Greek philosopher Hippocrates stated over 2,000 years ago that “all disease begins in the gut”—and it appears that he may have been right. We’ve written before about how your gut bacteria can affect your weight, lifespan, and even your attitude.
Now, new research has revealed that gut health may also affect the inflammation and joint pain associated with arthritis.
Arthritis and its various forms has always been a fairly mysterious condition. An autoimmune disease, it can strike at any age, and wreak havoc on bones, joints, cartilage, and even organs in some cases. Now, thanks to several recent studies which have found a link between arthritis and gut microbes, we may be beginning to understand the origin of this painful disease, which for many can be literally crippling.
Two recent studies out of New York University have demonstrated a clear link between arthritis and gut health. The first, published in 2013, showed that rheumatoid arthritis patients were far more likely to have a strain of bacteria called Prevotella copri in their intestines than those that did not have the disease.
The second was a 2014 study by the same author, and found that patients with psoriatic arthritis—another kind of autoimmune joint disease—had significantly fewer strains of beneficial gut bacteria than those not affected.
While this research on the connection between gut health and arthritis is certainly ground-breaking, it’s not the only condition that’s receiving attention from researchers who are studying the way that the microbiome—the collection of bacteria in our gut—affects our health.
Microbiome researchers are beginning to study all autoimmune-related conditions, as they suspect that the rise in these conditions in recent years is at least partly due to changes in the bacteria we’re exposed to through our hyper-sanitized environment, diet changes, and of course, antibiotic use.
NYU microbiologist Martin Blaser puts it this way: “Our microbiome has changed significantly over the past century, and especially over the past 50 years… We’re losing microbes with each generation; they are going extinct. These changes have consequences.”
Microbiome research has already linked gut health to asthma, arthritis, acne, allergies, autism, IBS, obesity, ADD, depression, anxiety, Hashimoto’s, lupus and certain cancers, among other conditions. The best thing we can do in light of this increasing evidence, even if we are not currently suffering from any of these conditions, is to maintain the health of our gut, or nurture and heal it if necessary.
To support a healthy gut environment:
Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary
Add probiotic foods to your regular diet, such as sauerkraut, kefir, Greek yogurt, kimchi, and some types of pickles
Avoid sugar, which certain harmful bacteria thrive on
Stay away from antibacterial soaps and cleaning products whenever possible
Avoid artificial sweeteners, which have been shown to affect the microbiome negatively