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Do you suffer from aching, stiff joints, and need to pop more painkillers than you’d like? Painful joints are not simply an inevitable side effect of growing older, but they are signals from your body telling you something is amiss.
Although you might think your gut and your joints couldn’t possibly be connected, your gut holds the key to healthy joints.
Read on to find out more about how the root causes of achy and painful joints can lie in your gut, and how you can answer your body’s cries for help, naturally.
If you suffer from chronic pain of any kind, you’re not alone. Around 13% of the adult population of England are prescribed opioid drugs like codeine and tramadol for chronic pain. Many more people regularly take over-the-counter medication to control their pain.
Pain is a signal produced naturally by your body in response to stimuli like pressure, heat or tissue damage. These cause your immune system to release inflammatory chemicals. Special nerves sense these chemicals and transmit the information to your brain, creating the feeling of pain to encourage you to change your behaviour. It’s a powerful sensation to prevent you from damaging yourself further.
Sadly pain often becomes a vicious cycle, with your brain expecting to feel the pain even when the original stimulus has gone away. The perception of pain is a delicate balance between your immune system and your nervous system, and it can easily go off kilter.
Arthritis occurs when cartilage, the slippery, cushioning substance between the bones of the joints, breaks down. This causes friction between the two surfaces of the joint and therefore pain.
Cartilage can be damaged due to wear and tear, as in osteoarthritis, or because your immune system mistakenly attacks it, thinking it’s an invader. This is known as rheumatoid arthritis. Joint pain can follow a viral infection, including COVID, when your immune system is on red alert from fighting the virus and your joints are caught in the crossfire.
If your immune system has gone rogue and is attacking your cartilage, the cause usually lies in your gut, because this is where your most of your immune system sits. The bacteria living in your gut, known collectively as your microbiome, teach your immune system about what’s dangerous and what isn’t. So your gut bacteria regulate when your immune system launches an attack, and what against.
If your microbiome is healthy, your immune system will do what it’s supposed to, but if the bacteria are out of balance, immune cells will tend to produce too many pro-inflammatory substances, damaging joints.
Osteoarthritis was long believed to be simply down to wear and tear on joints. However, it’s now suspected to be an inflammatory disease linked to poor gut health too. Researchers discovered the microbiomes of obese individuals contained more of the types of bacteria causing inflammation. This led to a rapid deterioration in their joints, particularly after minor injuries of the types usually sustained during activity. This effect was avoided, however, if they received a supplement of prebiotic, food for the beneficial gut bacteria, meaning the healthy bacteria thrived and multiplied. Joints remained healthy even though the individuals were overweight.
Functional Medicine always delves deeper to discover the causes of your joint pain. Functional tests can assess your gut health and discover whether your microbiome is causing excess inflammation, harming your joints. Once the cause of your pain is established, natural strategies will be recommended to put things right, stopping your pain at its source.
Are you concerned about the health of your bowel? Why not book a free 15 minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.
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