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When Join Paint Starts In The Gut: How Healing Your Leaky Gut Can Help To Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis

Posted by Agnes Lussier-Dow NP-PHC on 12 July 2022
When Join Paint Starts In The Gut: How Healing Your Leaky Gut Can Help To Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis

Looking For The Cause Of Arthritis In Unusual Places.

Arthritis is a very common condition affecting as many as 20% of Canadians. And, because there are several types of arthritis, chances are it is affecting you or someone you know right now. While not every kind of arthritis is inflammatory, those that are may have a surprising root cause: leaky gut.

A healthy microbiome is essential to optimal wellness. Recently, the connection between inflammatory arthritis—like Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)—and gut health has become an area of scientific interest. According to the Institute of Functional Medicine, “RA is one of several conditions where gut permeability predates symptoms, and it may be possible to prevent joint damage by treating the gut.” 

Leaky Gut, Inflammation And Arthritis.

The intestines are crucial not only for absorption but also for protection. They guard the body against harmful bacteria and toxins. Usually, the intestines have tight openings that only allow water and nutrients to pass into the bloodstream. But, when these openings get wider it can cause all kinds of problems. Food particles, bacteria and toxins can slip through and enter the bloodstream. This can lead to widespread inflammation—including joint pain— and changes in the gut flora (normal bacteria). These changes can lead to problems within the digestive tract and beyond. This “hyperpermeability” is called leaky gut syndrome (LGS).

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of a leaky gut include:

  • Digestive upset like diarrhea, constipation and bloating

  • Fatigue and headaches

  • Loss of concentration or confusion

  • Skin problems like acne, rashes or eczema

  • Joint pain and widespread inflammation

Because these symptoms overlap with many other health conditions, diagnosing leaky gut is complicated. In fact, there is some controversy among researchers about whether leaky gut is the symptom or the cause of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease, celiac disease, diabetes and Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


Some of the most common signs and symptoms of a leaky gut include: digestive upset, fatigue and headaches, loss of concentration, skin conditions and joint pain.


When Joint Pain Starts In The Gut.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease. It mainly affects the joints in the wrists, hands, and knees. In severe cases, RA can affect other tissues that don’t involve the joints including the eyes, skin, nerve tissue, bone marrow and more.  A joint affected by RA becomes inflamed which causes damage to the joint tissue. This, in turn, can lead to chronic pain and, in some instances, deformity and disability.

Recent studies support the theory that mucosal surfaces play a central role in the development of Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It suggests that RA emerges from mucosal tissues (the membranes lining all body passages which secrete mucus) and dysbiosis (an imbalance in a person’s natural gut flora), and only later do problems occur in the synovial fluid (the fluid around joints) and joints.

More research is needed but the connection between gut health, leaky gut and RA continues to be established. And, all evidence suggests that when we recognize the signs early enough, we can restore gut health and avoid RA.


Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune and inflammatory disease.

A Functional Approach To Preventing Leaky Gut, Inflammation and Arthritis.

When someone experiencing arthritis seeks care from a practitioner working from within the framework of functional medicine, the first question they will try to answer is “What kind of arthritis does this patient have—osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis?”

If the joint pain is the result of osteoarthritis (a “wear and tear” condition) then you will want to explore lifestyle changes specific to movement. If, however, the arthritis is the result of inflammation, your care provider will order tests to confirm or rule out Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Once RA is confirmed, an evaluation of possible triggers will be the next step. This includes looking at things like diet and gut health, lifestyle, microbes and environmental toxins.

To promote a healthy gut and prevent conditions like leaky gut, here are some of the things you can do (and can avoid) in your day-to-day life.

Food Is Medicine: Diet, Gut Health and Inflammation

Nurture your gut health by avoiding foods that may harm healthy gut bacteria and cause inflammation. Some examples of foods to avoid include:

  • Wheat and gluten-containing products like bread, pasta, and cereals

  • Processed meats and dairy products

  • Baked goods and snack foods (aka. Junk food)

  • Refined oils, sugar and artificial sweeteners

  • Alcohol and carbonated beverages

Instead, try to include foods that improve digestive health like:

  • Fresh and fermented vegetables

  • Roots and tubers

  • Fruits

  • Sprouted seeds and gluten-free grains

  • Healthy fats and nuts

  • Fish (especially salmon, tuna, herring, and other omega-3-rich fish)

  • Lean meats and eggs

  • Cultured dairy products

Reduce Inflammation By Reducing Your Exposure To Environmental Toxins

Whether it’s the food you eat, the air you breathe or the personal care products you put on your skin, we are all exposed to hundreds of toxins every day. Unfortunately, many environmental toxins disrupt gut bacteria and contribute to conditions like leaky gut. Some toxins to avoid include:

  • Triscolan (found in soap, mouthwash, toothpaste and hand sanitizers)

  • BPA (found in plastic water bottles and the lining of canned food)

  • Heavy metals like cadmium, lead and arsenic

  • Pesticides like glyphosate are known to irritate the intestinal lining

To help reduce your exposure to environmental toxins, you can:

  • Limit your use of commercial personal care products and opt for locally made and naturally sourced alternatives

  • Limit your use of plastics—especially your food and drink containers

  • Buy organic or pesticide-free foods when possible

  • Filter your drinking water

 Building Mental And Emotional Resiliency To Boost Gut Health

Stress and depression have both been proven to increase gut barrier permeability. Studies suggest this is because of the release of cortisol and mast cells that accompany both mental states. For that reason, finding ways to manage your stress levels and mental health can help to prevent conditions like leaky gut and, thus, Rheumatoid arthritis. Here are some ways to nurture your mental and emotional health:

  • Limit the amount of time you spend in stressful situations

  • Practice mindfulness, meditation, breathwork or yoga

  • Eat well and move your body regularly

  • Get the support of a counsellor to help build your tools and resiliency

Ways to nurture a healthy gut through diet, stress management and reducing exposure to environmental toxins.

Rheumatoid Arthritis May Be Preventable When You Make The Lifestyle Changes Needed To Reduce Inflammation And Avoid Leaky Gut.

Functional medicine shows us that getting to the root of the issue is more likely to lead to long-term, sustainable health and wellness. This means looking beyond the symptoms and connecting the dots. As research continues, the connection between leaky gut and inflammatory arthritis (specifically Rheumatoid arthritis) is more firmly established. Fortunately, studies suggest that both conditions may be preventable when a balanced state of health is achieved through intentional diet and lifestyle management.

If you are living with joint pain or arthritis and want to look for solutions beyond pain management, contact us today to learn more about how functional medicine can help you get to the root of the issue. Complete our online contact form or call (705) 768-9155 today.

Author:Agnes Lussier-Dow NP-PHC
Tags:Nutritionfunctional medicineGut HealthInflammation