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Sidestep Arthritis with a Better Gut Biome

By Carissa Andrews  •   April 30, 2018

Photo Credit: by Messi Lewi Flickr.com
Photo Credit: by Messi Lewi, Flickr.com

Arthritis, in all its various forms, affects 54.5 million adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and of those, 43.5% have limitations on their daily lives because of it. It’s estimated by 2040, 78.4 million adults over the age of 18 will have been diagnosed by a doctor with arthritis. An astonishing two-thirds of those will be women.

For most people, arthritis is a symptom of getting older. While arthritis can strike at any age, the majority of people diagnosed are 65 years or older, particularly for those with osteoarthritis. For those with rheumatoid arthritis, the average patient is diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60.

While the term arthritis is thrown around a lot, it simply speaks to joint inflammation. The term can also be associated with nearly 200 conditions ranging from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), to gout, to fibromyalgia, and even lupus. Arthritis describes conditions that affect joints and connective tissues surrounding the joints—though some like RA and lupus can affect the immune system and various internal organs.

Common causes for the development of arthritis:

• Joint injury (traumatic arthritis)

• Joint degeneration (osteoarthritis)

• Autoimmune response (such as rheumatoid arthritis)

How Can Diet Affect Arthritis?

Chances are, if you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis, you have osteoarthritis (OA). It’s one of the most common forms of arthritis because its caused by simple wear and tear on the joints. Cartilage exists to protect and cushions joints, so bones don’t collide. As we age, this cartilage can wear down, eventually leading to painful movement. The pain many people feel is directly related to the loss of cartilage in their joint as bone rubs on bone.

Cutting edge research has been linking unhealthy gut bacteria to the rise in osteoarthritis in higher income countries, such as the United States, Canada, and the UK. As it turns out, an unhealthy mix of bad bacteria is speeding up the breakdown process in cells—and particularly the cartilage in joints.

Because of this cartilage loss, OA sufferers develop symptoms, which typically include:

• stiff or sore joints, particularly after repetitive use or activity

• stiffness after resting—but improves throughout movement during the day

• pain that worsens after a fluster of activity or toward the close of a day

• bone spurs, bony enlargements, and limited range of motion

So how do you get an unhealthy gut biome? Junk food, high-fat fast-food diets are likely to blame. This type of diet not only causes obesity, but scientists are finding an explosion of bacteria that trigger inflammation. And guess what—inflammation leads to arthritis. When inflammation is high—the body triggers the immune response and can start attacking itself. This is also a leading issue for rheumatoid arthritis, since it’s not just caused by normal wear and tear the way osteoarthritis is.

Prevention Goes a Long Way

There are no treatments to slow or reverse osteoarthritis once the cartilage is worn away. Instead, your best line of defense is prevention. In order to prevent the inflammatory responses leading to arthritis and other health related issues, it’s important to be more aware of how you can assist your body in the reversal or prevention process. While it might not be possible to totally avoid all variations of arthritis, we can aid the body in some natural defenses so it’s not as receptive to overuse wear and tear, or even triggering the autoimmune flare ups. This includes:

• Eating healthy, anti-inflammatory foods and avoiding foods like:

o Unhealthy fats

o Hydrogenated oils

o Fried foods

o Organ meat

o Dairy products

o Processed carbohydrates

o Sugar

o Excessive sweet drinks

o Food flavorings

o Preservatives

o Artificial food dyes

• Maintaining a healthy weight (to avoid secondary osteoarthritis caused by too much mass)

• Cleanse and detoxify the body by drinking water or following your doctor’s advice on cleanses.

• Take supplements such as:

o Probiotics

o Prebiotics

o Omega 3s

o Antioxidants

o Ginger root

o Nettle leaf extract

o Glucosamine

o High dose vitamin C

• Exercising to strengthen joints and increase flexibility.

Interesting 2018 News on Arthritis

If you’re already in a position where arthritis has been diagnosed—and prevention is no longer a viable option, you may be interested to note some of these amazing recent breakthroughs in arthritis research. Let’s check them out.

In 2018, nanotechnology is making its way into the world of osteoarthritis. In recent studies, a nanopore device has been able to detect an OA biomarker. This could help patients to take better precautions and gear toward prevention, if the biomarkers are found. It may also help researchers develop new medications geared toward prevention, as well.

A new, flare-responsive hydrogel is being designed to release medication only when arthritis-related enzymes increase during flare-ups. It’s currently in preclinical trials, but will hopefully be advancing to human trials soon.

Non-surgical method to treat knee pain from osteoarthritis is undergoing clinical trials in the United States. So far, geniculate artery embolization (GAE), a minimally invasive, image-guided treatment appears to significantly reduce pain and improve range of motion for OA patients.

Another new development is in the world of genetic profiling—which may be the way of the future for RA patients looking to try new medications. Now, scientists are working toward being able to predict which drugs a patient will respond best to, based on their genetic profiles. This could potentially be linked to those who are predisposed to the bad bacteria—and the way they trigger the immune response.

While our diets may play a crucial role in whether or not we nudge our bodies toward arthritis, being forewarned is being forearmed. Doing what we can to protect our digestive system, and in particular, our gut biome so it manufactures healthy bacteria—and not inflammation causing bacteria is important. There are lots of ways to do this, and by taking extra precautions to prevent arthritis from taking hold is a smart way to manage current or future pain and live our lives as fully as possible.

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Carissa Andrews is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and author. You can learn more about her at her website.


The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.