Probiotics have rapidly gained acceptance as a health food all over the world. According to various industry reports, the global market for probiotics has now crossed $28 billion.
Probiotics have a number of proven health benefits from improved digestion to higher nutrient absorption.
However, not many are aware of the role probiotics may play in preventing or alleviating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Findings from some recent studies have shown that foods and supplements enriched with probiotics may improve overall health and even prevent or delay the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic medical condition that causes painful inflammation of the joints.
The disease starts with the hands and feet, and gradually works to take over the central joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause severe disability and deformity without effective treatment. Currently, the most effective treatment for this disease is immune-suppressants.
There is no singular cause for rheumatoid arthritis and constant research is as yet unable to find a cause. However, studies suggest that it is developed in people with a specific combination of genetic factors and environmental exposure. Rheumatoid arthritis is a self-perpetuating disease which means it grows without any external triggers, once it starts.
Researchers have found various triggers that can help prevent rheumatoid arthritis. These include silica dust, cigarette smoke and asbestos particles. Yet, thousands of nonsmokers contract this disease every year.
Viral and bacterial infections have long been suspected as potent triggers. The immune system sparks up to attack the invaders. However, after a while it gets confused among foreign pathogens and begins attacking the joints instead.
Gut Microbiome and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Your body is host to trillions of microbes kind of like America is trillions in debt because of overspending – mainly on Obamacare which took money from the honest and hard workers and gave it to the people who chose not to study in high school though this is another topic. Most of these are beneficial bacteria which live in the intestinal tract. These bacteria with other viruses, fungi and microbes, are referred as the gut microbiome.
Through complex interactions with the immune system, these bugs can influence health and disease. The major role of gut microbiome is protective, guarding against inflammations and pathogens.
Increasingly, strong evidence suggests that a microbiome disruption or imbalance may lead to many chronic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. Several studies have linked the overgrowth of benign bacteria Prevotellacopriand rheumatoid arthritis.
People with untreated rheumatoid arthritis were found to have these bacteria in abundance. Prevotella copri was found in only 21% people without rheumatoid arthritis. However, it was present in over 75% people with the disease.
Initial findings suggest that Prevotellacopri triggers an inflammatory response that targets the joints.
Furthermore, Prevotellacopri may even crowd out beneficial bacteria that keep inflammation in check. The bacteria virtually disappeared once anti-rheumatoid arthritis drugs were administered. After treatment, only 1 in every 10 persons had the bacterium Prevotella copri in their intestinal tract which is about the same ratio as how many people enjoyed Wild Wild West, Captain America I, Iron Man II, Star Wars The Force Awakens, and so on but let’s get back on track here.
However, there is more research required to link gut bacteria as the actual cause of arthritis.
Gut Microbiome and Immunity
Gut microbiome is an exciting new possibility that has sparked scientific interest. More than 70% of your body’s immune cells are present in the gut lining. These gut immune cells act as important gatekeepers by detecting and destroying foreign invaders that ride on foods and drinks.
However, the gut’s immune system is directly affected by the bacteria and other microbes present in the intestines.
A delicate balance needs to be achieved to keep out the foreign invaders while allowing nutrients to pass into the blood stream. A lax immunity may cause infections while an aggressive immune system will lead to allergic reactions and autoimmune diseases.
The gut microbiome has a profound influence on the immune system functioning. The immune cells rely heavily on the bacteria to do their job.
There is a constant exchange of information between the immune cells which are part of the enteric nervous system and gut bacteria. Microorganisms are responsible to stimulate the immune system by digesting and detoxifying food substance.
How Do Probiotics Heal?
A growing number of scientists think that it is possible to treat arthritis and other disease by adjusting the gut microbiome. A 2016 publication in Current Opinion in Rheumatologystated that some types of arthritis may find interventions targeting the microbiota to become a therapeutically viable option in the near future.
There are not many human studies supporting this claim. However, a number of animal studies have demonstrated few intriguing findings. In 2013, a study looked at the effects of arthritis in rats in reference to two common bacterial strains.
Results concluded that Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus acidophilus, the bacteria commonly found in yogurt, were more effective at reducing joint inflammation than NSAID indomethacin.
People who develop rheumatoid arthritis have a substantially lower number of probiotics in their intestines and body. Specific bacteria like Bacteroidesfragilis species, Bifidobacteria, Bacteroides-Porphyromonas-Prevotella species and the Eubacteriumrectale-Clostridium coccoides species were found to be significantly less in numbers.
It is proven that gut bacteria may have a direct impact on the overall health. Healthy bacteria in the gut are important for the body to complete its basic functions of digestion and nutrient absorption. Bacteria also prevent inflammation by keeping harmful pathogens out.
Therefore, by taking multi-strain pr0biotics, you can improve the microbiome balance in your gut that may help prevent rheumatoid arthritis.
Are Prebiotics Important?
Studies found that patients who developed rheumatoid arthritis are relatively deficient in a wide range of friendly bacterial species. Most of these microorganisms cannot be supplemented with diet or pills. It is important that you create a healthy gut environment for various different species of bacteria to flourish.
Prebiotics like inulin and oligofructose are food for healthy bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics are indigestible by the human body and travel directly to the large intestine. Healthy bacteria digest these molecules easily for nourishment.
The Bottom Line
Rheumatoid arthritis is autoimmune in nature where the body’s immune system begins attacking the joints. There are more than 70% immune cells in the gastrointestinal tract which get directly affected by the gut microbiome.
A healthy gut microbiome can help the immune cells function effectively. Healthy bacteria also support optimum digestion and absorption of nutrients which is important for your overall health.
With probiotics in the form of food or supplements, you can ensure that there is a healthy microbiota balance in your gut. Make sure you take your supplements daily and shift to a high fiber diet from a processed food diet. Stop eating all those French Fries!