The Dietary Treatment for Arthritis

To remove toxins from the body a cleansing program is strongly recommended. The best fast to undertake are white/green grapes or vegetable juice (carrot, beet, celery, parsley). This should be followed for as long as can be tolerated, at least 3 days and preferably 1 week. Note that a fast should probably not be attempted by anyone without prior consultation with a qualified natural health practitioner. For additional information see the Health Information Series handout on Cleansing and Detoxification.

As well as removing toxins, a cleanse will assist in weight loss and also provide a mechanism by which you can test out for allergies as foods are gradually reintroduced.

The main toxins deposited in the joints are acidic and nitrogen-containing (urea, uric acid, pyrimidines & purines). For reasons that are not yet known, these tend to be deposited in adipose tissue and at the ends of long bones where they form a septal focus and lead to slow, festering, chronic inflammation.

The acids and nitrogen-containing substances are formed from the digestion of animal proteins (all meats, sea food & dairy products). Certain foods seems to be worse than others eg. pork is worse than chicken, milk and cheese are worse than yoghurt or butter and seafood appears to be the worst of all. Other acid forming foods are wheat (especially refined flour products), sugar, tea and coffee, alcohol, vinegar (except apple cider), pickles, processed and tinned foods, tomatoes, rhubarb, gooseberries, red and black currants, cooked spinach, margarine and all processed fats, eggs, chocolate, cod liver oil and peanuts.

Thus a maintenance diet will avoid all of the above foods and concentrate on fresh fruits and vegetables with limited amounts of cereal/grain, occasional fish and chicken and no processed or artificial foods at all.

Bernard Jensen recommends the following foods in particular: sesame seeds, kale, celery, green beans, artichoke, okra, collards, watercress, lettuce, garlic, onions, turnip greens, barley, almonds, black mission figs, cherries, pineapple, raw goats milk, goats whey and olive oil.

The following juices have been found to also be beneficial as part of a maintenance diet: black cherry; celery and parsley; celery and apple; cucumber, endive, and goats whey; fig and goats milk.

In the case of osteo-arthritis there is much anecdotal evidence to support the theory that foods from the Solanaceae family contribute to joint pathology. They appear to inhibit normal collagen repair and to aggravate joint inflammation. Thus it is useful for people with OA to avoid potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cayenne and tobacco.

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis appear to be especially sensitive to citrus fruits so these should be allergy tested early in the program. In principle oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits should be kept to minimum.

Sample Diet for Arthritis


  • Lemon juice and water on rising.
  • Cooked or raw fruit or a cereal breakfast such as porridge or muesli, eaten with nut, rice or soya milk and maple syrup.
  • Herb tea.


  • Cooked or raw vegetables, especially those emphasised above by Bernard Jensen.
  • One serving of starch (wholegrain pasta, bread, rice, millet etc) or one serving of protein (nuts, beans, fish, tofu).
  • Herb tea.


  • Cooked or raw vegetables as above.
  • One serving of protein as above.
  • Herb tea.


  • Fresh fruit (not within 1 hour before or 2 hours after eating anything else).
  • Non-wheat crackers (rice cakes, rye crisps, oat cakes etc.) with nut butter or tahini.
  • Veggie sticks or fresh vegetable juices.

Other helpful dietary measures

  • Eat slowly and chew all foods very well.
  • Eat only until just comfortable, always leave the table feeling that you could eat more.
  • Drink before or between meals, not with or soon after eating. Diluting the digestive juices will reduce the digestive fire and may predispose to indigestion and to the absorption of partially digested proteins thus aggravating allergic reactions.
  • Water should be drunk in the approximate ratio of 1 glass for every 20 lbs. of body weight. Water should be filtered or spring source and should be drunk at room temperature.
  • Try to avoid mixing starch and protein at the same meal. They require different pH ranges for optimum digestion and may be poorly digested if eaten together.
  • Only one normal or 2 small servings of protein a day, mostly vegetable source except fish 2 – 3 times a week if desired.
  • Dairy should generally be avoided except a little butter, cottage cheese or yoghurt.
  • The only sweeteners should be honey, maple syrup and rice syrup.

After an initial fast as described above, it is a good idea to do a ‘mini cleanse’ every month. This should consist of a day of raw foods only, a day of juice fasting and another day of raw foods. This will serve to ensure that the eliminative channels remain open.

Supplements for Arthritis


High doses of niacinamide (900 – 4000 mg. daily in divided doses) has proven to be significant in reducing arthritic inflammations. However, doses this high can cause serious side effects including glucose intolerance and liver damage and should not be taken without medical supervision.


This is a sulphur-containing amino acid which is incorporated into cartilage and can thus act to improve the strength and integrity of the joint in OA. It is best taken in combination with choline as Lipotropic factors to a dose of 1 gram of each per day. This will also help to enhance liver function and the cleansing process.

Superoxide dismutase

This is free radical scavenger and powerful anti-oxidant that is especially useful in RA and OA. Unfortunately clinical trials have suggested that the orally administered form is poorly absorbed and that it is best taken intra-venously.

Vitamin E

This vitamin has an anti-inflammatory action due to its effect on prostaglandins and leukotrines formation and it acts synergistically with other anti-oxidants as a free radical fighter. It inhibits the enzymatic breakdown of cartilage and stimulates cartilage synthesis. It should be taken to 400 – 600 iu./day.

Vitamin C

As an essential nutrient for tissue repair, any deficiency of vitamin C will lead to poor healing of cartilage. In combination with vitamin E, this vitamin will enhance the stability of the sulfated proteoglycans that make up cartilage and strengthen the tissue. It should be taken to bowel tolerance.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

Supplementing the diet with fish oils that provide EPA enhances the formation of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (PG3 series) and inhibits the formation of the inflammatory leukotrines. Clinical trials have shown that 1.8 grams per day was an effective dose.

Gammalinolenic acid (GLA)

This is the active constituent of oil of Evening Primrose and acts in the body in a very similar way to EPA. By enhancing the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (PG 1 & 2 series) Evening Primrose oil minimises arthritic pain. A dose of 2 – 3 grams per day is usually effective.


This is a powerful free radical scavenger and anti-oxidant that appears to work synergistically with vitamin E and is a co-factor for glutathione peroxidase. It also inhibits the production of leukotrines. Serum levels of selenium are usually low in people with RA and this suggests that it is useful to supplement with 200 mcg./day.


This is another anti-oxidant that is frequently low in people with RA. It is also essential for tissue repair. A supplement of 25 – 50 mg./day in a chelated form may be helpful.


This is a co-factor for SOD and is often low in people with RA and OA. Supplementing with manganese at a dose of 15 mg./day increases SOD activity and thus minimises free radical damage.

Betaine HCl and proteolytic enzymes

These may be especially useful in people with RA where there are associated food allergies and impaired digestive function. By augmenting the body’s own digestive juices the allergenic component of arthritis may be minimised.


A digestive enzyme extracted from papaya and pineapple that serves to reduce soft tissue swelling and pain. 2 – 4 tablets three times daily is usually indicated. The enzymes also reduce the accumulation of inflammatory exudate in the joint which would further compromise joint function.

Glucosamine sulphate

Derived from the shells of crustaceans, this aids in the formation of cartilage and reduces friction in arthritic joints. 500 mg three times daily for several months.

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