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Food Allergies/swelling of fingers/distal joints


QUESTION: A year ago, I awoke to find my fingers swollen like sausages. I immediately took a Benedryl. The swelling went down somewhat and then I raced to my doctor's office. I had 3 tests for inflammatory arthritis - all negative.  

I then saw an allergist who said that there was a link between food allergies and joint swelling.  He suggested that I go off one food at a time and then eat a lot of it to see if it caused swelling. I tried it with dairy, wheat, etc, but the swelling never went down.

Frustrated, I went on an all raw food diet of only fruit/vegetables.  Within 4 days the swelling went down, by the end of two weeks all swelling and pain had disappeared except for one distal joint in my index finger of my left hand, which remained a little swollen.  

After 51 days on the raw food diet, I decided to add back some cooked foods that were vegetarian/vegan. I made soups - bean soups, lentil soups and my fingers swelled. I then went back to raw foods. I then tried to add cooked foods again making a stir fry with tofu, veggies with soy sauce and hosin sauce. The distal joints in all fingers began to get stiff. I checked the ingredients of the sauces and found sodium benzoate. The cans of tomatoes I added to the soups also had preservatives.

Is it possible that I have developed an allergy to food preservatives?

ANSWER: I know of no authenticated case records of joint swelling related to food allergy. Sensitivity to artificial preservatives is very contentious. Sensitivity to the benzoate group of preservatives probably does occur rarely, but the majority of people who blame them for all sorts of symptoms can be shown by blind feeding tests not to have a reproducible physical reaction.

There are various forms of acute arthritis which are not necessarily related to auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid. With your recurrence a consultation with a trained rheumatologist would in my view be a better way forward then chasing improbable food sensitivity. Of course I cannot say that arthritis cannot be influenced by diet. But I can opine that in most patients food allergy is quite irrelevant. Unfortunately, US "Allergists" often promote ideas about food allergy that are not supported by science.

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Arthritis and food allergies
Arthritis and food all  
QUESTION: Thank you Dr. Pearson for your response. You viewpoint is actually a popular one. As a result, I've taken to reading up on the subject. I will attempt to attach the references since I do not want to go over my character limit.  Also, please note that I am lactose intolerant. I usually refrain from eating dairy, however, during the first occurrence of finger swelling (a year ago) I had been making smoothies for breakfast using whey. I switched from soy-based protein due to digestive issues. I was on this regime for about 2 weeks when the first swelling occurred. Naturally, I stopped eating any food items I thought was potentially problematic. Moreover, I stopped taking any new vitamins supplements as well.  

My only other question is why when I am on a 100% raw food veggie diet do my symptoms disappear?

Again, thanks for your thoughts. It is most appreciated.

A Silver

ANSWER: I once asked to give a lecture on how foods/diet could physically affect arthritis. I gave up listing them when the list exceeded 100.

So, real phenomena may exist, but there is no good evidence that apart from obesity and a possible effects of the balance of fatty acids, that any have much practical effect. There are all sorts of stories about miracle cures on all sorts of diet. Since people who blame food sensitivity for all sorts of conditions which plainly are due to some other well-known cause of those conditions. Modification of diet in these circumstances can only cause harm. I have seen collapsing bones and other severe symptoms of malnutrition due to trial and error omission of foods for non-existent food "Allergy". In very many cases the diet is difficult to adhere to, five times more expensive in both time and money, as well as conventional medication having more effect and fewer side effects.

You do sound as if you do have some form of sero-negative arthritis which a rheumatologist should be able to diagnose properly.

The recommendation of raw rather than cooked food can have no organic basis and sounds like anti-scientific medicine (sometimes known as hocus-pocus).

However: if you are lactose intolerant. Therefore, I would ask whether you have had gluten-sensitivity enteropathy excluded by small bowel biopsy. That can produce all sorts of problems outside the gut if not properly diagnosed or treated.

I will repeat again advice I have given previously: Anyone excluding foods for any conditions should only do so with the assistance of a qualified dietician who can assure nutritional adequacy. Dietary manipulation without very good cause and scientific evidence is putting their health at risk.

Apart from that, I can only tell you that although I have trying to confirm sensitivity to specific foods as a cause of joint symptoms by blind testing, has mainly proved that the person's belief is not true.

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QUESTION: Dr. Pearson,

Thank you for your comments and insight.  I will take your advice and see a rheumatologist. As for a gluten-sensitivity, I did have a celiac test -- the results were negative -- but I never had a small bowel biopsy. I will discuss it with my doctor.

I went on a raw food diet as a way to quiet my system. I had been following my allergist's advice; stop eating a particular group of foods and then eat a lot of it. I did this with dairy products, wheat products, nuts, night shades and what else I don't remember. However, it appeared that I had a reaction to everything. As such, I decided to do a 100% raw food diet for 30 days to quiet my system. I stayed on the diet for 51 days, and my hands were totally free of pain, stiffness and all but one distal joint returned to their normal size.

As soon as I started eating cooked foods the swelling returned. Since I live in Maine I wasn't advocating a raw food plan, I went on it as a short-term measure.  However, I must say, the results have been remarkable.  

Thanks again and kind regards,
A Silver

I am sorry, your further question seems lost in the "post" until today.

Thereare all sorts of reasons how and why virtual starvation diets can have dramatic effects on joint pain in the short term. They are totally explicable without implication of "pseudo-food allergy".

All blood tests for coeliac disease are utterly worthless. I am prepared to be sued by any doctor who says otherwise. But they should be warned, Many have tried (I am so outspoken that crooked doctots do not like me and attemt to sue). It might be fun to find any judge who will give judgment against this opinion.

I have looked into diets call Exclusion. Most people develop psychologically-dependant physical reactions due to the effects of the therapist's improper suggestions. But (since I never do anything to others that I will not do to myself), I have done all those diets myself. The e3ffects are amazing and after 4 days of effective starvation, you go mentally as high as a kite. If you then add energy at all (like water and glucose) you immediately feel like hell. This perfectly normal physiological reaction is then used by crooked doctors to tell you it proves you have a hidden allergy and yes, we do accept credit cards.

While I have proved a lot of this and published the results in respected scientific journals, it may come down to whichever opposing views you trust.


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David Pearson


Any in the field I believe. Only experience of questions that get asked will tell.


I am a retired medical academic from the UK. I have done major research on Food Allergy and have been a government adviser in the area. 30 years experience running an allergy clinic. And undergraduate and post-graduate teaching.

Well, apart from the FRCP, I'm no longer active in the area. I'm too busy writing books. And I no longer have the cash to go to international meetings. But was active in many.

Will 120 scientific papers help? Chapters in books. Patient advisory materials. Magazine articles. TV appearances. Live and recorded. National and international invited lectures, etc. It was my job for 40 years. Do you think I count!

MD, PhD, Postgraduate Diplomas etc. Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. etc. But I don't want that put out on the net! Just to let you know!

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Past/Present Clients
Too many to count, patients of course and a large number of all sorts of corporate consultancies and considerable work as an expert witness in the Courts. I'm volunteering because your Greek expert has been so helpful, I thought I'd offer something back.

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