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Gut Arthritis Connection

May 18, 2022

 

How does your Gut Health affect Arthritis?

 

In the United States approximately 58.5 million people have arthritis. The chances of you knowing someone with arthritis are extremely high, even higher than the yearly diagnoses of cancer. Furthermore, more than 100 million Americans have chronic pain. To say this is an epidemic would almost be an understatement. I find that those suffering from chronic pain have been overshadowed in recent years by the opioid epidemic. Now, don’t get me wrong - the opioid epidemic is just as real, and just as serious. However, it has also left those with chronic pain feeling left out. Visits to the doctors office can be very uncomfortable, and those in chronic pain may be left feeling like their doctor only thought they were a drug seeker. Their pain is not being appropriately addressed and their concerns are not heard. This can leave a person feeling confused and uncared for. 

 

The Good News

 

The good news is that the research in arthritis hasn’t stopped. More and more ways to treat and manage arthritis and chronic pain are coming into the limelight. Newer therapies such as limbic system retraining, regenerative injections, and functional medicine are all very promising. Today I want to talk with you specifically about how gut health and the microbiome are related to arthritis. 

 

The GALT

 

The GALT stands for the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue. This is a large network of your lymphatic system that lines the gut. The lymphatic system deals specifically with your body immune response. It is because of the lymphatic system that your body is able to recognize bad pathogens (bacteria, fungi, parasites, etc) and fight them off. A significant portion of your lymphatic system lines the gut, approximately 70-80% of your ENTIRE lymphatic system to be more precise. 

 

What happens many times with people with arthritis is that the gut lining is irritated and becomes inflamed. Due to this inflammation, the lymph tissue becomes irritated and more active. The lymphatic system thinks that this inflammation from the gut lining is an indicator that a bad bacteria is in your body. However, it doesn’t have to be a bad bacteria that can cause inflammation. Inflammatory foods such as refined sugars, gluten, and many more can cause this inflammation to occur. Once the lymphatic system becomes more irritated it can mistakenly start attacking healthy tissue, such as your joint tissue. The immune system will send things called antibodies to the area. If you’re someone with an autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis, you may remember your doctor checking your antibodies in the past to see if they were elevated. They likely were, this is due to your immune system working in overdrive - inappropriately. 

 

Ok….so now what?

 

The discovery of the correlation between gut inflammation and arthritis is HUGE. Now we have a new way to target and manage arthritis. The best way to do this is to fix the gut. With professional guidance, many people will eliminate the most inflammatory foods from their diet as a first step. These foods are things that I stated before: gluten (found in breads and pastas), dairy, sugar, soda, canola oils and other seed oils, and food additives to name a few. This helps to decrease the irritation on the gut lining itself. 

 

Another recommendation is to eat non-inflammatory foods in the place of inflammatory foods. One of the most studied foods for arthritis is blueberries. Many studies have shown a positive correlation between blueberry consumption and decreased joint pain. Most studies showed a cup a day of blueberries provided benefits. However, blueberries are not the only anti-inflammatory food out there. Eating a diet rich in a variety of whole fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and complex carbohydrates can all be extremely beneficial. One item I love to help heal the gut lining is bone broth. Bone broth is full of the building blocks for our gut lining and can be very healing and soothing. 

 

A Reminder

 

Many times when I’m working with someone who has had chronic pain for years, they want a quick fix. I don’t blame them. Who wants to spend a single extra day in chronic pain? Many individuals will say they’ve tried eating a better diet or went gluten and dairy free even. However, in many instances they either didn’t fully commit to the diet change or they stopped after no results in a week or two. It is extremely important to be consistent with removing inflammatory foods for no less than 6 weeks. It is also important to really eliminate the foods 100%. This is because those antibodies I talked about earlier can hang around in our system for a solid 4 weeks. Therefore, if you’re still eating a little on the side - you’re not giving your body the full chance to clear out those antibodies. The same is true if you only try eliminating the foods for 2 weeks. 

 

So if you suffer from arthritis, consider the gut/arthritis connection and consider making some dietary changes. Of course, always clear any changes in your care of your health with your treating healthcare clinician first.

Do you want to learn more about how gut health affects arthritis? Take my Gut Health Mini Course now. Only $25!

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