Is rheumatoid arthritis a disease that starts in the intestine? A pilot study comparing an elemental diet with oral prednisolone


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Abstract

Objectives:This pilot study aimed to determine if an elemental diet could be used to treat patients with active rheumatoid arthritis and to compare its effect to that of oral prednisolone.Methods:Thirty patients with active rheumatoid arthritis were randomly allocated to 2 weeks of treatment with an elemental diet (n = 21) or oral prednisolone 15 mg/day (n = 9). Assessments of duration of early morning stiffness (EMS), pain on a 10 cm visual analog scale (VAS), the Ritchie articular index (RAI), swollen joint score, the Stanford Health Assessment Questionnaire, global patient and physician assessment, body weight, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP) and haemoglobin, were made at 0, 2, 4 and 6 weeks.Results:All clinical parameters improved in both groups (p<0.05) except the swollen joint score in the elemental diet group. An improvement of greater than 20% in EMS, VAS and RAI occurred in 72% of the elemental diet group and 78% of the prednisolone group. ESR, CRP and haemoglobin improved in the steroid group only (p<0.05).Conclusions:An elemental diet for 2 weeks resulted in a clinical improvement in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, and was as effective as a course of oral prednisolone 15 mg daily in improving subjective clinical parameters. This study supports the concept that rheumatoid arthritis may be a reaction to a food antigen(s) and that the disease process starts within the intestine.

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