Arthritis can be a debilitating condition. Some of the easiest everyday activities seem challenging — like putting on a shirt or placing one foot in front of the other. Did you know that your digestive health can be a critical factor in the treatment of arthritis?

Maintaining digestive health is a key to overall body wellness. Your intestines make up 70% of your immune system called GALT- Gut associated lymphatic tissue. For example, infection activates your immune system ’ intestinal immune cells present pieces of foreign cells to notify your body which cells to destroy ’ your immune cells find and destroy the foreign cells ’ your body gets better and keeps you from getting sick next time. This is the normal function of your immune system.

The question is…what happens when gut immunity breaks down? Intestinal inflammation allows foreign cells and proteins to slip into your blood stream. This triggers your body’s immune system into action. Research has shown that gut microbes (bacteria, viruses, yeast, and parasites) are linked to autoimmune arthritis. Chronic infections from Citrobacter, Klebsiella, and Proteus bacteria from low-grade urinary tract infections, and Candidal yeast infections from the overuse of antibiotics, are associated with intestinal inflammation and possibly initiating rheumatoid arthritis.

These harmful gut bugs confuse your body’s immune system by mimicking your body’s cells. They are like wolves in sheep’s clothing that travel through the blood anywhere in your body. The immune system then gets tricked into attacking its own body’s cells in an attempt to destroy the bad bugs. This leads to autoimmune diseases that can affect specific areas, like the joints.

Protecting and healing your joints should start with healing your gut. Find out what is causing digestive imbalance. There are specialized stool and blood tests that determine intestinal inflammation, imbalance in your gut bugs, or intestinal infections. Remove inflammatory triggers and rebalance your intestinal bacteria by:

1) Taking probiotics–the “good bugs” found in your digestive tract. They enhance the immune system by preventing unfriendly organisms from gaining a foothold in the body. They stunt overgrowth of yeast and fungus, and produce substances that can lower cholesterol.

2) Testing for food sensitivities/allergies. Hidden food sensitivities can cause chronic low levels of inflammation in your intestines. Chronic inflammation decreases your ability to digest and absorb nutrients from your food, resulting in a disturbed gut and decreased immune strength.

3) Initiating a complete digestive analysis. This will assess your intestinal health including the ability to digest and absorb, the balance of gut bugs, and see if you have any bacterial, yeast or parasite infections.

Dr. Sonja Fung is a primary care naturopathic doctor at Live Well Clinic. Live Well Clinic is located on Washington and Hwy 111 in La Quinta at Point Happy Plaza. For more information you can visit or call 760-771-5970. 

Resources: 1) Rashid T, Ebringer A. Autoimmunity in Rheumatic Diseases Is Induced by Microbial Infections via Crossreactivity or Molecular Mimicry. Autoimmune Dis. 2012;2012:539282. Epub 2012 Feb 20.; 2) Jacques P, Elewaut D. Joint expedition: linking gut inflammation to arthritis. Mucosal Immunol. 2008 Sep;1(5):364-71. Epub 2008 Jul 9.; 3) Sonoyama K, Miki A, Sugita R, Goto H, Nakata M, Yamaguchi N. Gut colonization by Candida albicans aggravates inflammation in the gut and extra-gut tissues in mice. Med Mycol. 2011 Apr;49(3):237-47. Epub 2010 Aug 31.; 4) Brady, David M. “21st Century Epidemics- Autoimmune, Lyme, and Stealth Infections Disease”. Renaissance Los Angeles, Airport Hotel, Los Angeles, CA. February 25, 2012. Continuing Education lecture. 5) Vasquez, A. Integrative Rheumatology, 2nd Ed. Fort Worth: Integrative and Biological Medicine Research and Consulting, LLC, 2007.

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