Arthritis is an extremely common condition all over the world, impacting over 52 million people in the United States alone. The term “arthritis” is an umbrella term for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, fibromyalgia and other joint inflammation. Arthritis is generally caused when there is an imbalance between the pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines (group of proteins and glycoproteins that mediate immunity and inflammation) in your body.
People who suffer from arthritis are often in constant pain in particular parts of their body. Most commonly, arthritis is found in hands, elbows, knees and hips.
Unfortunately, there are countless factors that can cause arthritis and this makes it difficult to treat. Today however, we want to specifically address the correlation between gut health, inflammation and arthritis.
“All disease begins in the gut” – Hippocrates
Arthritis, Gut Bacteria, and Inflammation
Altered gut bacteria has been studied for years and it continues to be the most common environmental trigger in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Contrary to popular belief, arthritis is not a part of the natural aging process, it is a degenerative process that is triggered by external factors and leads the body down a painful, debilitating path.
So, if you ever hear someone say that arthritis is just an inevitable part of aging, do not listen to them! There are so many things you can do to prevent, ease and even treat your arthritis pain.
Here’s a small glimpse of what arthritis really does to us as a country:
As you might know, there are good bacteria and bad bacteria in our body, some of which induce inflammation and some of which protect your body from said inflammation!
The gut bacteria called, Prevotella genus has been found altered in most people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune form of arthritis). This bacteria along with thousands of others plays a large role in protecting us against numerous health conditions involving the immune system, brain function, mood disorders and even hormonal health. When disturbed, this bacteria is incapable of fulfilling its responsibilities and can no longer protect the body properly. In fact, when the body’s bacterium is altered, it loses its ability to support the immune system, making the body extremely vulnerable to incoming bacteria, viruses and inflammatory conditions. In this respect, your gut health is completely intertwined with inflammation and arthritis!
Without a functioning defense mechanism, your body is subject to body-wide inflammation, including muscle and joint swelling. In fact, the inflammation surrounding someone’s joints often begins years before they’re diagnosed with arthritis. When inflammation in your body is left untreated your bones and cartilage will slowly erode.
What Can be Done?
Technology has allowed us to draw these conclusions, but now the real focus must shift to a proactive, protective stance on gut bacteria. There are many elements that diminish gut health and trigger inflammation, such as the following:
- Cesarean sections (prevent baby from acquiring essential stomach bacteria)
- Diets lacking in essential minerals and vitamins
- Diets high in refined sugars, wheat, and processed foods
- Lifestyle choices (alcohol, lack of exercise, GMO foods, injury)
Focusing on gut health and the protection of intestinal bacteria will lead to a heightened defense against inflammation and arthritis pain. In order to take preventative measures against arthritis, you need to strengthen your gut bacteria and inhibit the damage caused by outside threats and free radicals.
As you’ve read, arthritis is a serious disease that merits your full attention. Too many people make these common misconceptions when it comes to arthritis:
Preventative Measure Against Arthritis:
1. Probiotic Supplements
Taking an organic probiotic supplement will help your good gut bacteria flourish. These supplements are extra important if you do not maintain a healthy diet, as refined sugars will attack your naturally provided gut bacteria.
A study involving two control groups; one taking probiotics and one taking a placebo, showed that anti-inflammatory cytokines were increased and inflammatory cytokines were decreased in only the group taking the probiotic. These results are very promising, so we recommend a chat with your family physician about probiotic supplements!
2. Eliminate Inflammatory Foods
Try to decrease or eliminate refined sugars, wheat, processed foods and fried foods from your diet. All of these foods will break down your natural gut bacteria, making it difficult for your body to defend itself against unwanted bacteria and viruses. Refined sugars actually nourish the fungi and pathogenic bacteria that can harm your stomach and intestines.
In addition, these foods are supporting, if not causing obesity in America. Being overweight puts added stress on your joints and muscles, which leads to inflammation as well.
3. Increase Anti-inflammatory foods
Maintaining a healthy diet seems like a daunting task, but in reality, eating foods like lean meats, fish, vegetables, herbs and fruits will allow your body to target inflammation, and thus take a protective stance against arthritis pain.
More discreetly, these foods also provide your body with the essential minerals and vitamins to maintain and even boost your immune system, which will aid in fighting off inflammation as well.
If you need more information on anti-inflammatory diets, an incredibly simple guideline and delicious diet is the Mediterranean diet.
4. Increase Fermented Foods
Often overlooked, fermented foods contain a high good bacteria content, which will boost the strength of your natural gut bacteria. Kimchi, tepeh, organic yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut are excellent sources, however you must also watch your sodium intake!
These fermented foods improve your natural digestion process, which allows you to expel harmful toxins and free radicals that can contribute towards inflammation.
5. Avoid Hand Sanitizers and Cleansers
Overusing hand sanitizer will leave your body vulnerable. It strengthens dangerous bacteria by killing off the protective bacteria from your first line of defence against foreign matter, your skin. Eventually, overuse may also create sanitizer resistant bacteria that your body cannot hope to fight. This leaves you in a dangerous spot because you’ll be ill-equipped to stave off inflammation inducing microbes.
Overusing hand sanitizer will leave your body vulnerable. It strengthens dangerous bacteria, eventually creating sanitizer resistant bacteria that your body and the sanitizer cannot hope to fight. This leaves your immune system in a dangerous spot, unequipped and open to inflammation inducing viruses.
6. Spend Time Outdoors
Spending time outdoors, traveling, spending time with children and pets exposes us to a wide range of bacteria and eventually our bodies are able to build up a strong immunity to a diverse grouping of bacteria. This strength will leave us well equipped when we’re faced with arthritis inflammation.
Spending time outdoors, participating in activities and hobbies will also decrease your stress levels. Stress is one of the leading factors of inflammation in the body; even little lifestyle changes have a large impact on your health.
7. Protect Your Joints
Many people assume that all physical activity and stretching is good for physical health, however if you’re not treating your body as a unique case, you could be doing more harm than good. Simple exercises like this could have the potential to go a long way:
Before you settle on a workout routine, make an appointment with a personal trainer to ensure that you’re doing the right exercises for your body type, past injuries and abilities. Always listen closely when you’re learning about stretching, it can make you or break your, quite literally. Proper stretching can improve your mobility, agility and strength, while improper stretching can cause irreparable damage!
First and foremost, learn as much as you can on the subject so that you can spot the signs and symptoms early. As mentioned above, the best way to approach arthritis is from a preventative stance and this means maintaining a diet and lifestyle that promotes immune function and inhibits inflammation.
Preventative lifestyle time… Ready, set go!
1. The Gut and Athritis. The evidence grows. Rheumatology. Medscape Today: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Rheumatology/Arthritis/49074
2. Scher J, Abramson S. The microbiome and rheumatoid arthritis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3275101/
3. Scher et al. Expansion of intestinal Prevotella copri correlates with enhanced susceptibility to arthritis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24192039
4. Kohn D. Joint Pain, From the Gut: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/joint-pain-from-the-gut/383772/
5. Arthritis. Centre for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis_related_stats.htm
6. Pattison Dj, Symons DP, Young A. Does diet have a rle in the aetilogy of rheumatoid arthritis? Proc Nutr Soc. 2004 Feb;63(1):137-43. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15099410
7. Pinto et al. Effects of physical exercise on inflammatory markers of atherosclerosis. Curr Pharm Des.2012;18(28):4326 49. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22390642
8. Motivala Sj, et al. Stress activation of cellular markers of inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis: protective effects of tumor necrosis factor alpha antagonists. Arthritis Rheum. 2008 Feb;58(2):376-83 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18240230
9. Galland L. Diet and Inflammation. Nutr Clin Pract.2010 Dec;25(6):634-40. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21139128
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