Diet and medications – why does it have to be either/or?


Would you like to...

View more articles written by Arthritic Chick

Please read this post carefully.  It may upset some people who don’t read closely, but it’s something that I feel I need to say.

There is a great divide in the Rheumatoid Arthritis, or autoimmune community, in general.  And I don’t really understand it.

The divide is between the ‘all natural’ people and the ‘you need medication’ people.

I have witnessed arguments of gargantuan proportions over whether you should go natural or whether you should take medication. It’s all very personal, and ranges from the ridiculous to the downright dangerous.

The point is everyone is different.  Some people have very mild RA, and they don’t need medications.  Some people have very severe disease and need medication, or their disease could become life threatening.  Some people respond to diet changes.  Some people don’t.  Some people respond to some medications, and some people don’t.

I believe that people on the ‘medication’ side of the fence understand the fact that each person’s disease is different, and that different medications work for different people. Not all medications will work for all people.  If only they did!  Everyone would be in remission.  What a beautiful thought!

But dare someone post on a pro medication page that they have stopped all their meds, and are not in remission through diet alone, the response can be furious and cruel.  There will be stories of destroyed joints and disability and death and mayhem if you refuse medication.

This is so wrong. There are people with mild cases of rheumatoid arthritis. And their disease may never progress to severe disease. They may never become disabled, and their lives will never be at risk from this disease.  And using fear tactics to bully them into taking meds they may not need is pretty horrible.

It’s an individual choice.  Made by weighing up the potential benefits of a medication, and the side effects.  For some people the side effects ARE worse than the disease.

Conversely, mention medication on a pro natural therapies board, and the same thing applies.  Stories of people who died from taking a dmard or a biological.  Stories of big pharma and how they want to control the world and make huge profits, not heal people.  And it goes downhill from there.

It gets very emotional, and it gets very personal.  And it’s offensive.  Let’s think back just a generation or two, when people with severe rheumatoid arthritis ALWAYS wound up in wheelchairs, completely disabled.  When the treatment options were ‘take an aspirin’ and bed rest.  Those of us with severe disease know how much an aspirin helps.

These days most people respond to medications and have a far better quality of life. And this is because of the dedicated people who work for big pharma.  Researching new and better treatments so that we can have a chance at a relatively normal life.

But back to the point.  And I’m sorry to ask a silly question, but why not use both?  Why not use every tool at your disposal? Why do you have to choose one or the other?

I use a combination of things.  I have tried almost every medication out there.  I eat a healthy diet (mostly fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, a little dairy, a few whole grains, very, very few processed foods).  While diet has no effect on my Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms, it does have an effect on my general health.

Since being on biologicals, my cholesterol is high. My blood pressure has also soared.  My blood sugar is also high.  Clearly a side effect of the medications.  So I watch my diet closely.  And I exercise as much as possible.  And yes, I do have severe Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Yes, there are forms of exercise that are still possible, though not on my worst days.

I have tried various supplements.  The ever popular fish oil, turmeric, ginger, apple cider vinegar.  I’ve done juicing, but mostly as a way to get as much nutrition as possible in a simple way when I have no appetite.  I’ve tried various diets.  Of course I’ve tried gluten free.  I’ve tried dairy free.  I was a gluten free vegan for several months.  I’ve done Paleo, and the Autoimmune Paleo protocol.  I’ve done Clint Pattinsons’s diet. I’ve cut out night shades.  I can’t remember what else.  If it’s been written down somewhere on the web that it might help RA, I’ve tried it.  I have been that desperate to make the pain go away.

And the result?  Diet has no effect on my Rheumatoid Arthritis.  None at all.

But here’s the rub.  Whenever I say such a thing, I get told that I am wrong.  That I must have cheated my diet.   That I needed to try it longer.  That I did it wrong.


I’m really happy for the people for whom diet change helps their symptoms. I even know people who have gone into complete remission and are symptom free, just from diet.  That’s awesome, and incredible and wonderful.  But it won’t work for everyone, the way it is often espoused to.

I always recommend people try diet change.  Because how great would it be to do something as simple as change your diet, and be healthy and pain free?  To paraphrase Kate Moss, nothing tastes as good as pain free feels.

But to tell me that I haven’t done my diet correctly, or that I haven’t tried it for long enough (two years gluten free, is that long enough for you?) is just offensive.  It’s blaming the patient.  And I abhor that attitude.

RA is so variable in its severity.  The advice for someone with mild disease will be completely different than for someone with severe disease.  The medication regime will be very different.  The prognosis will be very different.

And I can guarantee that if you are living with constant, severe, unrelenting pain, you will take medication.  Severe rheumatoid arthritis causes pain that can’t be worked through. It can’t be blocked.  It can’t be ‘mind over matter’ed. And it can’t be sent packing with a nice cup of ginger and turmeric tea.

There is no ‘one size fits all’.  And there is no ‘cure’.  Natural or otherwise.

Which best describes you?

Please log-in or join our community to answer this poll.

You must register to take part in our community polls.


  1. hasslefree says:

    Bravo!! A difficult topic that you have done great justice.

  2. Deidree Lohr says:

    Thank goodness you wrote that and I read that just weeks into my diagnosis. In excruciating pain and was praying to get on a biologic which I will do, but with an open mind. I’m in a dark place right now -terribly frightened. However, I have to let you know how much I appreciate your efforts to communicate the big picture. Thank you.

  3. Best thing I’ve ever read regarding meds vs. diet. Well thought out and researched. In the end, we all need to find what works for us, without being mean and accusatory. Thank you!

  4. Sandra Sova says:

    Excellent article. Thank you for addressing a topic that can be heated one for some people.

    Agree, not one size fits all and room for lots of variations on the theme. I’m in both camps, I need to take medications and I also like to try to eat well to support my overall health through nutrition. RA cure from food? Not one that I’ve seen but then again, many levels of severity and impact and for some, symptom relief may be diet related so everyone should be free to do what works for them.

  5. Layne Martin says:

    Well said!!! I love the part about “if they’ve written about it I’ve tried it”!
    I’m also in both camps. My latest kick is “all organic”. I hate taking medications and I worry about the preservatives in them but then again I need them to function. It’s all about finding the happy medium that works for you.

  6. […] Medication can help, but there are times when you’d prefer not to rely on meds. (A topic our own Arthritic Chick discussed quite eloquently here) […]

Add Your Comment

Click here to log-in now and post a comment.