Did you know your gut contains trillions of bacteria known as microbes? Collectively, the system where they live and function is known as the “microbiome,” and these bacteria can have both a positive and negative impact on your health.
“Good” microbes protect your health, by helping the immune system identify and ward off dangerous pathogens and inflammation. However, if they are “bad” microbes, become disrupted or if some types are more or less abundant than the others, they can have a negative effect.
In fact, there is increasing evidence suggesting that disruptions in your microbiome can cause or contribute to many chronic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Scientists are also wondering whether it will one day be possible to treat arthritis and other diseases by adjusting the microbiome. Many believe that someday it will.
Start Improving Your Gut Health Today
While adjusting the microbiome in your gut to treat arthritis is still just an idea, the good news is, right now you can still take steps to improve your gut health—and reduce joint swelling, stiffness and your arthritis symptoms.
How? By carefully choosing the foods you eat. That’s because your diet has a direct impact on your gut health, the strength of your immune system and the severity of your arthritic symptoms.
There are several diets that have been shown in studies to improve gut health. They are:
- Mediterranean Diet: If you have RA you can benefit from a Mediterranean diet which has been scientifically proven to be anti-inflammatory. It includes high quality oils and fats, like olive oil and avocado oil, nuts and seeds, whole grains and plenty of vegetables and fruits. Red meat should be avoided, or eaten if it is lean, a few times a month. Instead, eat more fish—especially fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and tuna.
- Vegan Diet: Some small studies suggest a vegan diet can change the gut microbiome and improve arthritis symptoms. In a vegan diet, you do not eat any animal products—that includes meat but also eggs, dairy products and any other foods that include animal-derived ingredients.
- Vegan and Gluten-Free Diet: In another study, a small group of participants who had RA followed a gluten-free vegan diet for three months. They experienced reduced inflammation.
Finally, keep in mind that if you do decide to alter your diet significantly, you may need to take vitamin supplements, especially if you choose to go vegan. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor to make sure you are getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need.