A Prebiotic May Protect Against Osteoarthritis

7 minute read

Osteoarthritis is a common ailment for those who are overweight. It was commonly thought that this was caused because of the additional wear and tear placed on joints from the extra weight.

Recent studies, however, have found that wear and tear is not the reason you develop osteoarthritis. The culprit is actually hanging out nowhere near your joints; they are living in your gut.

Microbes and Your Joints: The Untold Story

Bacteria live in your gut to support digestion as well as your immune system. It is well known that when these bacteria are unbalanced, you can experience health problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease. It’s why probiotics are so popular.

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These bacteria also affect your joint health if you are overweight. High fat diets can influence the behavior and environment for these bacteria and trigger widespread inflammation.

The recent study found that obese mice had more harmful bacteria in their gut, and more inflammation. The spread of inflammation through your body causes your joints to weaken and can speed up deterioration.

Osteoarthritis develops not because of the added weight on your joints, but because they are weakened at a faster rate because of your diet. Although, the additional weight certainly doesn’t help.

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The Western diet typically favors processed foods and high fat content, which causes many Americans to develop obesity and diabetes. A high fat diet causes a shift in your gut bacteria and friendly strains become outnumbered by not so friendly ones.

These changes in your gut environment can lead to gastrointestinal diseases and systemic inflammation, which is what spreads to your joints.

What You Feed Your Bacteria Matters

The fat you eat needs to be broken down by certain enzymes to be properly absorbed. Bile acids made by your liver act as an emulsifier, allowing the fat you eat to mix with your water-based digestive fluids and get broken down.

When fat is detected in your stomach, a hormone called CCK is released, which triggers the production of the much needed bile acids. The more fat that you eat, the more CCK you are going to produce.

Some of the bacteria in your gut use the bile acids to produce antibiotics that kill off other strains to lessen the competition. With a balanced diet, the production of these antibiotics is controlled to keep a healthy ratio of good to bad bacteria.

High fat content causes more antibiotics to be produced, which throws your microbiome out of balance and the result is inflammation.

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As inflammation spreads through your body, it attacks cells, tissues, and joints. Once it reaches your joints, it causes swelling, increased joint fluid, muscle loss, and bone and cartilage damage.

This gradually leads to the deterioration of your joint and osteoarthritis. Any additional weight will also put strain on your weakened joints, but if they had not been previously damaged by inflammation, you would be in better shape.

Control Inflammation With Prebiotics

The study involving obese mice found that inflammation had spread to their knee joints and caused meniscal tears and deteriorated cartilage, both of which are common signs of osteoarthritis.

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When their diets were changed, the inflammation cleared and their joints were able to heal to the point of being indistinguishable from that of lean mice. The dietary change consisted of a daily prebiotic known as oligofructose.

Prebiotics are not something we can digest; however, your gut bacteria love them. These treats allow your intestinal friends to thrive and grow.

With a regular intake of prebiotics, your friendly bacteria can take over and crowd out the harmful pro-inflammatory strains. As these dangerous bacteria are sent into hiding, inflammation diminishes and your joints can begin to repair themselves.

Administering prebiotics did not help mice with the obesity, but their joints became healthier. Reducing inflammation helps to protect the joints from degeneration, which shows that inflammation was the culprit all along and not the extra weight.

Osteoarthritis, therefore, is a secondary complication to inflammatory-based diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Getting the Prebiotics You Need

Prebiotics are the indigestible plant fibers that provide food to the bacteria living in your gut. The more food (prebiotics) they have, the more efficiently they can work; and the healthier you will be. The best food sources for prebiotics, apart from some brands of probiotic supplements, include:

♦ Chicory root

♦ Dandelion greens

♦ Garlic

♦ Jerusalem artichoke

♦ Onions

♦ Leeks

♦ Asparagus

♦ Bananas

♦ Oats

♦ Apples

♦ Flaxseeds

Apart from helping with inflammation and joint repair, prebiotics provide other health benefits. This makes perfect sense considering that the health of your gut bacteria is linked to the health of your digestive system and your overall immunity.

Digestive Health: By nourishing your gut bacteria, you maintain a healthy balance within your intestines, fostering efficient digestion. Toxic bacteria are kept at bay, thereby protecting you from digestive troubles, such as diarrhea, leaky gut syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis.

Enhanced Immunity: Prebiotics have been linked to the modulation of biomarkers and activities on your immune system. Regular prebiotic consumption can cause a reduction in the concentration of cancer-promoting enzymes.

Heart Health: Food that is high in prebiotics reduces glycation (glycation increases the amount of free radicals in your system as well as inflammation). They also have the ability to improve your body’s ability to prevent ischemic heart disease and autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis.

Improved Mood: The bacteria in your gut influences hormonal balance, which can affect your mood. There is a strong connection between your gut and your brain, so an unhappy gut means an unhappy you.

The Bottom Line

Your gut microbiome is an important community that can be responsible for improving your health as well as damaging it. The American high-fat diet can damage this community on a daily basis, and your body is paying the consequences.

Understanding that your weight is not contributing to your joint pain is the first step in healing your body. Adding prebiotics to your diet keeps your gut bacteria happy and your joints feeling good.

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