February 5, 2023

Joint Pain Improves With a Combo Vegan and Elimination Diet

Adopting a vegan diet, plus eliminating other trigger foods may help minimize joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a small study conducted by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, published in American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine in April 2022.

A Unique Study Design Looked at Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms and Food

While previous studies have already found positive connections between plant-based, anti-inflammatory diets and reduction of RA joint pain, this study differs in that it also included a crossover section, in which the diet participants and the placebo group (which believed it was getting special supplements) switched places after the first trial run was completed.

An Elimination Diet Systemically Removes, Reintroduces Suspect Foods

A vegan diet is the strictest form of a vegetarian diet. In addition to limiting meat, vegans refrain from eating all animal products. After four weeks on a vegan diet, the diet groups took another dramatic step — an elimination diet. Participants also individually eliminated known trigger foods, such as gluten-containing grains, soy products, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, chocolate, citrus, fruit, nuts, peanuts, onions, coffee, alcohol, and sugar. After three weeks on a combination vegan and elimination diet, participants reintroduced the potential trigger foods one by one over nine weeks to see specific foods were problematic. If a certain food caused joint pain, it was eliminated again. If the food didn’t cause them any problems, they kept it in their diet.

Study Shows Promising Results for Reducing Joint Pain

“The diet groups experienced significant improvements in their pain and a decrease in swollen joints, even after the four weeks of the vegan diet. But the elimination diet further helped them fine tune their diets by discovering the individual triggers,” says Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and a co-author on the study. In addition, diet participants lost about 14 pounds while the placebo group gained 2 pounds. There were also reductions in cholesterol numbers during the vegan phase.