Natural treatment for your Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you experience the following:
- pain, swelling and possible redness around your joints
- joint stiffness when you get up in the morning or after sitting for a while which lasts for more than 30 minutes and has no other obvious cause
- fatigue that’s more than just normal tiredness
then you may be experiencing the early signs of rheumatoid arthritis.
What is RA?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body mistakenly attacks itself. RA is different from the more common osteoarthritis, or “wear and tear arthritis.” which most often affects older people, causing pain in the hands, spine, knees and hips.1
In RA, the body breaks down tissues around joints, causing swelling that can erode bone and deform the joints. RA is a symmetrical arthritis, meaning that it usually affects both sides of the body in a similar pattern, although this is not always the case. It tends to affect the small joints of the hands and feet first – often the knuckle joints in the fingers. It is described as a polyarthritis, meaning that many joints can be inflamed.
About 1% of the population in the UK has RA – more than 400,000 people in the UK. It affects more women than men, roughly two to three times as many women. The most common age for people to develop RA is between 40 and 60, or a bit older for men. But people can get it at any age, even from the age of 14 when it’s ‘early onset’ RA. There are other forms of inflammatory arthritis, but RA is the most common.
What’s the connection between RA and your gut?
Exciting new developments in the world of science show us that there is a definitive link between RA and your gut microbiome, or the trillions of organisms that live inside your gut. In fact scientists have now found that your gut bugs can “cause, predict and prevent” RA! 2
How does this work? Imagine that your gut microbiome is like the Amazon rainforest, full of a trillion different living organisms. Every adult carries approximately two kilogrammes of these benign bacteria in their intestines. They help your digestion by breaking fibre down into its individual components, which can then be absorbed by the body.
A by-product of this process are short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which are important for the body, providing energy, stimulating intestinal movement and having an anti-inflammatory effect.
Two important short-chain fatty acids are propionate and butyrate, which are formed during the fermentation processes caused by intestinal bacteria. These fatty acids can be found in the joint fluid and it is assumed that they have an important effect on the functionality of joints. 3
Your intestinal bacteria also fight against pathogens which have found their way into the gastrointestinal tract. Intestinal flora can either protect against illness or cause illness, depending on its composition. If the various bacteria coexist harmoniously, they can protect the intestinal wall and prevent it from letting pathogens pass through. Just as in nature, a healthy ecosystem is a diverse ecosystem.
What can go wrong?
The problem is that like any natural ecosystem, the one inside your gut is fragile, and can be damaged. Over time, the delicate bacterial species inside your gut can be depleted, by things like antibiotics, sugar, stress and environmental toxins, like the chemicals found in pollution, household cleaners, antibacterial soaps and personal care products.
The resulting damage to the ecosystem inside your gut is called dysbiosis. This basically means that you have lost the full biodiversity of different bacterial strains inside your gut. Intestinal dysbiosis has now been firmly 4 linked to RA.5
How does gut dysbiosis affect you?
Gut dysbiosis may show up in different ways, in different parts of your body. Because 70% of your immune system sits inside the gut,6 dysbiosis is linked with a range of autoimmune issues.
This connection explains people with RA can also experience damage to other parts of the body, including the skin, eyes, heart, lung and blood vessels. These symptoms are all linked - and they’re all related to gut dysbiosis.
In your joints, gut dysbiosis may manifest itself as RA. On the skin, it may look like rosacea.7 In the eyes, it may show up as Sjögren's syndrome. In the heart, it may appear as pericarditis. In the lungs, rheumatoid lung disease or other conditions, such as pleurisy. In the wrists, it may appear as carpal tunnel syndrome, in which pressure on the nerves of the hand results in numbness, tingling, and difficulty using the hands and fingers. But these issues are connected. Think of them as symptomatic leaves of a single tree - and the trunk of the tree sits in the gut.
What can you do?
The good news is that your gut microbiome is one of the easiest “organs” in your body to effect using food. Rebuilding your gut health can be accomplished using a combination of probiotics and prebiotics. 8
Probiotics are living beneficial bacteria that can repopulate your microbiome and restore the health of your gut. Dr Michael Mosley on his BBC2 show Trust Me I’m a Doctor, found that a naturally fermented drink called kefir was the most effective probiotic food available on the market today. 9
Scientists believe that using probiotics may be a promising strategy for treating RA, especially in the early stage of the disease. In animal studies, treatment with Lactobacillus bacteria was found to inhibit joint swelling, lowered arthritis scores, and prevented bone destruction.10
In addition to probiotics, it’s important to take prebiotics for optimum gut health.11 In a nutshell, prebiotics are food for probiotics. If you imagine that a probiotic like kefir puts the “fish back into the river” inside your gut ecosystem, then those fish need to be fed. But what do you feed the fish, to keep them alive?
Gut bugs eat fibre. Recent science reveals that there are 21 different types of fibre required by your gut bugs to keep them healthy. These fibres include exotic items like maitake mushrooms, cassava root, and tamarind powder - not things ordinarily found in the British diet.
A Complete Probiotic combines multiple natural sources of prebiotic fibre into an easy-to-use powder. Probiotic kefir and prebiotic powder can be blended into a gut-health smoothie, as a daily part of your inflammation-busting routine.
Therapeutic grade kefir, as well as a Complete Prebiotic, is available from Chuckling Goat. You may also receive free personalised gut health advice from a team of Nutritional Advisors, at www.chucklinggoat.co.uk.
Shann Nix Jones is a Nutritional Advisor, gut health expert and the author of three best selling books on the subject, including The Kefir Solution, Natural Healing for IBS, Depression and Anxiety. She is the founder and Director of Chuckling Goat.
8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih pmc/articles/PMC6121872/.gov/
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Last revised: 21 July 2020
Next review: 21 July 2021