There is evidence from several well documented case reports that occasional patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may develop aggravation of their arthritis as a result of allergy to some ingredient in the diet. A variety of foodstuffs have been implicated including milk and milk products, corn and cereals. Total fasting results in improvement in rheumatoid arthritis, but appears to be mediated by diminution in production of chemical mediators of inflammation, rather than by elimination of a dietary allergen.
There is conflicting evidence from studies using various intestinal probes that patients with rheumatoid arthritis may have a 'leaky' intestinal mucosa allowing food allergens to be more easily absorbed. Clinical therapeutic trials of exclusion diets have employed the standard strategy of the double-blind randomized method. However, this presupposes that patients entered into such a study are capable of improvement with dietary manipulation.
Since this is often not the case, a more appropriate method would be to employ the 'intensive research design' also known as 'single case experiment' and 'N of 1' study. 'Masked food intolerance' is an attractive hypothesis, but extremely difficult to prove. It is doubtful whether fish oils and/or evening primrose oil will be of significant long term benefit for patients with RA. However, they do provide for the possibility that a fatty acid-like substance may be found which may be incorporated into cell membranes, thereby preventing production of mediators of inflammation, such as prostaglandin E2 and leukotriene B4.
Br J Rheumatol. 1991 Apr;30(2):125-34.
Is diet important in rheumatoid arthritis?
Buchanan HM1, Preston SJ, Brooks PM, Buchanan WW.
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