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Connecting Gut Health with RA

Connecting Gut Health with RA

Research in recent years has been connecting gut health with the immune system. For example, how people’s gut health can be compromised by taking too many antibiotics that kill the natural flora (bacteria) that we need in our digestive track for breaking down food. If the natural bugs in our gut are not present, they can’t do the job of supporting our immunity against unfriendly bacteria.

Gut bacteria and rheumatoid arthritis

Recently, two new studies by the same researcher indicate a connection between gut bacteria and rheumatoid arthritis. The first study found patients with rheumatoid arthritis had a great deal more of a certain kind of bacteria compared to a healthy control group.

The second study treated mice with a specific bacterium strain and compared them to a group that received no treatment, finding that inflammatory symptoms reduced in frequency and severity with the bacteria treatment.

Are differences in gut bacteria a symptom or cause of RA?

In an interview about the studies, the researcher is careful to explain that it is not known if this difference in gut bacteria is a cause of RA or a symptom that follows the illness. But she suggests further study could help with grouping patients by severity, understanding what drug treatments may be more effective, and looking at how diet may affect the gut’s health.

This research is fascinating to me and connects a suspicion that my gut is affected by my RA or vice versa. I sometimes think that I have a more sensitive stomach and wonder if it is connected to my RA or exacerbates it.

Protecting gut health

I have been taking probiotics for many years and while it is not scientifically proven, I think it has helped with my digestion and also boosted my natural immunity. Once I started taking them, I got sick less frequently.

The negative impact of antibiotics on gut health

In the past I have taken many courses of antibiotics, some of it for preventative purposes. But I find that doctors are becoming more wary and sensitive about overprescribing antibiotics because of the potential harmful effects on the gut and also the looming problem of antibiotic resistance.

When I was taking antibiotics intravenously for a long period of time due to a knee replacement infection, the doctor who treated me prescribed daily probiotics. He was concerned about upset stomach, but I was also concerned about the potential long-term effects of killing off my natural gut flora.

Is poor gut health related to other health conditions?

There’s a great deal to still learn about gut health and how it impacts the health of the rest of our bodies. More conditions are being connected to poor gut health or deficiencies in the natural flora we are born with. I am not surprised there may be a connection with RA and I am eager to learn more about how good or bad bacteria in my digestive track may play a role. What if this line of research could lead to a discovery of a new array of treatment options or even preventive measures with early testing?

How does gut health contribute to our immune system?

The autoimmune system is highly complex and inflammatory disorders seem to sprout everywhere possible in the human body. Building our knowledge of how the gut contributes to the immune system seems like an important line of inquiry for better understanding and treatment of diseases like RA (and all its autoimmune cousins).

My gut says this is a good idea and is hungry to learn more!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Mayo Clinic. (2016). Study: Gut bacteria can cause, predict and prevent rheumatoid arthritis. Retrieved from


  • jaclark6
    2 days ago

    I find this article fascinating and the results of research encouraging! I would be interested if anyone knows of the strains that have been identified thru this (or other) research to help with RA.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Jennifer. So sorry to hear that you are having these difficulties. In addition to the advice from Kelly, I wanted to direct you to this article from one of our other contributors on RA and gastrointestinal difficulties: Please keep us posted on your progress. Best, Richard ( Team)

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Jennifer, sorry to hear about your tummy troubles. Sounds like it may be worth a discussion with your doctor(s). While NSAIDs and other RA medications may upset the stomach, there are possible options for managing these side effects (such as taking the medications following some food). It may help to talk with your doctor about general gut health and to track when you have stomach problems to see if a pattern emerges either with diet, medications or something else in your life. Hope you stay feeling better. Best, Kelly

  • Jennifer Mason
    3 years ago

    I have an awful time with my stomach. It started back when I came back from Russia in 1995, I began complaining about having trapped gas in my stomach where I could barely walk.
    I went to a doctor and he insisted that I had probably picked up a virus there in Far Eastern Russia.
    I do remember having eaten baked chicken and it did not agree with me then, I don’t remember the circumstances after ingesting the fowl, but there after I’ve really had problems with my stomach.
    Not long after that, I’d noticed taking NSAIDS were hard to take without stomach upset even upon consuming a full meal.
    To this day, I cannot take any anti-inflammatory medications without acute stomach upset, which brings me to this; over the past month, I have been experiencing a major flare with my left knee, ankle, toes, hand all on the left side but along with that major stomach problems even if I were to sneak and take an anti-inflammatory drug for some relief, with food, my stomach would be so inflamed that I could barely walk.
    For the past few days my stomach problems have basically subsided along with the RA flare in my left knee and I’ve wondered after reading this article if there is some sort of correlation between the ‘gut’ and RA.

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