Possible dietary causes of arthritis and fibromyalgia

Arthritis and diet. Fibromyalgia and diet. Food to avoid with arthritis. Food to avoid with fibromyalgia. Food as a contributing factor to arthritic pain. Food as a contributing factor to fibromyalgia. Referred pain mimicking arthritis or fibromyalgia. Food intolerances. Hidden causes of arthritis and fibromyalgia. Nuts, Lemonade, Apples,White flour, Saccharine. Aspartame and how they may cause musculo-skeletal pain. Food diary to detect food sensitivities or allergies. Food sensitivities.

Possible dietary causes of arthritis and fibromyalgia

Ordinary food may cause or aggravate some forms of arthritis and fibromyalgia. Find out which foods may be the main culprits and whether this could apply to you. This is quite a lengthy article; however it is worth reading as it will show you a new approach to food that you might not have considered before.

The pain of non specific arthritis and fibromyalgia may be relieved by careful consideration of the food you eat on a daily basis. In this article I will give a list of the main foods to avoid. I will also describe a way of working out for yourself which particular food you may be unknowingly reacting to.

I will then be relating a few of my own experiences where the ingestion of specific foods caused a variety of painful conditions in my body, conditions that could easily have been diagnosed as arthritis or fibromyalgia.

This is not meant to be a scientific coverage of this subject but rather an introduction to it with practical ways of helping yourself by making specific, easy changes to your way of eating.

Food to avoid and food to eat.
How to discover food sensitivities.
Examples of painful conditions directly related to a specific foods.

Food to avoid and food to eat

Two lists:

a) Food to avoid if you suffer from chronic arthritis or fibromyalgia
b) Food that appears to be‘safe’ for most people.

Some food types have been found to be more prone to cause reactions than others. The lists below reflect this.

a) Food to avoid or heavily reduce (especially if you eat a lot of it) if you think your pain could be food related:

  • food containing wheat such as bread, pasta, biscuits and cakes
  • acid foods such as tomatoes, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, the latter three particularly in juice form
  • nuts, all types
  • spicy or curried food
  • oats such as in muesli and porridge
  • diet drinks (containing aspartame or saccharine)
  • highly fatty or processed food
  • alcohol
  • coffee
  • chocolate (especially poor quality) and sweets/lollies
  • cold or icy food such as cold drinks or ice cream
  • dried fruit unless you are sure it has been dried with a natural process and even then, not to excess
  • sugar or sweet food (to excess)

b) Food that appears to be ‘safe’ so could be eaten regularly with no side effects:

  • cooked food is better than uncooked food
  • lightly steamed is best for your vegetables, they must cooked until they are soft
  • eat your meals hot or at room temperature
  • apples and pears but only two to three a week and they must be fresh i.e. not from cold storage of the previous year
  • some meat, in particularly red meat, at least four times a week (just a small quantity each time e.g. half the size of your palm) – seeds such as sunflower seeds and sesame seeds (not pumpkin seeds unless they have had the coarse outer skin removed)

Food not listed is either okay or, if you have a sensitivity, you should be able to work out for yourself which food to avoid using the method described next.

How to discover food sensitivities

List all the food and drinks you ingest over a set period of time e.g one month.
Make a note of how your pain feels at three different times of the day, every day, during that time span.
Compare the times your pain seems to be worse and what you have eaten on that day or the previous day.
See if there is a correlation between the two.

Some people will find that the pain of their arthritis or fibromyalgia is worsened by the ingestion of specific food. To find out if this is the case for you, keep a record of what you eat for one month by writing down everything you eat and drink each day. At the same time, keep a record of how your arthritic pain feels daily, at three different times of the day.

For instance, you could get an A4 size exercise book and divide thirty pages into two columns. At the top of each page, write the date, e.g Tuesday 26 August 2008. In the left column, write the time of each meal and exactly what you ate each time. Don’t omit anything. Every drink, every snack, every biscuit counts! In the right column, choose three times of the day, for instance – when you first get up, around the middle of the day and then the evening. Under each time, write how your arthritis or fibromyalgia feels. You can rate it on a level of 0 to 10, where 0 would be no pain at all and 10 would be intolerable.

Tuesday 26 August 20087am
Write what you had to eat and drink8am
Write what you had to eat and drink11am
Write what you had to eat and drink1pm
Write what you had to eat and drink3pm
Write what you had to eat and drink

Write what you had to eat and drink

Write what you had to eat and drink

Write what you had to eat and drink

Write what you had to eat and drink


Rate your pain level 

Rate your pain level






Rate your pain level

The times have been randomly chosen. You should write the exact times of your meals for each day.

Do this for thirty days. At the end of the thirty days, you may well discover a correlation between your pain pattern and the ingestion of certain food.

Examples of painful conditions directly related to a specific food

Here are six examples, chosen among many, of how specific food caused the author pain which could easily have been diagnosed as arthritis or fibromyalgia. Eliminating the food in question also eliminated the pain permanently.

1) Apples caused muscular aches and stiffness in whole body especially in feet.
2) White flour in a béchamel sauce caused painful hands.
3) Canned tomatoes caused frozen shoulder and sharp pain around the middle of the spine.
4) Lemonade caused widespread generalized muscular ache.
6) Walnuts caused symptoms of tennis elbow.
7) Vitamins caused tight neck and shoulder muscles.

1) Apples

A few years ago, I decided to go on a health kick and eat two or three apples a day. They were green Grannie Smith apples. I bought these apples from a vegetable shop that I had previously not frequented (I had just moved into a new area). After a couple of weeks, I found that I woke up in the morning feeling stiff and aching. It got to the point where it was painful to put my feet on the floor when I first got out of bed. I would drag my aching body around for the first few hours of the day and until I gradually started moving more freely.

At first, I thought that I was getting old (an excuse I no longer use as the older I get the younger I feel!). I could also have been suffering from tiredness due to the recent move. However, as I recovered from the move, the pain and stiffness continued to worsen.

Eventually I came to my senses and instead of giving in to this situation, I stepped back and had a look at what was now eating in larger quantities, in comparison to before the move. The apples came to my mind almost immediately. I stopped eating them and within one week all the pain and stiffness had gone.

This story is not meant to indicate that apples are bad for you. I believe that the particular apples I was buying were harvested in a previous season. This means that they would have been sitting in cold storage for twelve months at least. I have always felt that even though apples can still look fairly healthy after this period of time, they probably aren’t!!

I don’t have any problems with apples anymore. I always make sure that the apples I buy are of the current season. To find out, I just ask the greengrocer! I don’t buy fruit or vegetables from the supermarket because it is harder to find out where they come from and how old they are.

2) White flour

It was winter and I wanted to make my steamed vegetables a little more interesting to eat. I decided to make white sauces to go with them. I used white flour that claimed to be organic (bought from the supermarket), biodynamic milk and good quality block cheese. The last two ingredients were occasionally part of my regular diet. The first one was not.

Five days a week for three weeks, I made a white sauce and put it over my vegetables. It tasted great!

Unfortunately I also started to develop pain in my hands, something that had never happened before. I thought: “Am I getting arthritis? This certainly feels like the pain people with arthritis describe.” I couldn’t see why I should suddenly be getting arthritis. Three weeks was hardly a gradual onset!

So I went back to looking at what I had changed in my food intake recently. The white sauces ‘jumped out’ at me. ‘Aha!’, I thought. ‘I didn’t get away with it.’ Trying to compromise my healthy diet by adding white flour, even though it did claim to be organic, just didn’t work for me.

I stopped all white sauces and returned to my bland lightly steamed vegetables and ….all hand pain disappeared within one week. I was very happy.

Here again, I don’t think all wheat, for me anyway, is to be avoided. I can eat good quality bread and a few biscuits when I feel like it. I don’t eat much of those as a rule anyway.

I was once told, at a bread baking course, that flour is stored in big silos for months and even years. It is often sprayed with an insecticide quite regularly to avoid insects infesting it. The flour I bought might have been grown organically and then stored in the usual way, i.e. sprayed with insecticide. Maybe that was the problem. I didn’t delve into it any deeper. However I never bought that flour again. I still don’t buy much flour because I simply don’t use it in my cooking. And… my hands are pain free and arthritis free…

3) Canned tomatoes

Just recently I didn’t feel like cooking myself a proper dinner so I took a short cut. I opened a tin of tomatoes, heated it up in a saucepan, and ate it as a soup. It tasted great.

The next morning, I woke up with a sharp pain in my right shoulder, deep under the shoulder blade and close to the spine. It was very uncomfortable and in fact the pain immobilized my shoulder movement somewhat. I thought: ‘Is this what a frozen shoulder feels like?’ This time, I went straight to the source, the short cut dinner I had eaten the previous evening.

Tomatoes in such a concentrated form obviously disagreed with me. It could also have been the particular brand of tomatoes. Some are grown less naturally than others.

It took until the next morning for the pain to subside completely and it has not returned.

Had I not been familiar with the functioning of the body and how food affects more than just the digestive system, I could easily have become very worried, and attended a chiropractor or physiotherapist. The thing was I knew that I hadn’t done anything physical that could have caused the pain. I hadn’t been to the gym, or carried anything heavy, or fallen, or hit my shoulder in some way. So the cause had to be something internal, referring pain to the shoulder.

Very often gall bladder dysfunction is felt in the right shoulder. I think that probably my gall bladder had objected to the tin of tomatoes and sent referred pain to the muscles in my shoulder. The pain was around the fourth thoracic vertebra level and this is where the nerves that travel to the gallbladder exit the spinal cord. So it made sense to me.

I won’t be taking that particular short cut again! I will make other food choice mistakes occasionally. As long as I learn from each one then no harm is done.

4) Lemonade

One very hot summer, my local supermarket was selling lemonade for $1 a large bottle.  It was my favourite brand and this was too good an offer to refuse. I bought several bottles over a period of four to five days. With the heat bothering me, I would drink maybe one or one and a half liters every day. This wasn’t diet lemonade, just the ordinary kind.

By the end of the week, my whole body started to ache. It was quite extraordinary. I hadn’t done anything physical, it was too hot for that. Anyway, it didn’t feel like muscular pain. The pain came from inside me and felt like a deep widespread ache.

I soon realized that the excess in my diet had been the lemonade.

So, not enjoying the pain one bit, I cut out the lemonade drinking and replaced it with lots of water… and the aching pain soon disappeared never to return.

I now avoid all lemonade. It can’t be that good for me if a few days of excessive intake can make my whole body ache that quickly and that much.

I don’t think it was the sugar in the lemonade that caused the pain as I can eat sweets occasionally, and even sometimes slightly to excess, and I don’t get that kind of a reaction. There must be some other ingredient in lemonade that my body reacted to. I haven’t looked into this any more precisely as yet. For the time being, I am just happy to be pain free again.

5) Walnuts

I don’t eat nuts. If I do, I suffer from lower back ache near the top of the sacrum. It is a dull aching pain, which is very annoying as no change of movement or activity relieves it. I worked out years ago that this was associated with an irritated ileocecal valve (valve or sphincter located between the large and small intestines just near the appendix). I have helped many people recover from this type of back ache, also neck aches, elbow and sometimes shoulder aches, by advising them to stop eating all nuts. These people usually ate a lot of nuts as part of their regular diets. Many other symptoms also disappeared and I will be writing an article specifically dedicated to this subject soon.

Recently I was at a local farmers market. A stallholder was selling freshly picked walnuts. I have read that walnuts are good brain food so I decided to wave my rule of ‘no nuts ever’ and bought some. When I came home, I ate five. Then I put them away and forgot all about them. The next day, I had a painful right elbow. The pain lasted for four to five days before clearing. The elbow, particularly the right one, is one of the areas of pain referral for the ileocecal valve. Those five innocent walnuts had been enough to cause this elbow pain! I didn’t eat anymore and the pain did not and has not returned. The walnuts are still in my pantry being ignored!

I could have believed that I was developing ‘tennis elbow’. Instead I remembered the walnuts. How many cases of ‘tennis elbow’ could be ‘cured’ by a dietary change? Many, I believe.

6) Vitamins

Over thirty years of practicing chiropractic, both on my patients and on people in my own family, including myself, I have come to the conclusion that neck pain, unless caused by direct trauma of some kind, is always related to food intake. Here is an unusual example of my own.

I was visiting a masseur and was sharing this particular theory with him. As I heard myself talk, I realized that I had been suffering from very tight neck and shoulder muscles recently. After a gradual onset, it was getting to the point where I felt that my shoulders were so tense I could hardly relax them at all. This was one of the reasons I felt I needed a massage.

When I returned home, I sat down and started working out what I had changed, added or even taken away from my usual food intake. It took me a while to reach the correct conclusion, but I got it in the end. I had started taking a multivitamin. They can’t have been very natural for my body to react and reject them so strongly! The shoulder muscles concerned were the trapezius muscle, a muscle that Chinese medicine associates with the kidneys. My kidneys were being ‘poisoned’ by the vitamins and sending referred pain and tension to my trapezius muscles.

Of course, I stopped taking the vitamins and after only a few days my neck and shoulders started to relax. I was back to my normal healthy pain free self.

These six stories are simple examples of how food, even supposedly healthy food like nuts and vitamin supplements, can cause pain that seems totally unrelated to the digestive functions. A tummy ache is automatically associated with food intake, as are constipation or diarrhea; but pain in the hands or elbow, backache, neckache, widespread aching in the whole body? Not many people relate that to food intake. And all of these pains are so often diagnosed as arthritis or fibromyalgia.


My work as a chiropractor puts me in contact with many people suffering from muscular or joint pain. It is amazing how many of these painful conditions are solved by dietary changes. When the dietary advice is followed and the structural imbalances are corrected in a very gentle and specific way, pain disappears and stays away … as long as the diet is monitored. Many cases of arthritis and fibromyalgia could be alleviated by making simple dietary changes. Chiropractic can often assist in finding out which organs are being affected by the specific foods and which muscles and joints may be suffering in consequence.

The diet does not usually have to be a strict or boring one. Depending on how severe your pain is, simply cutting down on certain foods you eat a lot of can be sufficient to make a big difference.

Chiropractic can often assist people in working which organs and muscles are affected by food sensitivities. Each vertebra corresponds to an organ and each organ relates to a specific muscle. Your chiropractor should be able to help you work out how best to improve your diet and avoid chronic or recurring pain.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that, until you find the dietary cause of your pain, and even after you have and maybe some residual pain persists, I recommend that you apply my all natural pain relief cream, Simply Flower Power Pain Relief & Moisturising Cream to the site of pain. It may enable you to cut down on painkillers thus relieving your body, especially your kidneys and liver, of the work of dealing with these foreign substances.*

I hope that this article has introduced you to a new way of addressing non-specific arthritic pain and fibromyalgia and given you some helpful ideas that you can implement easily into your everyday life.

I wish you a pain free life!

* The recommendations in this article do not replace professional medical diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your doctor before making any major changes to your lifestyle.

© Jessica Read 2008