Healthy Living

The Relationship Between Rheumatoid Arthritis, Probiotics, and the Gut

The Relationship Between Rheumatoid Arthritis, Probiotics, and the Gut

The importance of gut health is no secret. Many health issues can be avoided by simply taking care of microbes. Doctors recommend making probiotics a part of the daily routine; these are live organisms that help the immune system and maintain healthy gut function by keeping the intestinal lining healthy by fighting off the ‘bad bugs’.

Can probiotics help with rheumatoid arthritis? Here's what solid science has to say.

The connection between RA and gut health

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the lining between the joints, making the affected joints inflamed, stiff and painful. Recent studies have revealed a connection between joint inflammation and the bacteria of the gut. Researchers have found a strong connection between gut health, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and disease progression.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of these as germs that cause diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called "good" or "helpful" bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.

How do they work?

Scientists and researchers are trying to figure out the specifics of how probiotics work within the body. Some of the ways they may keep you healthy include:

  • When you lose “good” bacteria in your body, such as when you take antibiotics, probiotics can help replace them.
  • Probiotics can help balance your “good” and “bad” bacteria to keep your body working the way it should.
  • Probiotics reduce “bad” bacteria in the body, thereby lessening your incidence of illness.

The many types of probiotics

Many types of bacteria are classified as probiotics. They all have different benefits, but the majority come from two different groups. Speak with your doctor about the type that might best benefit you.

  • Lactobacillus: This is the most common probiotic. It is the one you will find in yogurt and other fermented foods, such as kimchi. Different strains have show to help people who are lactose intolerant.
  • Bifidobacterium: This probiotic can be found in some dairy products.
  • Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast found in probiotics that has shown to have positive impacts on digestive health.

What do probiotics do?

Amongst other things, probiotics help send food through your gut by affecting nerves that control digestive movement.

Researchers are still trying to figure out which strains are best for certain health problems.

People with RA tend to have less gut diversity

The gut microbiome, which consists of trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbiota performs many critical functions in the body, such as digesting certain macromolecules, helping the immune system and aiding in fighting off pathogens.

For the gut microbiome to function at its maximum efficiency, it must be both balanced and diverse. A study published in April 2016 in Genome Medicine found that patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis had less gut diversity than those persons who were disease-free.

Read on to learn more about how probiotics can help people with RA, and why.