Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic inflammatory disease characterised by persistent inflammation in the hands and feet. People with the condition often take potent drugs to relieve their pain, but the side effects in some cases prove problematic. Common aftereffects from injections include headaches, infections, and nausea. Fortunately, evidence suggests probiotic foods may be just as effective in relieving painful arthritis symptoms as potent injections.
Probiotics living microorganisms that deliver a wealth of benefits by restoring the gut’s microbiota.
Although they are often taken as a supplement, they also naturally occur in certain foods.
Yoghurt is an excellent source of probiotics, as is kefir; fermented probiotic milk that contains live bacteria and yeast.
Other good sources are:
These food sources may be particularly important for inflammatory types of arthritis as the bacteria appear to have a direct effect on inflammation.
Studies have shown they’re effective in quelling common biomarkers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein.
In 2021, a study published in Frontiers Pharmacology highlighted the vital role the gut microbiota played in the development of rheumatoid arthritis.
It assessed the efficacy of both supplements and fermented foods as potential adjuvant therapies for the condition.
The researchers stressed that there is a clear distinction to be made between fermented and probiotic foods, as some fermented foods fall under the probiotic umbrella, but not all probiotic foods are fermented.
The study established that probiotics foods are “highly beneficial for patients with inflammatory arthritis,” making them a “promising alternative to probiotic supplementation for rheumatoid arthritis patients”.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
Medscape explains: “Rheumatoid arthritis is theorised to develop when a genetically susceptible individual experiences an external trigger that triggers an autoimmune reaction.
“In most patients with rheumatoid arthritis, onset is insidious, often beginning with fever, malaise, arthralgia and weakness before progressing to joint inflammation and swelling.”
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Difficulty performing daily tasks
- Pain on motion
Katherine Zaeratsky, a registered dietician at Mayo Clinic, said: “There is more recognition that gut microbes play a bigger role in our health than we once thought.
“All of the beneficial bacteria help keep the bad bacteria in check and that’s good for your overall health.”
A great part of the inflammation observed in arthritis occurs in the intestinal tract and leads to intestinal permeability.
When this intestinal barrier weakens, bacteria enter the bloodstream and trigger an inflammatory response.
Probiotics, however, have proven successful in reducing the inflammation associated with intestinal permeability.
Jeremy P.Burton, PhD, assistant professor at the Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotics, explained: “There is an intimate relationship between the gut macrobiotic and disease.
“Whenever there is a chronic disease that impacts the intestinal tract, including [autoimmune types of] arthritis, there is the potential to treat it with probiotics.”