PHASE IV Functional Nutrition & Health
While scientists haven’t settled on a concrete cause for what causes rheumatoid arthritis, newer and newer research is pointing towards the microbiome in the gut.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system malfunctions and begins attacking the body, specifically the joints.
Many studies have shown that individuals with rheumatoid arthritis also tend to have more gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhea and bloating, compared to those that don’t have the condition. This may be due to higher levels of inflammation and reduced immunity due to the disease, and the use of powerful medications such as NSAIDs and corticosteroids to treat the condition.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Rheumatology showed that the risk of developing an upper or lower GI issue was 70% more likely in those with rheumatoid arthritis. These conditions may include ulcers, bleeding, diverticulitis and colitis.
In addition to the studies that have shown the frequency of GI issues amongst individuals with RA, there are also studies that are linking impaired gut health to the onset of RA.
A 2013 study by NYU Langone Medical Center showed a possible connection between a specific type of intestinal bacteria called Prevotella copra or P. copri. The study found more of this bacteria in people with rheumatoid arthritis than in healthy individuals. The overgrowth of P. Copri has been associated with fewer beneficial bacteria in the gut
Two thirds of the immune system lies in the gut, because it is responsible for destroying harmful microbes from the food we ingest so we don’t get sick. When digestive function is impaired due to gut dysbiosis – or an imbalance in gut bacteria – this can cause an immune reaction that will activate an inflammatory response in other parts of the body. Therefore digestive issues don’t always present as digestive symptoms. They can present as pain, weight gain, skin issues and other conditions.
So what causes alterations in our gut microbiome? An unhealthy diet, stress, less contact with healthy microbes in nature and heavy antibiotic use all impact the health of our gut and therefore our overall health. Scientists have found that over time, we have lost many of the beneficial microbes that used to inhabit our gut due to overuse of antibiotics and improved sanitation (yes…there are downsides to being too clean!)
According to a 2012 study from the Mayo Clinic, “identifying new biomarkers in intestinal microbial populations and maintaining a balance in gut bacteria could help physicians stop rheumatoid arthritis before it starts.”
There still is much research to be done. While scientists are sure of the link between gut bacteria and arthritis, they are not quite as confident about the specific role these bacteria play and how they cause the inflammation.
While the scientists and researchers are doing their job, there are still steps you can take right now to help support your gut microbiome and alleviate your arthritic pain.
Two studies published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2010 found that a RA patients that followed a strict vegan diet for three and a half months saw significant reductions in painful and swollen joints and morning stiffness compared to a control group. After a set time on a vegan diet, the patients went on a lacto-vegetarian diet (including dairy and eggs) and continued to see improvements.
Reduce inflammatory foods
Reducing or better yet eliminating common inflammatory foods such as sugar, gluten, dairy, fried and processed foods may be a good idea. Numerous studies have shown improvement in pain and inflammation from the elimination of these foods. While added sugars aren’t beneficial for anyone, it’s not necessary that everyone eliminate gluten and dairy. These are just the most common foods that often cause GI issues and inflammation due to their complex composition which often makes them difficult to digest. Instead load up on fresh whole foods and limit or avoid anything that is in a package with ingredients that don’t sound like real food.
Adopt a Mediterranean diet
A Mediterranean diet is primarily composed of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, seeds and fish. Numerous studies have shown the health benefits of this style of eating, including reduced risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. In addition, eating a diet rich in whole foods helps to supply your body with more of the beneficial bacteria it needs as well as the fiber to help support digestion.
Drink aloe vera juice
Various studies have shown a reduction in gut inflammation with the supplementation of Aloe Vera Juice. Aloe Vera Juice is not only anti-inflammatory, but also anti-microbial which can help to reduce infections in weak joints that are also causing pain. Start with 1/4 cup twice a day in between meals and gradually increase to 1/2 cup. Make sure you purchase the Inner Leaf, not the Whole Leaf and get a brand without any added sugars. Consult with your doctor, nutritionist or health care professional if you have any concerns regarding taking Aloe Vera Juice.
Take a high-quality probiotic or eat probiotic rich foods
Although the jury is still out on whether probiotics actually ever make it to the gut without being destroyed, there is research that shows benefits from taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. If you’re not keen on popping pills, consider adding small amounts of probiotic rich foods into your diet such as plain yogurt, kefir or sauerkraut.Want individualized support to get your health back on track? Call PHASE IV to schedule a complementary 30-minute consultation with our in-house Nutrition Specialist. Contact us at (310) 582-8212 or email us at info@phase-iv.COM