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Eat to Beat Arthritis

by Marguerite Patten OBE and Jeannette Ewin PhD

listed in arthritis

[Image: Eat to Beat Arthritis]

It is always compelling when we are told a story of a person's personal success when overcoming disease. Marguerite Patten tells a highly motivating story of how she overcame her debilitating arthritis by adjusting her diet.

Of course Patten has a huge advantage that most of us don't share. As one of our most successful cookery writers over the last few decades, she had a wealth of ideas to make her dietary changes workable. Together with nutritionist Jeanette Ewin she has compiled a highly practical book of advice and recipes to share her findings with us. And most encouraging of all for the reader the plan suggests that many will find a degree of relief within a shortish period of time - two-six weeks.

One of the things that nutritional therapists often have to struggle with is the ability to make dietary recommendations to their clients sound appealing, especially in the context of busy lives. It is all too easy to describe a list of foods that must be avoided - usually those foods that are most loved by the poor individual - and leave them wondering what they can eat. So off they go to the health food shop having been told to avoid wheat and dairy (for instance) to find they don't have a clue how to deal with foods such as millet and maize. One of the things that I love about this book is that it takes these slightly unusual foods and puts them firmly in the mainstream as far as making delicious dishes is concerned - and without any more effort than one might make with 'normal' cooking. It all becomes very workable.

Basically the diet proscribes all the usual culprits - gluten grains (wheat, oats, rye), alcohol, coffee, tea, citrus fruit, deadly nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, potatoes) and possibly cows' milk products.

Most people begin to feel faint at this point, but when you read the list of foods that you can eat you begin to cheer up - rice, bread made from cornmeal, blinis made from buckwheat flour, gluten free pasta, sweet potatoes, fish and shellfish, meats, certain nuts, fruits and vegetables. It is all set out in a most manageable way.

Great faith is put in the inclusion at least three times a week of liver (suitable for those with osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis, but to be avoided by those with gout). And equal faith is put in having some molasses and brewer's yeast daily, mixed into what is called a 'health drink'. This diet was based on the work described by Dr Giraud W Campbell in the 1970s who prescribed these foods. Liver is certainly an underrated food these days and I have described it in at least two of my own books as being virtually a vitamin and mineral supplement in food form. The same can be said of molasses and brewer's yeast. However experience tells me that many people will balk at the idea of eating liver three times a week. It is also a concern these days that liver carries high levels of environmental chemicals (which the animal stores in its liver) and for some people this might be unacceptable. This is certainly not a plan for vegetarians.

About one-third of the book is devoted to a basic but understandable descriptions of the problem, and a detailed but easy to follow induction to the plan. The remaining two-thirds of the book gives easy to follow and delicious recipes.

The plan follows a seven week course. Week zero (as it is called) involves understanding your normal diet and rating the level of arthritic discomfort you experience. Week one is a clearing out phase with a one-day fast and the remaining days involving a pared down eating plan. There is a maintenance phase for a further week. After this the reader is encouraged to slowly introduce and test foods in a certain order. Again this is all laid out very simply and with no ambiguities about how to proceed. If someone is motivated to ditch the pain and inflammation they are experiencing I would expect, based on my experience with clients, that this is an easy plan to follow.

I like Marguerite Patten's accounts of her experiences which most people would identify with: "I did not enjoy giving up tea and coffee but discovered many other drinks instead", "I kept to the strict rules [then] I introduced the thing I missed most - oranges. I ate them sparingly and was fine;" when I started to have them 'ad lib' I noticed I had more pain," "I hated it [talking about the health drink] so I take the brewer's yeast as tablets and a spoonful of black treacle [molasses] before the milk."

We are reminded of other important points when controlling arthritis: to control weight, enjoy gentle exercise, learn to relax and sleep well and so on. Patten and Ewin are not claiming that diet will solve all a person's arthritic problems without taking a rounded approach to life, however as they rightly point out diet can be a significant contributing factor to arthritis and can therefore be used as a cornerstone of recovery.

All in all this book is compelling, readable, practical and workable. I recommend it highly.

About the ReviewerSuzannah Olivier is a nutritionist and health writer and contributes regularly to The Times. She is the author of a number of nutrition books including Allergy Solutions and The Detox Manual (Simon & Schuster Pocket Books £6.99 each). You can visit her website

Suzannah Olivier
ISBN 0-00-711619-5

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