Rheumatic Joint Pain: Often The Cause is a Disorder in the Intestines

A disorder in the intestines can be the cause of rheumatic pain in the joints. Studies show that. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet high in fiber can help relieve symptoms.

The intestine is one of the most exciting organs in our body. Not only is it closely linked to the brain and immune system, but it also plays a role in rheumatic joint diseases. The reason for this is the intestinal bacteria, the so-called microbiome. This also explains why patients with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases often suffer from joint problems.

An anti-inflammatory diet can help with rheumatism

What we eat also affects the joints – and rheumatism sufferers can use this in a targeted manner to significantly reduce their need for medication. The recipe for success is lots of vegetables. Eating a lot of pork, sugar, bread and baked goods promotes inflammation in the body and should change your diet. So-called trans fats in ready meals, fast food, and certain baked goods can also contribute to inflammatory processes.

Permeable intestinal barrier common cause

Scientists at the University Hospital Erlangen have discovered that a disorder in the intestines can be the starting point for rheumatic complaints in the joints – and that these can be specifically influenced by diet. The so-called intestinal barrier, a kind of cement between the cells of the inner intestinal wall, is often disturbed in rheumatism patients. If this cement becomes permeable, bacteria can penetrate deep into the intestinal wall or even get inside the body. Bacteria that penetrate the intestinal wall call the immune system into action: immune cells become active and fight the invaders.

Joint inflammation caused by immune cells from the gut

The disruption of the intestinal barrier can be detected in a special colonoscopy with contrast media. In animal experiments, the researchers later found color-coded immune cells from the intestines in the joints. This proves the direct connection: the immune cells migrate to the joint and cause inflammation there. The scientists were also able to show that when the intestinal barrier is intact again, there are no longer any immune cells in the joint.

The researchers suspect that the bacteria from the intestine could be so similar to parts of the human body that the immune cells cannot distinguish between the two. In this way, an auto-immune reaction is triggered: the immune cells not only fight the bacteria from the intestine but also attack the tissue in the body – and this leads to inflammation in the joints.

Fiber to strengthen the intestinal barrier

The Erlangen scientists specifically treated the intestines of their patients in the study outpatient clinic. To do this, they gave the microbiome the right “feed” from which the good intestinal bacteria produced short-chain fatty acids that improve the cement for our intestinal wall and thus strengthen the intestinal barrier.

The right food for our intestinal bacteria is indigestible plant fibers, better known as roughage. They are found in vegetables, salads, nuts, legumes, fruit, and whole-grain products.

Study with a high dose of dietary fiber

As part of a study at the University Clinic Erlangen, the subjects received a special bar with 30 grams of dietary fiber, i.e. a whole daily ration in one concentrated portion. This high dose was only possible thanks to special enzymes and a specific baking process for the bars.

29 patients in the study outpatient department consumed this fiber bar for 30 days, in addition to their normal meals. In the test persons’ blood samples, the researchers detected an increase in short-chain fatty acids and also an increase in “good” intestinal bacteria that produce such fatty acids. And they showed that the gut barrier was actually strengthened.

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