Local Insights

Published on June 29th, 2017 | by Dr. Philip DiPasquale


The Gut Connection and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of many autoimmune diseases that affect 50 million Americans. And one 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 our own immune system becomes overactive, and 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 has different host cells that are being attacked. If we have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the body attacks cartilage, if we have diabetes, the body attacks the pancreas. We know there are genetic predispositions, but the presence of triggers such as environmental toxins, viruses, bacteria and stress are contributing factors to these diseases.

There is much evidence in the medical literature that suggests the lower bowel may contain harmful bacteria that 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, 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 contents of the bowel to enter the bloodstream.

There are tests to determine if someone has leaky gut or bad bacteria in their intestine. One test is comprehensive digestive stool analysis; it is non-invasive and requires a small sample of stool. Another test to determine leaky gut is the lactulose/mannitol challenge. The test is simple; the patient drinks a sugary solution and if sugar shows up in the urine, it is positive.

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. A healthy gut is synonymous with good health and an unhealthy one is associated with poor health.

There is good news and bad news to treating rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. The bad news is that prescription medications only offer temporary relief, and the good news is that there are many natural remedies that offer longer-lasting relief and may possibly completely resolve the condition. One approach to treating RA and other conditions is functional medicine, which looks at each patient as unique and looks for the underlying cause of each condition.

There is a systems approach to determining the cause of the individual’s poor health. These include the digestive, hormonal, skeletal, detoxification, cardiovascular and immune systems. 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 BergenSpine.com

About the Author

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

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