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Is Bacteria Responsible for Rhumatoid Arthritis?

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New studies have shown just how important the right balance of bacteria in the intestines is for overall health. A few studies have linked bacteria levels with some cases of rheumatoid arthritis . Find out more about the connection below.

According to recent studies, the bacteria in the intestinal system plays a huge role in a variety of health conditions- both in protecting the immune system and even preventing or causing autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.

A 2014 study conducted by the Queensland Diamantina Institute examined the possible link between ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and pediatric enthesitis-related arthritis (ERA). Read on to see how the health of the intestinal tract may influence the chances of developing various forms of arthritis.

AS Study Details

The researchers examined the microbiota of study participants with AS. The study found that individuals with AS had a greater diversity of intestinal microbiota and a higher abundance of intestinal microbes which are linked with severe intestinal inflammation. When compared with the control group, it was found that AS patients had higher levels of these unhealthy bacteria than the control group.

The most common overabundance of bacteria included Bacteroidaceae, Ruminococcaceae, Lachnospiraceae, Rikenellaceae, and Porphyromonadaceae. According to previous studies, both Lachnospiraceae and Prevotellaceae are associated with a higher risk of developing colitis and Crohn’s disease.

The study authors concluded, “It is possible that the changes are due to effects of AS itself on the gut microbial profile, or that immunogenetic associations of AS affect the microbial profile in a manner that is independent of the mechanisms by which it causes AS."

According to this study, addressing the balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract may be an effective, non-invasive treatment for AS. The study authors stated that currently, up to 70 percent of AS patients have intestinal issues and inflammation as well as a higher gut permeability.

ERA Study Details

A recent study has also suggested that the balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract may also influence a child’s possibility of developing enthesitis-related arthritis (ERA). The researchers listed an imbalance of gut bacteria as a “trigger” for developing the disease. According to the study researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, ERA is the child arthritis equivalent of AS in adults.

The researchers found that children with ERA had lower levels of Faecalibacterium genus organisms in the gut than the control group. Healthy children had 10 percent F. prausnitzii microbes while children with ERA had only 3.8 percent F. prausnitzii microbes.

Just like the study with AS in adults, the miss-match in bacteria levels are linked with inflammatory bowel diseases in children. The study researchers concluded, "The human intestine is colonized with an estimated 100 trillion bacteria, a process that begins shortly after birth.

It is becoming increasingly clear that these bacteria play important roles in immune function as well as in a variety of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders.” The study is one of “"the first comprehensive evaluation of the microbiota in pediatric or adult [spondyloarthritis], confirming a potential role for insufficient protective F. prausnitzii in the pathogenesis of ERA and introducing potential novel bacteria as associative agents," the study authors noted.

The authors concluded that altering the gut bacteria in children could reduce their ERA symptoms and benefit their overall health.

What this Means for Rheumatoid Arthritis

These two studies, as well as numerous other similar studies, are part of a new wave of research which shows just how important maintaining the right balance of bacteria is for the overall health of the body. Far from being the complete enemy, some bacteria have extremely beneficial roles in the body. A lack of these bacteria can trigger chronic inflammation, which can lead to the development of autoimmune disorders like RA.

Both children and adults with RA may find that simply altering the bacteria level in the stomach and strengthening the immune system may reduce arthritis symptoms and control pain and stiffness levels.

6 Steps to Improve Gut Health

If altering the kind of bacteria in the gut can reduce a person’s chances of having arthritis symptoms, what steps can someone with arthritis take to reduce their symptoms? Luckily, there are several steps that both children and adults can take to balance the bacteria in the gut and restore optimal health. Take the following steps to reset your intestinal tract:

Take Probiotics

One of the best ways to restore the right bacterial balance in the stomach and intestines is to re-introduce healthy bacteria in the form of probiotics. Probiotics contain strains of bacteria that are beneficial for the immune system, digestion, and general everyday health. Some probiotics contain just a few strains of bacteria, while others contain millions of strains. Try a few brands to find the ideal balance for your intestinal tract. If this is your first time taking probiotics, start with a half-dose or else the probiotics might upset your stomach. After a few days, gradually introduce larger doses and your stomach will most likely feel just fine.

Take Anti-Inflammatory Supplements

A few supplements have been scientifically linked to improving both RA and OA symptoms. According to Everyday Health, the following supplements are some of the most effective for RA:

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is essential for the protection of bone health. Getting enough vitamin C can ensure that your cartilage remains healthy and strong.

MSM: Studies show that MSM can reduce and eliminate arthritis pain.

Copper: According to research, copper is an effective anti-inflammatory. A study from 1988 conducted by the Xavier University of Louisiana found that copper was as effective as aspirin in reducing arthritis-related inflammation.

Omega 3 fats: According to numerous studies, omega 3 fats have a powerful inflammation-fighting effect in the body. Studies show that supplementing with omega-3 fats can help reduce arthritis pain and stiffness.

Chondroitin Sulfate: This ingredient is found naturally in cartilage. Supplementing with this ingredient can fight the breakdown of cartilage and normalize joint fluids to prevent friction in the joints.

Other Beneficial Supplements
  • SAM-e
  • Turmeric, ginger, and saffron
  • MSM
  • Devil’s claw
  • Glucosamine
  • BioCell Collagen
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • GLA
  • B vitamins

Eat Fermented Foods

Probiotics can only take you so far down the path of restoring your gut bacteria balance. Foods that are naturally fermented are more effective at balancing the bacterial levels in the intestinal tract. You can ferment almost anything with a fermenting kit, or you can try adding the following foods to your diet (just make sure they are actually fermented as many companies have exchanged fermenting for added vinegar)

Fermented Foods to Try
  • Pickles
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Fish paste
  • Fermented cod liver oil
  • Unpasteurized beer
  • Sourdough bread
  • Unpasteurized cheese
  • Fermented milk
  • Soybean paste

Clean the Diet

Research cited by Web MD states that a healthy diet can influence the bacterial levels in the stomach. In 2013, researchers monitored the stool of two study participants daily for a year. The researchers found that the bacteria in the stool was influenced by what the individual had eaten in the previous days. The study authors found that bad bacteria levels could skyrocket quickly during illnesses, but usually returned to healthy levels once the person returned to a healthy diet. This indicates that by eating a healthy diet, a person can reduce the number of unhealthy bacteria in the intestinal tract.

In general, start by eating food that is sustainably grown and raised with as little antibiotics, pesticides, and other modifications as possible. Ideally, food should be organically raised. Stick to a large proportion of vegetables, fruit, and meat in the diet with fewer instances of sweets and junk food. Avoid junk food and processed foods when possible to provide the best base for your healing gut. Add in a mix of both cooked and raw produce, sustainably raised meat sources, and healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, pasture-raised butter, and organic animal fat for a healthy balance that is beneficial bacteria-friendly.

Exercise Regularly

According to Harvard Health, regular exercise can go a long way toward improving the digestive system. When combined with other gut-healing steps, you prepare your intestinal tract to regulate and fight inflammation. In addition to aiding in proper digestion, exercise also helps prevent obesity, which is also linked to chronic inflammation.

Ease Up on Medications

Some medications can also alter the bacteria levels in your stomach and intestinal tract. Antibiotics, in particular, mess with the bacteria levels in the gut. However, other medications can also alter bacteria levels simply because of the effects they have on the body’s systems. Even seemingly innocuous medications like over-the-counter painkillers can have a devastating effect on the bacteria in the stomach. When trying to reset the balance of bacteria in the body, avoid taking medication that is not absolutely necessary to maintain your current state of health.

Always consult with your doctor before removing any prescription medications from your diet.

Curing Arthritis from the Inside Out

These new studies indicate just how important the right bacterial balance in the body really is. By re-balancing the bacteria in the intestinal tract, you may be able to relieve some of the symptoms and causes of RA and other inflammatory problems. Chronic inflammation is never good for the body- and arthritis may be the painful, stiff consequence of a chronically unhealthy lifestyle. Try these 6 steps today and your arthritis symptoms should fade within just a few weeks.





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