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  • Writer's pictureValerie Smith, APRN

Should You Eat Wheat If You Have a Rheumatic Disease?

Is going gluten-free good for you, especially when living with a rheumatic disease? Is wheat okay for rheumatic disease patients?

These are hot-topic questions that both doctors and patients want to know the answer to, so let’s look at why going gluten-free and wheat-free could be a beneficial lifestyle choice if you have a rheumatic disease.

The Inflammatory Process

To understand why patients might experience a positive outcome when eliminating gluten and wheat from their diet, let’s start from the beginning …

  • Rheumatic diseases are inflammatory diseases.

  • Most rheumatic diseases are autoimmune diseases as well.

  • Autoimmune diseases are inflammatory diseases, too.

  • Inflammatory diseases cause inflammation.

  • Inflammation and the entire inflammatory process causes a myriad of symptoms, medical conditions, and health complications.

So when you work toward decreasing inflammation, you can lessen the symptoms that come with a rheumatic disease and even slow down disease progression.

And what can you do to reduce inflammation?

While oftentimes patients need to fight inflammation with a conglomeration of efforts such as medications, supplements, and lifestyle choices, the foods you eat (or don’t eat) can have an impact on your inflammatory state.

The Power of Food

Foods have inflammatory properties, and you can fight inflammation with food by (1) cutting out pro-inflammatory foods and (2) eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

What foods can contribute to inflammation? Researchers have asked this question time and time again, and foods containing wheat and gluten tend to always end up as part of the debate, so let’s look at what the research shows.

Report #1 - As reported by Arthritis-health:

“According to many experts, certain foods seem to promote inflammation and should be avoided …

Some foods that are normally considered part of a healthy diet may cause inflammation in some people. Common examples of these foods are nightshade plants, dairy products, and wheat gluten…

whole-wheat products can be part of a healthy diet. However, a protein found in wheat, called gluten, is associated with inflammation and joint pain in certain individuals.”

“Recent research has increasingly shown that depending on the foods we eat, gut flora may be affected by an inflammatory or anti-inflammatory response, thus playing an important role in inflammatory autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gastroenterological disorders. Gluten seems to be a glycoprotein with a clinically relevant inflammatory effect …

Our patients presented different degrees of response to the diet, in terms of disease remission and improvement of symptoms. Our cases confirm that a gluten-free diet may improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, even in patients resistant to conventional drug therapies.”

Report #3 - As described in The Open Rheumatology Journal:

“Gluten-free vegan diet for 1 year has been shown to significantly reduce levels of antibodies to β-lactoglobulin and gliadin and disease activity in patients with RA…

A gluten-free vegan diet demonstrated potentially atheroprotective and anti-inflammatory changes, including decreased LDL and oxLDL levels and raised natural atheroprotective antibodies against phosphorylcholine.”

Eliminating Wheat and Gluten

Now let’s circle back to the title of this blog - Should You Eat Wheat If You Have a Rheumatic Disease?

The answer is not a straightforward one.

Yes, it appears like removing wheat and gluten from your diet could be a helpful tool in decreasing inflammation, managing symptom development, reducing the severity of symptoms, and lessening disease progression. For some people.

Yes, our team here at Paducah Rheumatology encourages our patients to eat an anti-inflammatory diet.

Yes, patients need to do all they can to calm down the inflammatory process, whether through a diet or other rheumatologist-prescribed resources or a combination of both.

But no, cutting out wheat and gluten will not be that fix-all solution for every patient with a rheumatic disease.

What works for one individual may or may not be the best approach for you personally, and that’s also how we approach our treatment plans at Paducah Rheumatology.

The path to improvement is different for every patient. The journey to better health is an individualized process. That’s why our team strives to offer personalized care based on the specific needs of every single patient.

If eating a diet without wheat or gluten is your goal, we are here to cheer you on. If you discover a wheat-free diet is the key to your success, we can’t wait to hear about the results.

On the other hand, if you have tried a gluten-free diet and it did not seem like the right fit for you, recognize that this is not helpful for everyone! We will continue to support you as we work toward discovering treatment options that are best for you.

Give us a call today at 270-408-6100 to set up an appointment. For new patients, please send in a physician’s referral first.

We look forward to seeing you.

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