieve Pain

know your body Aug 16, 2017

Arthritis (inflamed and painful joints) affects almost 25% Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. (1) Every person I speak to knows someone with arthritis, if they don't have it themselves. Besides the fact that it's painful and frustrating to live with – the treatments typically offered don't always work well according to patients and come with a laundry list of side-effects that often outweigh the benefits of taking them. 

​Most patients with arthritis feel “stuck with it” or that “they learn to live with it”. Before you resign yourself to living with the pain, please read this...

​As a Naturopathic Doctor, one of the most important things I do is help you find the root cause of your symptoms and allow that information to dictate your treatment plan. Think of it this way: If you've got a splinter in your foot, it won't heal until you remove the splinter (i.e. root cause), will it? In many cases, arthritis is a lot more like the splinter scenario than most people think, where certain foods can be the trigger.

Before we get into the food list... appreciate that every person is unique. That means that treatments should be patient-specific and thoughtful based on the results of a thorough intake interview, physical exam, blood work, imaging, and additional specialized testing when required. I complete this process with every patient I treat in the clinic, before prescribing treatments blindly.

That said, I often get started with some simple nutritional guidelines on the first visit. They are simple, gentle, and typically have negligible health and safety risks to a patient. It is just food, after all.

The following are the typical nutritional recommendations I give to an arthritis patient on the first visit. My hope is that if you are suffering from arthritis, you give them a try. Think of it like a personal health experiment. If this works – great! You are part of the lucky 3/4 of patients this works for and you get to stay out of the doctor's office. If they don't help or you only get partial improvement, please reach out! I can help.

Nightshades & Arthritis

The back story is in the 1940's, Dr. Norman F. Childer documented that foods in the Solanaceae (i.e. nightshade) botanical family aggravated his own arthritis symptoms. Since then researchers have debated back and forth whether there is any scientific connection. (2) To date, data seems to be in support of Childer's observations for the majority, but perhaps not every arthritis patient. (3, 4)

My clinical experience follows suit with this finding. It seems to good to be true that a short list of foods to avoid could illicit significant improvement in about 2/3 to 3/4 of my arthritis patients... but it's really true! As a naturopathic physician I am always surprised and delighted when this works – it's so simple.

What foods are in the nightshade family?

  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes (all varieties, but not sweet potatoes)
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers (all varieties)
  • Chili, Red and Green Peppers
  • Paprika
  • Tobacco

Many food products, especially processed foods, contain derivatives of nightshade foods such as potato starch and tomato paste. Watch out for these too in the ingredient labels!

The key to making this work for you (or the catch, if you will) is that you have to 100% eliminate these foods for at least a period of three months. The more severe your initial symptoms or the longer you've had them, the longer it will take to see results from the dietary changes. In many cases, this takes several weeks or months before there are signs of improvement. If you accidentally eat one of the foods or loosen up on the rules for yourself, your symptoms will return. You have to do this as perfectly as possible.

This list is enough to trial this strategy in my clinical experience. If you are interested in the nerdy science, click here to read more on WHY nightshades impact arthritis including an exhaustive list of nightshade foods to avoid.

If you are suffering with arthritis pain, I encourage you to give this a try. Natural approaches like this one are gentle and often side-effect free, but they take time to work. 12 weeks is not that much of your life when you are staring down the barrel of a “learn to live with it” reality... and when you discover you can live without pain? It will have made all the difference.

If at the end of the experiment you are still having pain or have only achieved partial improvement, please book an appointment with me at the clinic. We have the resources to help you get relief, and we'd be honored to do so.


Dr. Laura Nurse
Naturopathic Doctor, Avalon Laser Health

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