Food Sensitivity and Knee Arthritis
Published in Townsend Letter, June 2006

 Dear Editor,
Several years ago I noticed I was developing arthritis in both knees.  One day while walking, I heard a sharp "snap" and felt extreme pain in my right knee.  An appointment with an orthopedic clinic reported that the cartilage in my knee had experienced abnormal growth.  They recommended I give the knee a rest to see if the problem would resolve itself over time.  Otherwise, they said surgery would probably be necessary.  During this same time period, I had developed some digestive problems of gas and bloating. 
Over the next two years, I tried to resolve these issues with various nutritional regimens including digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid tablets, vitamins C and E, glucosamine with chondroitin sulfate, fish oil and even unflavored gelatin.  None of these measures resolved or significantly improved either the knee arthritis or digestive symptoms.  If anything, the arthritis seemed to be getting worse.
In 2003, my digestive problems reached a crisis when I tore and perforated the bowel while helping lift a heavy outboard motor.  The doctor diagnosed diverticulitis and peritonitis and I was scheduled for emergency surgery within the hour.  I was fitted with a colostomy bag for 20 weeks to let the bowel heal, then a second surgery was performed to remove the colostomy and reconnect the bowel.
During my recovery, I eliminated all dietary supplements.  When I was able to eat normally again, I began to reintroduce the supplements one at a time.  I soon discovered that vitamin C in amounts as low as 60 mg, even as pure crystalline ascorbic acid or calcium ascorbate, reactivated the digestive problems.  I also found that caffeine, even as 97% caffeine-free green tea or coffee, did the same thing.  Not only did these two dietary substances result in digestive disturbances, they also dramatically aggravated the knee arthritis.  Over time, I learned that vitamin C containing foods were well tolerated, but vitamin C in supplement form or any amount of caffeine would reactivate the bloating problems for days and the knee arthritis for weeks.  By strictly avoiding these two offending substances, my bowel function once again became normal and my knee arthritis virtually disappeared.
This experience taught me that nutritional balance is unique to the individual and dietary sensitivities can make even an apparently balanced diet deleterious.  Nutritional imbalance can cause diverse symptoms of ill health, symptoms which may be effectively resolved if the cause is malnutrition and is identified and addressed. 
John Cartmell, MS
Certified Nutritionist
Redmond, WA

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