OA and gluten

JJE239 Member Posts: 24
edited 27. Apr 2016, 06:01 in Living with Arthritis archive
Hi, I've just joined this forum so will introduce myself a little before getting to my question. I have severe OA in both my knees - bone on bone now and some damage to patella and tibia as a result. I am 38, which is apparently quite young for such extreme damage. I'm a sports teacher, so this has come as quite a blow to me and I can no longer run or play the sports I love.

In the past few years have developed an intolerance to gluten which manifests itself in eczema on my elbows. I'm not always brilliant at being gluten free but am prepared to take the consequences occasionally. However, now that I'm trying to manage my OA pain, I'm wondering whether gluten can also contribute to joint pain. I have read some articles about a link with RA, which makes sense to me as an autoimmune response, but I'm not sure about OA.

The reason I'm asking now is that I had a high gluten diet yesterday and am suffering with knee pain today that is more severe than usual, but with only a very small amount of swelling - no more than a normal day.
Does anyone know of a link between gluten and OA?


  • daffy2
    daffy2 Member Posts: 1,636
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    There isn't the scientific work to say one way or the other, but that's not to say there isn't a link. I am wheat intolerant and definitely notice a link between my OA problems and inadvertent or unavoidable wheat ingestion, more acute if there are additional factors such as a cold, or being overtired. I take the view that if my body has difficulties with digesting/processing something in my diet then that is unlikely to be helpful to any other conditions I may have, such as OA, fibromyalgia,allergies, and so is best avoided.
    As you have found RA is more of a focus for such matters as it's an autoimmune issue, but the accepted view of OA(age, wear and tear) is increasingly being challenged and so in due course a link might be found there also. In the meantime it might be worth keeping a note to see if there is a link, or if it's coincidence.
  • stickywicket
    stickywicket Member Posts: 27,598
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hello JJE239 and welcome to the forum. OA will have a particularly severe impact on you if you're used to playing a lot of sport. (Which sports? You mention running, which is quite high impact. I guess most sports involve a fair bit of running.)

    OA and gluten? I've never heard of a connection. Nor have I ever heard of one, on trustworthy sites such as Arthritis Research UK or NHS Choices, between RA and gluten except (a)anecdotal tales and (b) insofar as RA is an autoimmune disease and so is coeliac, in which the body just can't handle gluten and produces inflammation in the gut when it comes across it. If anyone was unfortunate enough to have both, then one set of inflammation might have repercussions for the other.

    If you're sure you react to gluten, have you ever been tested for coeliac? Come to that, have you ever been tested for an autoimmune arthritis? Are you sure the patches on your elbow are eczema or might they be psoriasis? Psoriatic arthritis is another autoimmune form of the disease. Unfortunately, psoriatic arthritis is sero-negative which means that, if your GP did the standard test for RA, it would come back negative even if you do have PsA. Rheumatologists are better at diagnosing it.
    If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving definitely isn't for you.
    Steven Wright
  • JJE239
    JJE239 Member Posts: 24
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thanks stickywicket. That's really interesting. I have been tested for coeliac and RA - both negative, although the RA test was inconclusive because some of my symptoms were very like RA. Can't be completely certain what the rash is, but it does seem to come up when I have had cumulative amounts of gluten in my diet. I don't know much about PsA, but I did see a rheumatologist when I had my MRI and inflammatory markers test. I'll investigate a bit more.
    Daffy2 - I'm going to keep a diary, cut out gluten for a while and then reintroduce to see if I can track a link.
    Thanks for all your help.
  • dreamdaisy
    dreamdaisy Member Posts: 31,520
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Oh dear, this is sounding so familiar. I presume your tests for RA came back with a sero-negative rheumatoid factor so your GP said it isn't RA - am I thinking along the right lines?

    I have psoriatic arthritis but without a great deal of psoriasis, probably thanks to the meds. There are around 300 auto-immune inflammatory conditions and mine (PsA) is one of the sero-negative kinds. It took some years before I was accurately diagnosed but it didn't matter because the meds didn't change. I also have OA thanks to the joint damage caused by the PsA. I have a long history of auto-immune troubles but, if you do not, this must be very unsettling.

    Diet has not affected either of my conditions but I know what aggravates my OA because that is a more 'physical' condition than the PsA. Arthritis is not just for the old and neither does it come in two kinds: it's a complicated disease and working out what is actually wrong may take some time. There is no harm in keeping a diary of dairy / gluten /acidic foods consumption to see if there is any correlation but because OA is characterised by the degeneration of cartiledge there may not be a clear result.

    It's not easy, is it? I wish you well. DD
    Have you got the despatches? No, I always walk like this. Eddie Braben
  • daffy2
    daffy2 Member Posts: 1,636
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    I've just remembered a friend mentioned that the coeliac blood test that's usually done may give false negatives, and that a different test may need to be done if symptoms suggest it - her daughter had problems with this. Have a look at the Coeliac UK site to find out more.
    It does sound as if more investigation and questioning might be needed to make sure you've got the right diagnosis and treatment for both the arthritis and gluten problems.
  • barbara12
    barbara12 Member Posts: 21,280
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hello JJE239 and welcome to the forum
    There are quite a few people on here that are gluten intolerant..it does make you wounder if there is a link,..I have OA and was very fit till I started with joint pain..one thing I do know is that white bread make me feel really sick..I might just get it checked out..