Your gut health plays a big role in arthritis

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At the University of Colorado, scientists have made an intriguing discovery about how the bacteria in our digestive system could be influencing the risk of developing arthritis.

Led by Dr. Kristine Kuhn, a respected member of the CU Department of Medicine, the team has been exploring the connection between diet, gut bacteria, and inflammatory diseases.

Their research, which sheds light on this complex relationship, was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Tryptophan, a vital amino acid found in foods like meats, fish, dairy, and certain seeds and nuts, is crucial for our health. It helps in producing proteins, muscles, enzymes, and neurotransmitters.

Since our bodies don’t produce tryptophan, we rely on our diet to get this essential nutrient. Despite its importance in various bodily functions, including sleep regulation, tryptophan’s role doesn’t end there.

The team’s research focuses on how tryptophan is transformed into substances that could potentially harm our health, particularly relating to arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis, a condition affecting about 1% of the population, can lead to severe pain, swelling, and joint deformity. The CU research team aimed to understand how tryptophan, generally beneficial, could be converted into a trigger for such inflammatory diseases.

They discovered that while gut bacteria can break down tryptophan into both anti-inflammatory and inflammatory products, certain byproducts could encourage inflammation.

Dr. Kuhn’s study builds on previous observations in patients with spondyloarthritis, a condition related to rheumatoid arthritis. They noticed that changes in the gut microbiome were linked to increased production of indoles, which are compounds produced when bacteria break down tryptophan.

Through experiments involving mice, they demonstrated that eliminating the mice’s microbiome or reducing dietary tryptophan prevented the development of arthritis.

This was a clear indication that the breakdown of tryptophan into indoles by gut bacteria played a crucial role in triggering arthritis.

Further investigation revealed that the presence of indole in the gut leads to the development of more inflammatory autoreactive T-cells, a reduction in regulatory T-cells that maintain immune balance, and the production of more pathogenic antibodies.

Essentially, the research points to indole as a significant factor in the inflammatory process associated with arthritis.

The findings open up potential new pathways for treating and preventing rheumatoid arthritis and spondyloarthritis by blocking the generation of indole.

The future of therapy could involve strategies to ensure that tryptophan is metabolized into anti-inflammatory products rather than inflammatory ones, potentially by manipulating the gut microbiome.

Dr. Kuhn also touches on diet’s role in this balance. A diet rich in plant-based fibers and lean meats, similar to the Mediterranean diet, might help steer the microbiome towards a state that favors the anti-inflammatory properties of tryptophan. In contrast, the typical Western diet might push it towards inflammation.

Moreover, the Division of Rheumatology is exploring ways to identify individuals at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis through blood markers. This early identification could offer a window for intervention to prevent the onset of the disease.

This research not only highlights the intricate relationship between our diet, gut bacteria, and health but also opens the door to novel approaches in preventing and treating inflammatory diseases like arthritis.

If you care about pain, please read studies about how to manage your back pain, and Krill oil could improve muscle health in older people.

For more information about pain, please see recent studies about how to live pain-free with arthritis, and results showing common native American plant may help reduce diarrhea and pain.

The research findings can be found in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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