- Michelle Schoffro Cook
- July 30, 2015
Anyone who has experienced the debilitating pain and inflammation of arthritis will tell you how much these symptoms can rob a person of the joy of living. Arthritis pain can interfere with the ability to perform even the simplest of tasks, and often prevents sufferers from getting that much-needed good night’s sleep that could help silence an overactive immune system and heal joints. When you think of addressing arthritis, you probably never give your gut a second thought. But you might want to.
Research now links gut bacteria and the resulting gut inflammation to rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine linked the prevalence of the harmful intestinal bacteria, Prevotella copri, to the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, which may set off an inflammatory response that begins in the gut—and may initiate rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers analyzed 144 stool samples from rheumatoid arthritis sufferers and healthy controls. They assessed gut bacteria between the two groups using DNA analysis and found that P. copri was more abundant in newly-diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients than healthy individuals or those with an established R.A. condition.
Additionally, the researchers also found that high levels of P. copri resulted in fewer beneficial gut bacteria in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, suggesting a gut flora imbalance affecting people with the condition. Since a gut flora imbalance can be naturally addressed, this research provides exciting news for arthritis sufferers since restoring beneficial gut bacteria may be a key to relief from the debilitating condition.
The NYU researchers built on the understanding established by earlier research published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. In this study, mice that were raised in germ-free conditions developed joint inflammation after the introduction of specific harmful gut bacteria. Study author, Dan Littman, MD, PhD, professor of pathology and immunology said that “studies of rodent models have clearly shown that the intestinal microbiota contribute significantly to the causation of systemic autoimmune diseases.”
This new avenue of research suggests possible new treatment options as well, good news for the estimated 50 million adults in the United States who have been diagnosed as having a form of arthritis, including: rheumatoid arthritis (R.A.), gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. While many categorize arthritis as an “older person’s disease,” this is a myth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an CDC estimates that 294,000 children under 18 have been diagnosed with some form of arthritic or rheumatic condition. Considering the vast and growing number of people suffering from this debilitating disease, any natural medicine that offers hope and relief is welcome.
Additional research in the journal Medical Science Monitor suggests that restoring beneficial bacteria in the gut may offer hope in improving joint function for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. In a study of 30 rheumatoid arthritis sufferers scientists at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, noted joint function improvement in those who took the specific probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus andLactobacillus reuteri compared to those given placebos. The researchers are uncertain as to why the probiotics improved joint function. There are no known harmful effects of supplementing with L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri other than some temporary bloating while the body adjusts to the beneficial bacteria.
It may be beneficial to add a probiotic supplement with these strains to the treatment regime of arthritis sufferers. Be sure to choose a supplement that contains the two beneficial strains identified in the study, as most do not. Also, since I am frequently asked if a person could just eat yogurt to glean the anti-arthritis benefits, it’s important to note that while yogurt may confer other benefits, it does not typically contain either of these strains.
For more information, consult my book The Probiotic Promise: Simple Steps to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out.