Is gluten-free diet good for rheumatoid arthritis? The celiac disease and arthritis connection

gluten free diet celiac diseaseA gluten-free diet is recommended for celiac disease patients as a means to control the disease, but some studies have shown it may also benefit those living with rheumatoid arthritis. Susan Goodman, rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, explained, “We have studied it fairly extensively, and what becomes clear is that there aren’t a lot of relationships between diet and rheumatoid arthritis that withstand the test of time.”

People with celiac disease are at a higher risk for other autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, but the exact mechanisms are not well understood. Removing gluten from one’s diet can help alleviate symptoms and control inflammation similar to that seen in rheumatoid arthritis. But it’s important to understand there are very different immune responses in celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis.


Removing gluten from your diet is only beneficial in reducing inflammation if a person is sensitive to gluten. Itis unlikely that such adjustment will benefit other types of inflammation resulting from other conditions.

Although some rheumatoid arthritis patients believe that certain foods trigger their flare-ups, the evidence behind this is limited, so it may be based on a case-by-case basis.

Does gluten-free diet help rheumatoid arthritis?

Joint pain is a common symptom not only in rheumatoid arthritis but in celiac disease as well. In celiac disease, joint pain can be alleviated by sticking to a gluten-free diet, but can the same be said for rheumatoid arthritis?

Celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis are both autoimmune conditions. In the case of celiac disease, the immune system attacks gluten, and in rheumatoid arthritis, it attacks the joints. Along with gastrointestinal symptoms experienced in celiac disease, patients can also experience symptoms elsewhere in the body, including the joints.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, it may be worth to get checked for celiac disease. Having one autoimmune disease increases the risk of another, so you may very well have also developed celiac disease and a sensitivity to gluten. If the tests come back positive, then eliminating gluten from your diet may not only aid in celiac disease, but also offer relief for joint pain as well.

Connection between celiac disease and arthritis

Celiac disease vs. Crohn's diseaseCeliac disease is diagnosed through blood testing to check for antibodies to gluten. If the blood testing comes back positive, your doctor will proceed with an endoscopy to check for any intestinal damage that may have already occurred.

Even though celiac disease awareness is on the rise, the condition still goes highly underdiagnosed and this is largely in part due to the fact it resembles many other conditions including migraines, IBS, and arthritis.

Experts suggest that a person living with rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and other autoimmune diseases should be checked for celiac disease.

You may find that if you do test positive for celiac disease while already living with one autoimmune disease, removing gluten can help improve your symptoms.

Can gluten trigger joint pain?

The simple answer is, yes, a sensitivity to gluten can trigger joint pain. Inflammation in the gut can affect the body in numerous ways, including joint pain.

Dr. Rochelle Rosian, rheumatologist from the Cleveland Clinic, explained, “Patients with arthritis are always looking for nondrug ways to manage inflammation. We know that certain foods are pro-inflammatory and that includes gluten-containing grains and the thousands of foods made from them. When some, but not all, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity eliminate these from their diet, they find their arthritis improves.”

Going gluten-free benefits rheumatoid arthritis


gluten-free-diet-brain-fogIn order to get a proper diagnosis of celiac disease in rheumatoid arthritis, you must not eliminate gluten from your diet or else the blood work will not pick up on gluten antibodies. This can be stressful for people as they must endure the pain associated with consuming gluten, but unfortunately there is currently no other effective means of detecting celiac without the consumption of gluten.

As mentioned, although there’s insufficient research on whether going gluten-free can help alleviate joint pain in rheumatoid arthritis, many patients still report that making such a diet change has improved their arthritic condition. Generally, patients with arthritis are advised to follow a diet low in salt, fats, and carbohydrates as a means to minimize joint inflammation.

You may wish to opt for gluten-free diet if you have rheumatoid arthritis, but you should also be mindful of other triggers as well. This can be done through documenting when your joints hurt the most and when a flare-up occurs by keeping a journal on what you were doing and what you ate to note any patterns.


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