For decades, naturopathic doctors and practitioners of holistic and alternative medicine have claimed that bacteria and fungus are to blame for our nation’s epidemic of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. Candida and small bowel bacterial overgrowth have especially garnered attention in the natural medicine communities.
However, in recent years, traditional western medicine and esteemed medical doctors and scientists have finally realized that, yes, it is possible that bacterial overgrowth and the like can cause or worsen diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. (It should be noted, though, that it isn’t all a recent discovery for modern medicine. Years ago, antibiotics were a far more common course of treatment for RA than they are today.)
In June of 2010, the health journal, “Immunity” published a study that claimed that, “a single species of bacteria that lives in the gut is able to trigger a cascade of immune responses that can ultimately result in the development of arthritis.”
In June 2012, Science Daily posted an article that stated, “The billions of bugs in our guts have a newfound role: regulating the immune system and related autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, according to researchers at Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Larger-than-normal populations of specific gut bacteria may trigger the development of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and possibly fuel disease progression in people genetically predisposed to this crippling and confounding condition, say the researchers, who are participating in the Mayo Illinois Alliance for Technology Based Healthcare.” This study was published in the PLoS ONE medical journal.
The A.D.A.M. medical encyclopedia also lists bacterial or viral infections as a cause of joint inflammation; while Mayo Clinic discusses “septic arthritis” which is similar to RA, but is caused by fungus or bacteria.
Even those with giant cell arteritis and polymyalgia rheumatica may have the conditions because of bacterium tracks that were discovered by Dr. Annette D. Wagner and colleagues at the Medical School Hanover. This information was published in an edition of the Arthritis & Rheumatism Journal in the year 2000.
Two more recent discoveries are proving the theory of a bacterial association with rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions to be even more of a possibility.
In April 2012, Science Daily reports, “In collaboration with Dr. Robert Mozayeni, a rheumatologist based in Maryland, and Dr. Ricardo Maggi, a research assistant professor at NC State, Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt, professor of internal medicine at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and adjunct professor of medicine at Duke University, tested blood samples from 296 patients for evidence of Bartonella infection. The patients had previously been diagnosed with conditions ranging from Lyme disease to arthritis to chronic fatigue. Since rheumatic symptoms have sometimes been reported following cat scratch disease, the researchers wanted to see if these patients tested positive for B. henselae.
Of the 296 patients, 62 percent had Bartonella antibodies, which supported prior exposure to these bacteria. Bacterial DNA was found in 41 percent of patient samples.” While this cannot guarantee a definitive link between bacteria and rheumatic diseases, it is a step in the right direction in figuring out the connection between infectious diseases and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Today, the email sent out by Arthritis Today Magazine had the headline, “Gut Bacteria Link to Rheumatoid Arthritis.” The article goes on to state that “bacteria in the digestive system might predict who may develop RA, and help scientists develop novel therapies for the disease.
For years, scientists have wondered if there was a connection between the type of bacteria in our bodies, particularly our guts, and the development of RA. Could tiny micro-organisms predict who is most susceptible to developing RA and who might be more resistant to the disease? A recent study shows some strong connections between the type of bacteria in our guts and certain genes that may predict RA development
A team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and the University of Illinois at Urbana published a study in the peer-reviewed journal Public Library of Science One in April showing that the types of bacteria lurking in the guts of mice may predict which animals are more susceptible to developing RA and collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), and which mice may be more resistant to the disease. In addition, another set of scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana have just completed a study of humans to examine how consuming different types and amounts of dietary fiber could change their gut bacteria, shifting the mix toward more bacteria with potentially anti-inflammatory properties. Their study will be published in the Journal of Nutrition this summer.
For years, Veena Tareja, PhD, worked with RA patients at the Mayo Clinic and listened to their observations about the connection between diet and inflammation. “They would say, ‘I eat this and my arthritis gets worse.’ I always had the feeling that the gut had something to do with arthritis, because it takes most of the body’s abuse,” says Tareja, the institution’s lead researcher on the new study.”
What does all of this mean?
A number of things:
- We can consider eating foods that won’t feed fungus or bacterial infections. (Examples: sugar, dairy, starchy foods.)
- We can think about asking our doctors to test for gut flora, yeast, or other bacterial infections via bloodwork, saliva tests, endoscopy, etc.
- We can make note of whether or not our arthritis symptoms get better or worse with antibiotics, and we can also try to figure out if certain foods or conditions seem to make the diseases worse.
- We can try to notice if we feel better or worse on biologics or immunosuppressants – both of which can possibly be detrimental if we have any kind of infection.
- We also can pay attention to articles of this nature and what it could mean to our diseases. If the new discovery of a potential link of RA and gut bacteria or bartonella is pushing scientists to think in new and innovative ways about a cure, then there IS hope! Additionally, this news could potentially make doctors reconsider how they go about treating patients, and pay further attention to the notion of bacterial, fungal, or viral infections in patients with inflammatory or rheumatic diseases.
Have any of you noticed a link between infection and your condition?
Leave a comment and share your story, please!
As always, thanks for reading.
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