Arthritis can make our joints hurt and affect our ability to move. But did you know that there might be a connection between arthritis and the health of our gut? Our gut is home to trillions of tiny organisms, that help with digestion and our health. Recent studies suggest that problems in our gut could be linked to arthritis. Let’s explore how taking care of our gut may help with arthritis symptoms.
The Gut Microbiome
Our gut has different types of bacteria and microorganisms that keep us healthy. We call this collection of microorganisms our “gut microbiome.”
Our gut microbiome play an important role in keeping our digestive system working well and our immune system strong. When there is an imbalance in our gut microbiome, it may contribute to the development or worsening of arthritis.
Inflammation and Autoimmunity
The immune system plays a vital role in regulating inflammation.
When our immune system malfunctions, it can trigger autoimmune responses, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues.
Our gut microbiome has a close relationship with our immune system. Imbalances in gut bacteria may trigger an overactive immune response that may worsen arthritis symptoms.
The Gut-Arthritis Connection
Researchers believe that our gut bacteria can affect arthritis in a few ways.
Some bacteria can produce substances that either increase or decrease inflammation in our body.
When there is an imbalance in our gut bacteria, it may lead to more inflammation. This can worsen arthritis symptoms.
If our gut barrier is not working, harmful substances may sneak into our bloodstream and reach our joints, causing more inflammation.
A study published in 2013 in the U.S. found that people with rheumatoid arthritis were much more likely to have a bug called Prevotella copri present in their gut than people that did not have the disease.
Another study, completed in 2015, found that patients with psoriatic arthritis had significantly lower levels of other types of gut bacteria.
These findings suggest that certain bacteria may be linked to triggering the autoimmune response that leads to joint inflammation.
Studies have also found that ‘leaky gut syndrome’, or other gastrointestinal problems, could trigger flare ups in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Managing Arthritis through Gut Health
While more research is needed, there are things we can do to support a healthy gut and potentially ease arthritis symptoms.
Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fibre, whole foods, and probiotics (found in foods like yogurt and sauerkraut) can promote a diverse and healthy gut microbiome.
It’s also a good idea to limit processed foods, sugary treats, and artificial additives.
In some cases, healthcare professionals may suggest taking probiotic supplements to help restore a healthy gut balance. Remember to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements.
Go with your gut feeling
The connection between arthritis and gut health is an exciting area of research. While we are still learning more, taking care of our gut can be beneficial for managing arthritis symptoms.
By eating a healthy diet and using probiotics, we can support a healthy gut microbiome. Remember to always consult with healthcare professionals for personalised advice. By looking after our gut, we may improve our arthritis symptoms and overall well-being.
If you need support and guidance with your diet, it is a good idea to consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD). An APD will help to ensure you are receiving adequate nutrition to maintain good health. Visit the Dietitians Association of Australia website: www.daa.asn.au to find an APD near you.
- Conlon MA et al. (2014) The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health. Nutrients. 2015, 7, 17-44.
- Scher JU et al. (2013) Expansion of intestinal Prevotella copri correlates with enhanced susceptibility to arthritis. Elife. 2013 November; 5;2.
- Scher JU et al. (2015) Decreased bacterial diversity characterizes the altered gut microbiota in patients with psoriatic arthritis, resembling dysbiosis in inflammatory bowel disease. Arthritis Rheumatology. January; 67(1):128-39.
- Stewart A (2009) Leaky Gut Syndrome. Foods Matter, 2009 Feb: 8-9.
Health Promotions Coordinator