Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder that affects more than 31 million US citizens. If you are looking for a natural treatment of arthritis, part of the answer to this huge problem, may be in your gut health
Science is in search of a natural treatment for arthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) is usually referred to as the “wear and tear” arthritis. OA is the gradual deterioration of the joint cartilage in one or more joints. When the cartilage – which provides protection to the bones, cushioning, and friction free movement – is completely gone, there most often remains nothing to do but to replace the whole joint, according to Michael Zuscik, Ph.D., an associate professor of orthopaedics in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research at the University of Rochester.
It was thought for a long time that obesity increases the risk of osteoarthritis, due to the additional stress and strain that the joints have to endure. However, an interesting new recent study at the University of Rochester, reveals that obesity and osteoarthritis may be linked by something as simple as our gut bacteria. This exciting research may point to a natural treatment of arthritis.
We have millions of healthy bacteria that live in our intestines. Together they form a “microbiome” that is vital to our good health. Things go awry with our health when the composition of bacteria in our gut becomes imbalanced. This may easily happen as a result of overly used, or misused antibiotics – either taken personally, or even due to misuse by the agriculture industry. An unhealthy diet also does one’s gut health absolutely no good.
The study at the University of Rochester comprised a group of mice that were fed a high fat diet over a period of twelve weeks. The mice quickly gained weight and became obese and diabetic. A study of the bacteria in their gut showed an increase in pro-inflammatory – “bad” – bacteria and a reduction of probiotic – “good” – bacteria. Simply put, the bacteria which cause inflammation became dominant. As a result, the scientist observed a body-wide inflammation in the obese mice. Next, the researchers induced osteoarthritis in the mice, by creating a tear in the menisci (a protective cushion between the cartilage of the shin and the thigh). In the case of the obese mice, osteoarthritis developed at a much faster rate than what was observed in the control group. In fact, after the period of 12 weeks, no cartilage was present.
In the second phase of the same study, the scientist started the same protocol of a high fat diet for the mice, but added a pre-biotic called oligofructose which normalized the balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut of the mice. In both, obese and non-obese mice, inflammation in the body was reduced. The addition of oligofructose was beneficial in all the mice, but it did not have any effect on the weight gain.
In conclusion, pre-biotics can possibly be a very beneficial dietary supplements for humans, when used in osteoarthritic inflammation treatments.
How can one improve the gut microbiome?
Pre-biotics as a natural treatment of arthritis
Pre-biotics are most often are big molecules which cannot be broken down in the gut, but their presence increases the growth of good bacteria and noticeably reduces the number of pro-inflammatory (bad) bacteria. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are typically the most available and healthiest sources of pre-biotics. Read our article about the 7 Superfoods for Healthy Joints to get the best out of your healthy foods
Pro-biotics as a natural treatment of arthritis
Another great way to help to normalize the balance between good and bad bacteria in your gut is to introduce pro-biotics to your diet. Pro-biotics are living bacteria and yeast which increase the colonies of good bacteria in the gut and contribute to optimal digestive functions as well as to other physiological processes.
Fermented food and vegetables are a great source of pro-biotics. Try to introduce fermented foods like pickles, miso, yoghurt, kefir or kimchi to your diet every day and as many times as you can! They are not only healthy and support your healing processes, but they are also very delicious.
Ongoing research will reveal more about how our microbiomes are connected to our overall health and well being.