Carbohydrate Consumption And Arthritis: Is There A Connection?

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Pasta, my new nemesis

A close friend has a young son who is a type one diabetic and I take care of him if she is busy with her father who is undergoing chemotherapy.

Her child, let’s call him Andrew, has been an insulin dependant diabetic since he was just five years old. He is now eight, and let me tell you he is brilliant. I would struggle to cope with the amount of blood tests and injections that he endures.

There is a pump that can deliver his insulin via a hair fine needle that is changed every three days…unless it drops out which can happen. Andrew is desperate to have the pump which would cut down the number of injections he has by hundreds a month.

The catch is that he has to maintain or even reduce his weight a little in order to get the pump, this is something that’s very difficult with some diabetic kids, especially those that have a predisposition to be chunky monkeys!

His mom, has had a terrible year. Her husband walked out without warning, her father was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma, her mother is partially sighted and she has a diabetic child as well as a girl who has just started high school.

So, we set to researching how Andrews diet could be tweaked to try and maintain or even reduce his weight a little without him noticing. Diabetic can actually eat anything, provided that the insulin is adjusted accordingly but high calorie diets are not recommended.

For those that don’t know in type one diabetes insulin is given on a sliding scale dependent on the mount of carbohydrates that are going to be consumed. Less carbohydrate means less insulin…but you have to fill the child up with other food and too much protein and fats aren’t good as calorie intake has to be controlled to prevent weight gain.

So tweaks were made and Andrew’s weight has stabilised…two more visits without weight gain and he gets a trial with a pump. Hopefully job done.

Right, what I am going to say next I can’t prove, I can only say that this has been my experience and after telling a few medical friends they too have seen some pretty major changes in themselves.

I have moderate osteoarthritis. It’s a degenerative disease, it doesn’t ‘heal up’ or disappear. It’s there, all the time. Some people report that acidic food makes them worse, others that cheese ‘sets them off’ with an increase in pain. Others still cite damp and cold weather. For m it’s a combination of damp and cold so I hate winter in the very wet UK with a passion. The rainy season in Kenya isn’t too bad, the low temperatures there are much warmer than the UK.

Although winter is worse the pain and stiffness is always there to some degree. Enough that most days requires a couple of OTC painkillers to make life more comfortable.

All the reading I had done about carbohydrates to find out about Andrews diet lead me to think that a low carb diet may help me drop a few pounds before the summer…actually it could do with being nearer 20 pounds but hey, let’s start small.

So, I did a little more research and found that the idea of munching through a tom of animal fat on a plan similar to the Atkins diet wasn’t for me. I decided to eat normally with the exception of dropping most of the carbohydrates to see what happened.

It worked well, and wasn’t that difficult to live with. I still had a baked potato if I wanted one, or a slice of toast. I wasn’t aiming for carb free, just carb less as it were.

The first week I lost a pound with no effort at all. I was a little less puffy around the belly, which could not be down to losing a measly amount like a pound so overall I was pretty pleased and decided to carry on. By the end of week two I was three pounds lighter and a lot less bloated. I wasn’t hungry and was not feeling deprived in any way. Brilliant.

The weather is getting a little warmer so a little less stiffness and pain in the joints made me happier still. It was then that Andrew’s mom said that I was walking better.

“Yup, it’s dry and not as cold” I answered. A couple of days later I was out and was served the most delicious chicken and bacon pasta you could imagine…oh it was good. 24 hours later I felt like I had been kicked around a football pitch. I opened the bedroom curtains expecting to see rain…no, a nice bright sky and it was quite warm. I took painkillers and got on with the day. By evening I was comfortable and munching a huge salad with a couple of boiled eggs.

This continued and another pound came off. Then the weather changed, we had what the weatherman called an ‘Arctic Blast’ it was wet as well…not good…but nothing happened, I wasn’t stiff or in a huge amount of pain, just a slight background ache, nowhere near severe enough to need drugs.

The cold weather passed and a bit of warmth returned. A meal at a families house was delightful, tagliatelle in cheese sauce with a side salad, mmmm. The next day I could hardly go. There was a pattern forming.

For the next month I charted what I ate, listing all the carbs and logging how my arthritis flared or not. This is what I found:

  • Pasta causes the most trouble.
  • A slice of bread is fine, more bread is not.
  • A very small amount of cereal is fine, a regular breakfast bowl is not.
  • Potatoes are okay in small amounts regardless of how they are cooked.
  • Rice is okay in moderation if it is well rinsed…sticky rice is not good.
  • A small banana is okay occasionally.
  • Crackers and biscuits are okay if I have just one or two, which is impossible so I have none. Sigh

Now starch is pretty inert as food stuffs go. When we wean babies from the breast or bottle we start them on ground rice, or rusk with milk, we eat carbs from cradle to grave.

Armed with my notes I contacted a friend, a consultant in intensive care who also has arthritis. I told him my findings. He did his version of what I did and noticed a marked improvement in his pain levels. he is charting three friends of his and so far, although with different carbs, they too are seeing a reduction in pain from arthritis and even gout!

Okay I derailed my diet trying out all the different carbs but that’s not a problem, I can sort that out.

So far I have found no reason why this works for me and my former colleague. There is evidence that some carbs promote an inflammatory response and specialists in arthritis have long advocated wholegrain carbs and reducing man-made carbs such as puffed rice, potato chips, chocolate and candy.

My colleague and I paid no mind to the type of carbs we were eating, white bread and wholegrain bread seems to has the same effect on me whereas he actually finds white bread less problematic. He has little problem with pasta but chocolate is now off his menu.

I think the point of all this is that if you have a condition that involves an inflammatory response it’s well worth excluding certain carbs from your diet and then re-introducing them to see what happens.

There is an added bonus to this. For 30 years I have suffered from psoriasis that has sometimes been so bad that just moving around would leave a trail of dried skin flakes and I would bleed from cracks in my skin. well it’s almost gone, I mean gone. No creams, lotions or potions.

I cannot believe that there’s not a connection between these two conditions improving so much and me cutting down on carbs and in particular removing pasta from my diet.

Will I keep up with this? YES. Last week for the first time since I have lived in this house I walked up our very steep stairs without having to put my hands on the step above, backside sticking up like a toddler learning to stand. I went up upright holding the handrail, something I haven’t done in three years.

Oh, and I’ve lost 10 pounds in weight.

Take Care

Liz

6 thoughts on “Carbohydrate Consumption And Arthritis: Is There A Connection?”

    1. Hiya Dani, That may well be the case for some…not for me, it’s the carbs. Even gluten free products set me off…hence the deduction that its the carbs..but i can live with that if I don’t have pain.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Liz

  1. Liz

    What a revelation! I too suffer from severe arthritis and pretty much handle the stairs like a toddler too. A year ago I went on a low carb diet, an extremely low carb one. I’m sure it was a ketogenic diet because I was only allowed to eat lean protein (chicken, fish, egg whites) and leafy greens and no fruit at all. This is a doctor’s diet that is approved and paid for by our provincial health care system. At the 6 week mark, I had lost 15 pounds and felt great. No arthritic pain at all. The downside, other than the restrictive diet, was that my blood sugar spiked to diabetic levels. My doctor sent me for a blood glucose tolerance test to prove I had become a diabetic. The results came back in the normal range. From what I’ve read, there is a subset of people who have this reaction to ketogenic diets. Go figure.

    A dietitian put me back on carbs, and the pain came back and the 15 pounds. Thank you so much for your post. I thought I was imagining things in regards to my arthritis and carbs. BTW, I’ve also taken to taking a teaspoon of “turmeric golden paste” almost daily to help relieve my pain. I’m off prescription meds for the arthritis. Also giving it to my 14 year old lab for her arthritis and she’s doing better as well.

    I had a carb heavy few days and am now feeling the results. I’ll try going back on a low carb diet again to see if my pain subsides further. Like you, I’ll add a few carbs into my daily meals to see if I can come up with a happy medium.

    Thank you so much for returning to your blog. I had missed you terribly.

    kk

    1. Hello Kawartha,

      Isn’t it a relief when you find out you’re not imagining it? I honestly thought no way…we wean our babies onto carbs, they’re inert…but there is no doubt in my mind now, I’m convinced. What a shame diabetes crept in.

      Just a suggestion, but pain wise what if you keep a diary and whist eating carbs to keep your blood sugars happy you exclude a different carb every couple of days and see if you can work out if one in particular causes the flare ups of arthritis? Just a suggestion but if you are taking the right amount of carbs, the mom of the diabetic child I mentioned said it doesn’t overly matter if those carbs are from rice, pasta, bread etc, just a thought and of course check with your doctor but I have checked a few sites and they all seem to say what my friend said.

      I am starting to do this to fine tune things a bit and to give me more variety, I intend working my way through every carb I consume and see what the results are. Also, out recruited guinea pigs at a hospital I used to work at may provide some results that can give the rest of us ideas. I’ll post the results monthly if anything surprising happens.

      I genuinely cannot believe what pasta does to me…but it would, as one of my favourite foods is cold pasta with chicken, bacon and mayo with a bit of green salad thrown in for good measure.

      Thanks so much for the enthusiastic welcome back…I have very few readers right now as the site no longer gets advertised by my former employers but I’ll build it…eventually lol.

      Please keep in touch and let me know how things are going for you, drop me an email if you prefer a bit of privacy.

      It’s great to hear from you, thank you for taking the time to read and share your experiences.

      Take Care

      Liz

  2. Lizzie, I totally agree. Sugars, grains and carbs, and nightshade plants, plus any food sensitivities outside that set of stuff can cause inflammation that wrecks joints. As you say, it’s different for different people, but there are commonalities.

    I’m 65 and have a number of friends my age and older who have at least one cyborg joint, various tooth implants, and cancers. Lots of metabolic syndrome issues, pretty much all of which come from eating the modern diet. I have none of these (so far), partly by waking up to the issues early but mainly because I am allergic to grasses and cannot eat grains except occasionally. Turns out to be lucky me on that one, although I still miss sandwiches. Lately, I’ve found that eating a lot of non-grain carbs can make me tired and out of sorts, so I am shifting my generally paleo diet toward more of a ketogenic diet.

    My mother found that she could lose weight just by stopping eating wheat. Modern wheat has gliadin in it, which I’ve heard actually stimulates appetite. It’s a strange world.

    1. Steve,

      I have read a huge amount about kept diets and the advice of how soon you enter ketogenesis seems to vary widely depending on the site. Is it just a case of as individuals it happens when it happens? Also, people talk about how long it takes them,HOW DO THEY KNOW?

      I’m a bit confused about this, do you have any decent info sites you could recommend?

      Cheers,

      Liz

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