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Could a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Ease Your Knee Pain?

A small study suggests that people following a low-carbohydrate diet suffer less from arthritis in their knees. They also have better joint function.
Mixed leaf salad with smoked salmon, spinach, cucumber, red onion, herbs and black kumin. Healthy diet. Low carb meal. Copy space

People with troublesome arthritis pain in their knees may want to consider changing the menu, according to a small trial. Researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham studied the effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on joint pain.

Twenty-one arthritis sufferers between 65 and 75 years old were randomly assigned to follow a low-carb diet, a low-fat diet or their usual diet for three months (Strath et al, Pain Medicine, online, March 13, 2019). The investigators assessed the participants’ pain and quality of life every three weeks during that time. 

Did a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Help Ease Knee Pain?

People who followed a low-carbohydrate diet had less pain and were better able to walk for a distance and stand up from sitting. The researchers noted that the improvement could not be attributed to weight loss alone. (A low-carb diet is frequently used to achieve weight loss.)

Diet quality was paramount. A healthful low-carbohydrate diet with lots of leafy vegetables and healthful fats such as nuts and olive oil can be helpful. It may not be quite as effective for relieving knee pain as NSAIDs or opioids. On the other hand, such a diet is less likely to have unpleasant side effects than the drugs.

Learn More: 

If you would like advice on how to follow a healthful low-carb diet, you may want to consult our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. In it, we discuss the low-carb diet, DASH diet and Mediterranean diet patterns. You might also be interested in listening to a few interviews we have done with diet experts. We spoke with Dr. David Ludwig a few times, in Show 1020: How to Lose Weight Without Feeling Hungry, and in Show 1149: Is Cutting Carbs More Important Than Cutting Calories? We also interviewed Dr. Jason Fung on intermittent fasting to control blood sugar and protect the kidneys. It is Show 1143: Can You Control Your Blood Sugar by Fasting? You may also be interested in a different perspective, from Dr. Christopher Gardner of Stanford, who led the DIETFITS study. You’ll find it in Show 1126: Can You Find Your Best Diet?

Our book, The Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis, may also interest you.

4/15/19 redirected to: https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2019/04/15/will-a-keto-diet-help-eliminate-your-knee-pain/

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Strath et al, "The effect of low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on pain in individuals with knee osteoarthritis." Pain Medicine, March 13, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pnz022
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I have had the same experience as the others, only my pain had been only in my hands. By the way, I am thin and have never been overweight and have had trial periods of eating “wrong” when the pain returns, so it’s definitely due to my diet. I have an “undiagnosed” autoimmune disease, very mild, with only an occasional positive ANA. I feel best when I eat the most paleo-style. I do eat oats daily and rice occasionally, and beans and some starchy vegetables.

I got a Baker’s cyst last year. I could still walk and dance, but had trouble going downstairs and couldn’t run at all. I had 4 (somewhat painful) sessions with massage therapists in Thailand a few months later, and I could tell the cyst was gone. Now I have almost restrengthened the muscle. I would recommend massage – you have nothing to lose.

My joint pain left when my husband and I went on a low-carb diet in 2010. We went off a bit when we went home for Christmas and it turned out that whenever I ate anything with wheat/gluten my joints would flare. That same year I learned I had an autoimmune disease and went on an anti inflammatory, highly nutritiousness dense diet (paleo autoimmune diet) and rotated back in foods after my gut health was better. I still cannot have gluten in any form and some nightshades and most dairy.

I have been on a low carb diet for a while now. Small amount of sugar in the dark chocolate I allow myself daily. No flour, sugar. Keto. Had skin tags all over my neck. All gone. Had a wart on the back of my leg 50% gone. Knees are worse. When I do have white flour my knees feel better. Have to give this more time. Knees are Hurting 100% more. Really bad. Whatever.

Is there any information on what causes Lipoma?

While eating low carb and enjoying reduced joint pain, I too, thought it may be related to weight loss. However, if I cheat and eat a lot of carbs in one day, the pain returns and doesn’t subside for several days to a week after cutting carbs again.

When I was in my forties I did the South Beach Diet, and while I did lose weight, I was tired all of the time. However, my knees felt great! Not nearly as stiff and sore, probably at least an 80% improvement.

I am currently on a Dr. prescribed diet that doesn’t leave me tired like the South Beach diet did, but it is also low carb, but not as restricted as the South Beach diet. I would say my knees feel about 60 -70% better (I am in my late 50’s now), so I vouch that low carb eases knee pain!

After following a no sugar (honey is okay), no grain, no lactose (some dairy products are lactose free, such as cheddar and other aged cheeses), and limited bean diet for a several months, the painful arthritis in my hands disappeared completely, as did flatulence and other digestive issues. I followed Elaine Gottschall’s “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” guidelines. There is science behind this approach relating to starving the bad bacteria in the gut by eliminating the starches they feed on. It worked for me and I have followed a modified version ever since.

Last year I went on the Keto diet to lose a few pounds. After three weeks I was shocked at how my knees felt almost no pain. After 6 weeks they felt better than they had in years. I told my husband I had forgotten how it felt to have no knee pain. I was really amazed and thankful. However, it’s a hard diet to maintain so I’m aiming for low carb diet but some pain has returned with the addition of more carbs.

It is not the low carb diet, but weight loss that accompanies better mobility. It takes pressure off the joints. People who eat better tend to exercise more because they are health conscious. Needless to say research is often flawed increase meat-industry sales via powerful lobbyists that pay researchers directly or indirectly.

I have been reading this newsletter for years and have not seen anything written about bakers cysts, which I now have! Any information, suggestions on treatment, home remedies, etc would be much appreciated!

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