Keeping a food diary

There are a lot of old wives’ tales when it comes to arthritis, mostly involving food.  I’ve been told a number of different things about how someone’s grandmother cured her arthritis by giving up this food or that food, or by taking a particular food on a daily basis. I’ve also been told that certain foods are ‘well known’ to trigger flare ups –usually aubergine (my favourite vegetable!), tomatoes and peppers. While I appreciate their intention is to help, quite often they are talking about a relative with osteoarthritis, which is NOT the same as an auto immune arthritis and has different causes and treatments. The interaction with diet is also likely to be different.

Last year, my cousin sourced a research paper conducted in 2000 and published in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology 18:375-0378 (Palindromic Rheumatism: Effect of Dietary Manipulation). This research was unusual in that it was specifically done on patients with a diagnosis of PR (believe me, there is VERY little research conducted solely on PR patients). The research was only with a small sample (16 patients) and they were monitored to see if there was any link between their flare ups and food. The experiment found that in a small number of patients (only 5), there WAS a link between food and flare ups, though it wasn’t the same food for everyone.

My family all thought that it could be worth me keeping a detailed food diary to see if that was the case with me – after all, if there WAS a link, then maybe I could cut out the specific food and reduce my flare ups (or even stop them altogether). I was highly dubious. The sample size was small and only a few people had a link. The process of keeping a diary seemed laborious and making connections between flares too complicated.  After all, for some of those patients, it could be up to 36 hours between ingesting the food and a flare up.

Since joining the Facebook PR group, I’ve discovered that some people within the group do think that their flares ARE aggravated by certain foods, and one person was even advised to give up meat by her rheumatologist.  I also found myself a really clever food diary app for my phone which allows you to enter all sorts of things – not just the food you eat and the ingredients in all the dishes – but also things like stress, energy levels, fatigue, sleep quality, and exercise.  You also keep a record of all your symptoms (and it also allows you to grade the symptom on a scale of 1- 10) and then eventually, when there is enough data, it calculates the most likely culprits.

So I’ve decided to give it a go and have been keeping a food diary for the last two weeks. So far there is not nearly enough data to show anything conclusive yet. I expect that it’ll actually take around 3 months or even more than that to have enough data to really calculate any possible links. And even then there might not be any connection.

However, I’m not just wanting to find a link between flares and food. I also want to find out what of my other lifestyle choices impact on my symptoms – both flares in terms of pain, and in terms of fatigue. Because of this, I’m also entering stress, exercise, medication and supplements, and meditation. Perhaps I’ll notice that I’m less fatigued when I regularly meditate? Or maybe more fatigued if I’m exercising too much or if I’m too stressed?   I hope to be able to keep this up consistently for a few months and see what the app might find.

So far, the main obstacle to entering data is when I don’t cook food myself and need to find out the ingredients. In a cafe yesterday, the chef REFUSED to tell me what was in her soup in case I stole the recipe! It reminded me to be more mindful when I ate so that I can work out for myself what might have gone into a dish and enter as much detail as I can.

I shall keep you posted of any findings.

Generally, life’s not bad right now. There is pain from time to time but I haven’t had anything too debilitating for a month or so in terms of pain or fatigue. Long may it last (it probably won’t!)

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5 responses to “Keeping a food diary

  1. Hi. I was recently diagnosed with PR and have found your blog very helpful. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only person out there exeriencing these things. Thanks!

  2. The chef really shouldn’t have refused to tell you what was in the soup. All food producers have to be able to provide a list of ingredients of their food because of people with allergies, etc. However I can understand that they may be a bit suspicious of people asking for the ingredients after someone has eaten. Perhaps the best way to approach it would be to explain beforehand that you are keeping a food diary in relation to a medical condition, and would they be able to provide you with the information for whatever you eat there. If they still aren’t happy to help, I would refuse to eat there – if they can’t provide information they are legally required to do so, how good are they at compling to other health and safety standards, including hygiene?

  3. This is very interesting and I can assure you I understand the need to want to disect everything you do, eat, feel, etc. I would be willing to offer my personal different foods and activity that I believe are triggers in my own going on battle with PR. d Any help I can offer I am offering 🙂 Been three years and super sensitive to medications so my journey has been challenging and still is 🙂 Foods play a very big part…..I think 😦 This crazy disease has no for sure’s ….

  4. Hi. I also have been recently diagnosed with Palindromic Rheumatism. It was interesting to read your article. Even prior to my diagnosis I strongly suspected that whatever condition I had was linked to my diet. It was with great sorrow that I made a connection between my flare ups and the drinking of beer! I am a very light drinker and would maybe enjoy a glass of beer once a month or so. I have had symptoms of PR for a little under a year now but with very severe attacks lasting up to six weeks at a time. I first wondered if, after a particularly bad flare up that I had during a camping trip away with some mates (and much more beer than I would normally consume) was linked to beer, after which I was hesitant to drink again. I still suffered flare ups but with nothing like the intensity of the post camping trip. I am an Australian fire fighter and remained alcohol free until I was called up to go away with my Fire Brigade to fight large bush fires with a group of guys that all liked a cold one at the end of the day…12 hours after a session in the bar at the end of the first day starts the beginning of my next severe flare up. Several months passed and not a drop of the devil juice passed my lips during which time I had shorter and less severe attacks. Curiosity got the better of me and I thought that I would put beer to the test one evening with just two glasses, the following day I wished all that was wrong with me was a hangover. I am about to start a course of gold injections as recommended by my rheumatologist and fingers crossed that may help. I will take some ideas away from your article and try to keep a food diary myself. Wishing you and any others suffering from this nasty condition all the best of luck.

  5. Pingback: Going gluten free | My Palindromic Life

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