By Dr. Sonja Fung, ND

We all know how debilitating arthritis is in our life. It can be things like the inability to put on a shirt up to the inability to walk. But did you know that your digestive health can be a critical factor in the treatment of arthritis? Maintaining digestive health is key to the health of your body. Your intestines make up 70% of your immune system called GALT- Gut associated lymphatic tissue. For example, infection activates your immune system àintestinal immune cells present pieces of foreign cells to tell the rest of your body which cells to destroy à all your immune cells find and destroy the foreign cellsàyour body gets better and keeps you from getting sick next time. This is the normal function of your immune system.

The question is, what happens when gut immunity breaks down? Intestinal inflammation causes a disruption of the integrity of your intestinal lining, thus allowing foreign cells and proteins to slip into your blood stream. This triggers your body’s immune system into action. There are many triggers of intestinal inflammation, such as food and medication, however, research has shown that gut microbes (bacteria, viruses, yeast, and parasites) have been linked to autoimmune arthritis. Chronic infections from Citrobacter, Klebsiella, and Proteus bacteria from low-grade urinary tract infections, and Candidal yeast infections from the overuse of antibiotics are associated with exacerbation and possibly triggering of rheumatoid arthritis.

These harmful gut bugs try to confuse your body’s immune system by mimicking your body’s cells. They are like wolves in sheep’s clothing that can travel through the blood to anywhere in your body. The immune system then gets tricked into attacking its own body’s cells in an attempt to destroy the bad bugs. This leads to autoimmune diseases that can affect anywhere in your body, such as your joints.

Protecting and healing your joints should start with healing your gut. Find out what is causing digestive imbalance. There are specialized stool and blood testing that your doctor can order to see if you have intestinal inflammation, imbalance in your gut bugs, or intestinal infections. Remove inflammatory triggers and rebalance your intestinal bacteria. Basic ways to regulate your digestive function are:

1) Probiotics are the good bugs found in your digestive tract. They enhance the immune system by preventing unfriendly organisms from gaining a foothold in the body. They prevent the overgrowth of yeast and fungus and produce substances that can lower cholesterol.
2) Test for food sensitivities/allergies- hidden food sensitivities can cause chronic low levels of inflammation in your intestines. Chronic inflammation decreases your ability to digest and absorb nutrients from your food and thus your body’s normal function, resulting in a disturbed gut and decreased immune strength.
3) Take a test for a complete digestive analysis. This can access your intestinal health including the ability to digest and absorb, the balance of gut bugs, and see if you have any bacterial, yeast or parasite infections.

Dr. Sonja Fung is a primary care naturopathic doctor at Live Well Clinic. Live Well Clinic is located at 78-900 Avenue 47, Ste 102 in La Quinta, CA. For more information you can visit www.livewellclinic.org or call 760-771-5970.


1) Rashid T, Ebringer A. Autoimmunity in Rheumatic Diseases Is Induced by Microbial Infections via Crossreactivity or Molecular Mimicry. Autoimmune Dis. 2012;2012:539282. Epub 2012 Feb 20.
2) Jacques P, Elewaut D. Joint expedition: linking gut inflammation to arthritis. Mucosal Immunol. 2008 Sep;1(5):364-71. Epub 2008 Jul 9.
3) Sonoyama K, Miki A, Sugita R, Goto H, Nakata M, Yamaguchi N. Gut colonization by Candida albicans aggravates inflammation in the gut and extra-gut tissues in mice. Med Mycol. 2011 Apr;49(3):237-47. Epub 2010 Aug 31.
4) Brady, David M. “21st Century Epidemics- Autoimmune, Lyme, and Stealth Infections Disease”. Renaissance Los Angeles, Airport Hotel, Los Angeles, CA. February 25, 2012. Continuing Education lecture.
5) Vasquez, A. Integrative Rheumatology, 2nd Ed. Fort Worth: Integrative and Biological Medicine Research and Consulting, LLC, 2007.

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