My GP referred me to a rheumatologist last year due to debilitating joint pain. When I was at my worst, the pain and stiffness in the joints of both my hands was severe enough that I could no longer open jars or peel potatoes. I also had pain in my elbows, hips, ankles and toes. I was convinced I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. My doctors ran all the standard tests for RA, all of which came back negative in my case.

At the same time, my younger sister, who had been on a raw vegan diet (really high in salicylates) received the same tentative diagnosis from a GP and underwent the same tests with the same results. Our joint pains were entirely caused by food intolerances. My sister and I are genetically very similar (we'd possibly pass as twins if I were not 10 years older!) and I believe our near-identical food intolerances and symptoms probably have a genetic basis.

I was free of joint pain within 3 days of changing my diet. My sister and I both reacted to gluten and salicylate challenges. My sister reacted to amines, which I am about to challenge myself, but my sister did not test dairy, given she is vegan for ethical reasons. I abandoned my lactose-free dairy challenge on day 3, due to pain developing in the joints of my fingers and right elbow again, as well as the re-emergence of acne and flushing in response to things like washing my face with plain water.

My own experiences of joint pain with respect to salicylates and dairy have made me wonder how many people have been unnecessarily prescribed immunosuppressant drugs for RA (the same ones my rheumatologist wanted me to take!) when perhaps they are simply salicylate sensitive or experiencing other food intolerances, a dangerous precedent given the potential side effects of these drugs - Amy