Published on March 3rd, 2017 | by Natural Awakenings Northern New Jersey


The Gut and Rheumatoid Arthritis Connection

by Philip DiPasquale

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of many autoimmune diseases that affect 50 million Americans and constitute of the top 10 causes of death for women under the age of 65. There are 100 known autoimmune diseases, and the common thread is that the body’s own immune system becomes overactive—instead of destroying invader cells like viruses, it targets its own healthy cells. The exact cause is not known, but we do know that each autoimmune disease attacks different host cells. If RA is present, the body attacks cartilage, if diabetes is present, the body attacks the pancreas. There can be genetic predispositions, but the presence of triggers such as environmental toxins, viruses, bacteria and stress are being considered as contributing factors to these diseases.

There is a lot of evidence in the medical literature that suggest that the lower bowel may contain harmful bacteria which triggers an autoimmune response. A 2013 PubMed study by rheumatologists at New York University found that patients with RA were more likely to have the bacteria Prevotella copri in their intestinal tracts than patients without the disease. The findings suggest that these harmful bacteria may somehow trigger the autoimmune response that leads to joint inflammation. Another condition called leaky gut syndrome triggers an autoimmune response and causes joint inflammation. The lining of the intestine breaks down and becomes more porous, allowing bacteria and other unwanted contents of the bowel to enter the bloodstream.

There are tests to determine if leaky gut or bad bacteria in the intestines is present. One test is called comprehensive digestive stool analysis it is non-invasive and requires a small stool sample. Another test to determine if leaky gut is present is called the lactulose/mannitol challenge, where the patient drinks a sugary solution, and if the sugar shows up in the urine, the condition is present.

Restoring balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut has many benefits, including better absorption of minerals and vitamins, improved bowel habits, less gas and most of all, improved overall immune system function. Prescription medications only offer temporary relief, but there are many natural remedies that offer longer-lasting relief and sometimes completely resolve the condition. The functional medicine approach to treating RA and other conditions sees each patient as unique and looks for the underlying cause of the patient’s condition, including the digestive, hormonal, skeletal, cardiovascular and immune systems, including the toxified state of each one. Treatments include the use of medical foods, nutritional supplements, diet modification and lifestyle changes.

Dr. Philip DiPasquale owns and operates Bergen Spine and Wellness in Maywood, NJ. For appointments, call 201-820-1441. For more information, visit See ad, page 15.

About the Author

Publisher Natural Awakenings Magazine of Northern New Jersey

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