Is Gut Health Connected to Rheumatoid Arthritis?
We should be very worried about our gut health. As doctors and researchers delve deeper and deeper into how the gut can affect our health, the more they realize that the gut microbes are linked to arthritis, diseases, and the immune system. As these same researchers are learning more and more about how our microbiome is affecting us, they are also finding that many of the critical bacteria found in the gut may be going extinct. This is extremely concerning. Finally, as microbiome scientists look to improve gut bacteria in people, they are finding that MOST PROBIOTICS AND GUT HEALTH SUPPLEMENTS ARE NOT REAL.
The Atlantic’s article, Joint Pain, From the Gut, addresses many of these concerns and findings. Here are some key takeaways from the article:
“Scientists are especially intrigued by how these bacteria influence the immune system. In recent decades, the incidence of many autoimmune diseases has been increasing; many microbiome researchers argue that at least some of this rise is due to changes in our bacterial ecosystem. Altered diet, the explosion of antibiotic use, and decreasing contact with the microbe-packed natural world of animals and plants have all combined to transform the bacteria that call humans home. “’Our microbiome has changed significantly over the past century, and especially over the past 50 years,’” says NYU microbiologist Martin Blaser, who puts much of the blame on widespread use of antibiotics. “’We’re losing microbes with each generation; they are going extinct. These changes have consequences.”’
“Blaser points to his own research on a species of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori
(so named because it looks something like a helicopter). He sampled the gut bacteria of a group of U.S. children, and found that Helicobacter pylori existed in only 6 percent of them
. By comparison, other research
has shown that the strain is common in the vast majority of people from many parts of the world, especially in developing countries. The decline of Helicobacter pylori
in the West, which is likely related to the spread of antibiotics as well as improved sanitation, may have medical consequences: Some research
indicates that the bacteria may reduce the risk of asthma, perhaps by curtailing the body’s immune response to airborne stimuli. Blaser suspects that asthma is one of the illnesses affected by our changing microbiome: Rates in the U.S. have been climbing for three decades, and grew by more than 28 percent between 2001 and 2011.
“Blaser argues that H. pylori and other gut microbes are so deeply involved in our bodily operations that they shouldn’t really be considered aliens. “’They are part of who we are,”’ he says. “’These organisms are part of our developmental choreography; they have an enormous amount to do with how our immune system develops.”’
“Scher thinks that eventually, it will be possible to treat arthritis by adjusting the microbiome. Dozens of researchers, including Scher and Blaser, are looking into a range of potential strategies to use bacteria as medicine for immune disorders. Already, millions of Americans ingest probiotics—cocktails of supposedly beneficial bacteria that claim to treat everything from acne to insomnia. Scher, like many microbiome scientists I spoke to, is skeptical that these products are useful. ‘“Probiotics are generally safe and almost completely untested,”’ says Scher. “’There’s this idea that you can simply replace certain bugs that are missing. I don’t think it’s as simple as that.’” For one, he says, it’s not clear whether most microbes from probiotics can survive the digestive process.
“Others are focusing on particular bugs over diet. At the Mayo Clinic, Taneja has found that a species of Prevotella bacteria, P. histicola, can prevent or halt the mouse versions of both rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease of the brain and nerves. She is hoping to begin studies on humans in the next few months.”
“Right now, doctors aren’t using microbes or their metabolites in patients with arthritis or M.S., but Scher, like Kasper, is optimistic: “’In 10 or 15 years I think the microbiome will be a key therapeutic option for some of these diseases,’” he says. “’There will be challenges, but I don’t see why it can’t happen. This isn’t science fiction.’”
If you would like to read more from The Atlantic’s article Join Pain, From the Gut, click here.
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