Why I’m going on a strict anti-inflammation diet


It started a few months ago, and it was just a small nuisance at first.  I would wake up in the morning noticing that my ring finger on my right hand was slightly stiff.  I noticed a little soreness during the day.  Eventually ‘slightly stiff’ became so stiff I can’t bend it at all when I first wake up and the ‘little soreness’ gave way to all-out pain.

One silly little finger.  I’m experiencing stiffness, pain, and joint swelling in one finger.  It’s getting progressively worse each week and not showing signs of slowing down or getting better.  When I wake up in the morning, I can hardly use it at all for a good ten minutes.  It is stiff, swollen, and very painful.  I have to use my other hand to try to bend it and get it working. When I’m making my breakfast and coffee I tend to drop things because I can’t form a grip to hold on to whatever I need.  Not good when I have sleeping kids upstairs.  Throughout the day I feel pain when I’m trying to do simple, everyday tasks like twist the tops off of jars, get Luke dressed, and make beds.

I asked a doctor friend to look at it. While he isn’t a hand specialist, he is an orthopedic guy and I thought his opinion might help me figure out what was going on before taking the plunge and going to my own doctor. (We only have coverage for well visits, so we have to pay full price for office visits.)  He basically said it was inflammation, possibly arthritis that was coming out early in one finger that was injured when I was younger. I did play basketball from a young age and jammed my fingers a lot, so his explanation is plausible.

When he recommended I go and see a hand specialist, I asked what he thought that type of doctor would do.  Tim chimed in that the doctor would probably tell me to take ibuprofen.  Our doctor friend agreed that yes, that’s probably what I’d be told at first.  Eh, I think I’ll skip that visit.

So here I am, with symptoms of arthritis.  Taking ibuprofen might help my finger feel better, but I’m not interested in putting a band-aid on my issue.  Also, you all probably know me well enough by now to know that I’m not really an over-the-counter medicine kind of girl.  I like to keep it natural.  I will be trying my darndest to fight this early arthritis (or whatever it is, clearly caused by inflammation) naturally, through diet.

Deciding to go on a strict anti-inflammation diet was a hard one for me.  I’m not a diet person, so even using that term is tough for me.  I like the mantra ‘everything in moderation’ when it comes to food, and it was really tough for me to accept that perhaps my already-pretty-healthy diet was contributing to this inflammation and pain.

I’m not willing to let this go and see what happens, though.  Whether this is the beginning of arthritis or some other auto-immune disease, I really don’t want to find out.  I will do everything in my power to not let whatever is happening develop any more.

Researching the anti-inflammatory diet was frustrating.  As with everything in nutrition, there’s tons of contradictory information out there.  I don’t know which side is right.  Nobody does, for sure.  I mapped out my plan based on what I read over a variety of sources.  Here’s an overview of the major changes I’ll be making:

  • Cut out all sugar, including natural sugars like honey and maple syrup.
  • Cut out all processed foods.  (I don’t eat a lot of them, but I wasn’t 100% processed food free, either)
  • Cut out most flour.
  • Cut out gluten.
  • Drastically reduce the amount of animal products I’m eating, except eggs.
  • Increase fatty fish consumption.
  • Decrease use of all oils. Cut out grape seed oil.  Only use extra-virgin olive oil in strict moderation, and not for cooking to avoid hitting its smoke point (too hard for me to control, so I’d just rather not cook with it for now.)
  • Decrease coffee consumption and increase green tea consumption.
  • Eat foods and herbs that are anti-inflammatory everyday, including ginger and turmeric.

Yes, this is a drastic thing. There are a few occasions I already know I won’t be following it 100% (Easter brunch, for example), but other than that I plan to follow this strict anti-inflammation diet for eight weeks.  My goal right now is to get rid of the pain in my finger through diet.  If it works, I will have to reevaluate how I eat and decide where to go from there.

I plan to keep you updated after a month and at the end of the eight weeks.  Is there anything else you’d like to hear about?  Meal plans or anything like that?  Let me know!  Also, if any of you or your loved ones have fought arthritis or other ailments caused by inflammation through diet, I’d love to hear your stories.  Thanks!




  1. Lisa says

    I’d love to hear about what you actually are eating/enjoying. A typical day’s worth of meals is always interesting. Hope it goes well for you and you get the problem solved.

  2. says

    Maryea, I don’t think your decision to try this anti-inflammation diet is too extreme. I embarked on a similar journey in February and it was the best thing I’ve done. I won’t lie, it was pretty difficult the first two weeks, mostly for two reasons: (1) i had to figure out how to cook new things; (2) i missed sugar (I eventually added dark chocolate back in). Good luck on your new way of eating, I know you’ll feel much better after you change what you eat. Just removing processed foods is a great idea!

    • Maryea says

      Sugar will probably be the hardest for me. I have such a sweet tooth! I know from cutting it out in the past, though, that the cravings will go away once my body is used to it. Really looking forward to getting to that point!

  3. says

    Since my husband was diagnosed with cancer we follow a diet very similar to yours (a little bit stricter, but similar). However, when I eat gluten I wake up the next morning with swollen fingers (not painful). I can’t see them being swollen, but I feel them this way. It is a weird feeling. The moment I do not eat gluten for a few days I wake up with “normal feeling fingers”.

    Make I make a suggestion? I would increase the amount healthy fats. You already mentioned fish and eggs, but I am also thinking of avocadoes and avocado oil, olives, nuts, seeds, and coconut oil. Taking an omega 3 fish oil every day (at least 1 g) is also anti-inflammatory. As is vitamin C (at least 2 g a day).

    One more suggestion: can you look into nightshades and their impact on arthritis? Here is a link: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=62. Maybe just removing those (and possibly gluten), while adding anti-inflammatory foods, spices, and supplements can make a big difference.

    I hope your finger gets well :)! It’s no fun to have to deal with a painful finger and trying to take care of kids and many other things.

    • Maryea says

      That’s really interesting about how gluten affects you! I didn’t mention the healthy fats because that won’t be a change for me. I eat tons of avocados, nuts, seeds, and coconut. I had never tried avocado oil, though, and just bought some this week actually to try on salads. I remember reading about nightshades but I’ll have to look into it more. Thanks for the link!

  4. says

    Food is medicine! I am all in favor of tweaking your diet to improve your health, there no harm in eliminating and experimenting to figure it out.

    That said, I have to tell you that I’ve had wrist issues twice in the last couple years. The first was when I was newly pregnant with Kaz (so it was probably hormonal) and my wrist pain was SO severe I couldn’t do anything with my left hand and went to see my PCP because the onset was pretty sudden. I wore a stiff wrist brace for a few days and then just at night for a few more days, it eventually went away completely.

    Then in January of this year I got a ganglion cyst in my (other) wrist that’s been intermittently painful and has effected my yoga practice some and household tasks too (like putting on my bra, although that’s not really a household task!) and I’ve been trying all sorts of homeopathic remedies to get it to go away and scouring the web for other solutions. I read something that lead me to believe I should try the brace method again, and it’s totally working. There’s something about forcing the joint to rest so it can heal… so while I’m all in favor of dietary changes, I HIGHLY recommend spending a few bucks at your local drug store or pharmacy on a brace that will support your finger (or maybe even your whole hand?) and allow (force!) it to rest and not bend at all for a few days/nights. In my experience, even if you try to just take it easy without a brace, you still end up using it and it doesn’t completely get a break. My ganglion cyst is still there but it’s smaller and doesn’t hurt at all anymore. I put the brace on before bed and take it off in the morning… I’m afraid to stop because it’s working so well! :)

    Good luck and definitely keep us posted! I hope you find some relief soon.

  5. says

    I admire you for stepping up to the plate & changing your diet. My grandma has arthritis & I’ve seen how much pain she is in sometimes. Definitely something to avoid if at all possible! I’m excited to hear updates. It will be great to hear about what you discover!

  6. rebecca says

    Do you have psoriasis in your family at all? The reason I ask is that my psoriatic arthritis began like that – one swollen digit (dactylitis is what it looks like in this type of arthritis). I’m not the biggest fan of doctors for covering up symptoms either–but I encourage you to go in and get it checked out if it continues! It’s good to know exactly what’s going on that’s causing it.

  7. Michelle says

    Wow – interesting and very intriguing. I hope the diet change brings some relief and clarity. I would love to read about your daily eats and definitely a check in after a few weeks.

    Good luck!

  8. Marieke says

    Hi Maryea!

    I love getting your updates and really appreciate your joyful energy and recipes!
    Since you prefer the all natural/holistic root, I wanted to suggest you look into seeing an osteopath and an acupuncturist, in case you haven’t already. While I fully prescribe to the motto that “food is medicine”, I also think you probably eat pretty healthy already, so your finger pain may be triggered by something else going on inside you. That is why I love osteopathy and acupuncture so much as they both address the whole body from a completely holistic view (organs, blood flow, energy meridians, and even emotional issues).

    I have had incredible results with both (fertility issues, back pain, general well-being). I cannot recommend them as potential treatments enough! If ever you want some more detailed info about my experience, feel free to reach out!

    In any case, I hope your finger gets better!!!

    • Maryea says

      I have been trying to find a doctor who takes a holistic approach, but it doesn’t seem to be easy around here. I’m definitely on the search, though! Thanks for your input, I appreciate it!

  9. Rebecca says

    It sounds like you might have carpal tunnel. My carpal tunnel started out in my fingers. I would wake up with pain and stiffness and was unable to bend my fingers. If its your pinky or ring finger something is compressing you ulnar nerve. The classic signs of carpal tunnel are waking up in the morning with pain and stiffness, difficulty opening jars and dropping things often. You listed all of these things. Also, because of your age arthritis is unlikely. The best thing is to wear a wrist brace to bed so your wrist does not bend at night. I ended up going to occupational therapy and she molded me a brace to fit my hand perfectly so it was more comfortable. She also gave me excercies to do to keep the muscles strong. When your nerves are compressed, your muscles stop working right. If it is not corrected you will end up with atrophy of that nerve/muscle. It’s important that you rest the wrist and support it, especially at night. Don’t open jars or kneed dough or do push ups or anything that strains your wrist. You are on the right track with this diet. It is most likely inflammation causing the compression. I ended up having surgery on my right hand just so i could have one hand that worked but my left hand has gotten a lot better since I stopped breast feeding. My issue was my body retaining fluid after I had a c-section and was breast feeding.
    I hope this info helps you. Good luck with your diet!

    • Maryea says

      Thanks for the insight. I’ll look into carpal tunnel more. I appreciate you sharing your experiences.

  10. says

    Definitely meal plans. I have some health issues I’m dealing with myself, and while I find lots of inspiration in blogs, I have such trouble figuring out what the heck to eat on a daily basis. Also, how do you do this with kids? Will you feed them exactly the same as you’re eating? And what about your husband? Thanks for sharing your experience! I hope your finger feels much better soon.

    • Maryea says

      So far I have been tweaking meals for them. I’ll definitely get a post together sharing how it’s working for us.

  11. Liz says

    I’m so sorry to hear about your finger and all the struggles you’ve been going through because of it. :( How do you feel about taking supplements? I only ask because there are a handful of supplements that seem to work really well for fighting inflammation and helping with arthritis, two of which you already mentioned in the changes you would be making to your diet — fish oil and turmeric. While you’ll be trying to add those in more via food, I suggest supplementing, at least in the beginning, only because you’ll get a more concentrated dose of the stuff, consistently. I’ve also heard of MSM and hyaluronic acid being good for arthritis and stiffness, and, of course, glucosamine chondroitin. I can recommend a good fish oil, if you decide to go that route, and several online stores that sell it at a good price. (The sites also carry the other supplements mentioned if you were so inclined.)
    It sounds like you have a good game plan, and I’m hoping the dietary changes begin to take effect and bring on some improvement sooner rather than later. Please keep us updated on your progress. :)

    PS I’m not too familiar with arthritis, but I’m wondering if you’ve tried or looked into heat therapy for your finger? I’ve read that it can be helpful. It certainly can’t hurt, and it’s cheap, easy, and something you can start implementing today. Perhaps you can look into gettng yourself some heat gloves. Maybe even some lotion gloves would help, at least for now. Do you have a pair of those?

    • Maryea says

      Hi Liz–I feel okay about supplements. I think I’ll try the diet first and then look into having to add supplements as a next step. I did read about how fish oil and MSM can help arthritis pain. Thanks for your suggestions, and I might be asking for specific recommendations soon.

  12. Tonja says

    I would definitely love to see meal plans and hear about how you feel as the weeks go on. I am always so impressed by someone who has the self discipline to do something like this. Maybe the hardest is the first few weeks and then it starts to become routine. Best of luck and keep us updated! Tonja

  13. says

    Wow–this is really perfect timing. I’ve been dealing with stiff/swollen fingers (mostly in my right hand, not left) and I literally thought I was getting arthritis. My friends even said they look swollen. I just couldn’t figure out any possible reason why, especially because I’m so healthy! I guess I should be following this diet, too! Except I could never do it….no coffee, sugar, or oil? That sounds so tough! I’m really anxious to hear what you eat and how it effects you. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Maryea says

      I’m not totally cutting out coffee! :) Just decreasing so I can drink more green tea. I needed to do that anyway, this was a perfect excuse. I’ll keep you updated if it helps.

  14. April says

    Have you tried straight tumeric pills? They really help w/ inflammation and arthritis. Then you don’t have to give up anything. If this diet was mine I can promise I wouldn’t even make it one meal let alone a day.

    • Maryea says

      I’ve made it a week already and I already see significant improvement. I didn’t expect to see improvement so quickly. Because of that, I’m determined to keep going! It’s not as hard as I thought it might be. :)

  15. says

    I’ve had a lot of luck cutting out sugar, dairy, corn, and most wheat. I eat lots of rice, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and feel a lot better overall. But most importantly, my eczema is really under control now.

    I think it’s not easy to exclude any food completely but I do my best. I really hope that this works for you too!

    Also look into taking seabuckthorne oil, which has done wonders for my arthritis, skin, and hair, and general health!

  16. says

    I read several of your posts and felt that I share your approach to healthy living (eating, exercising, etc.). I am passionate about simple, wholesome nutrition and being persistent, though realistic, with workouts. However this post really surprised me. You chose not to see a doctor and have testing done on the assumption that they won’t take you seriously? And instead experiment with rather drastic nutritional changes, basically in the dark? I agree that some doctors may shrug a patient off, but there are plenty of competent doctors out there. Once you are certain about your condition, dietary changes can be beneficial…

    • Maryea says

      No, I wouldn’t say my assumption is they won’t take me seriously. My assumption is that I won’t get a specific diagnosis and that the answer will be to manage the pain rather than get to the root of the problem. Perhaps that isn’t a valid assumption, but it’s been my experience with mainstream doctors. I will definitely see a doctor if these changes don’t take the pain away completely. After just over one week, however, I’ve already seen an improvement. I have more range of motion and less overall pain. I will have to see if the improvement continues or plateaus. If I don’t see it continue, then I’ll go to a doctor and hope for a better experience than I’ve had in the past.

  17. Julietta says

    Hi Maryea,
    I was reading your post and reached the “I don’t like to put a band aid on the problem” part. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory as well as a painkiller. Arthritis is caused (essentially) by long term inflammation, which causes damage to you over time. I understand and respect your decision to avoid over-the-counter drugs (I’m reluctant to reach for them myself), but in this case, you wouldn’t be just covering up the problem with a painkiller, but potentially slowing the process of damage from the inflammation. You clearly do your homework, so I thought I’d add this snippet to your research :)

    Good luck with your new diet, I very much hope your finger gets better!

    • Maryea says

      Hi Julietta! Thanks for your thoughts. I should have also added that I’m reluctant to take over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, especially over a long period of time, because of its side effects. From what I understand, long term use can cause severe intestinal damage as well as damage to the liver and kidneys. So I’m hoping to reduce inflammation in a more natural way.

  18. Stephanie says

    Hi Maryea,

    This post came at perfect timing for me, thank you. God is so good!
    Can you share more on the oils? You said you eat coconuts, does that mean the oil too? Is coconut oil ok? Which oils did you cut out?
    Also would you be able to share a list of foods that are anti inflammatory?
    Thank you and i pray you feel 100% better asap!


  1. […] and grains a bit to help keep inflammation under control, so a grain-free bun it was!  (Read this post about the anti-inflammation diet I went on last year and why it helped me.)  Some roasted baby carrots and fresh strawberries round […]

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