Link between UTIs and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Exciting news regarding Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common autoimmune disease affecting over a million Americans. The immune system attacks the joints of the sufferer, causing pain and crippling deformities, commonly in the hands and feet.
Research proves the importance of diet, as well as isolating infectious agents, when dealing with rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Back in 1999 a famous study was conducted whereby patients with RA were followed for a little over a year. The control group continued their typical diet while the experimental group followed a vegan diet for the first quarter of the study, and then was switched to an ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet for the rest of the year.
Not surprisingly the control group felt no better, but the experimental group noticed significant improvement:
- Morning stiffness improved within the first month.
- The number of hours of stiffness were reduced by 50%.
- Subjectively they felt better
- Improvement in their grip strength
- Less tender joints
- Less swelling in their joints
- They lost an average of 13 pounds, which they kept off for the year
- Lab tests also improved: 3 measures of inflammation including sed rate, C-reactive protein and white blood count all improved.
How could a simple diet change cause so much improvement?
It’s important to remember that the initiation of autoimmune disease is legitimate – in other words, initially the immune system IS responding appropriately to a hostile invader, be it an infectious agent, food or toxin.
In the case of the above research, the diet change inadvertently had a good effect upon an infection. Read on…
Certain bacteria are known causes of autoimmune disease
In the case of certain particular autoimmune diseases, the infectious agent has been identified.
Rheumatic fever, as an example, can be caused by the same bacteria that cause strep throat. The reason an autoimmune disease of the heart can be related to this particular strep-causing bacteria, is that the bacteria contains a protein that resembles a protein in the human heart valves.
Autoimmune disease, by definition, means your immune system is attacking “auto”, self. It boils down to a “confusion” of friend vs. foe, rather than a vindictive attack by your immune system.
An overtaxed, over-stressed immune system simply fails to make the distinction between two proteins that look a great deal like one another.
In the case of rheumatic fever, the bacteria causing the infection possesses a protein that “mimics” a protein in the human heart, and the overwhelmed immune system fails to make the distinction between self and bacteria, and attacks your heart.
This is called molecular mimicry.
When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis the same thing occurs. In this case the bacteria, Proteus mirabilis, causes urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Clever researchers looked at UTI infections due to the fact that the incidence of women contracting rheumatoid arthritis is a rate three times that of men. An infection that women develop that men don’t is UTIs.
Sure enough, the Proteus bacteria possesses proteins that mimic our joint tissues. Therefore an initial (legitimate) attack against Proteus can result in a subsequent attack of our own joints, ultimately resulting in the joint destruction seen in RA.
How can we get rid of this bacteria?
The question: is it possible to get rid of Proteus?
Research is clear that urinary tract infections occur from fecal bugs that make their way from the rectum to the urethra, where they enter the bladder. Yes, it’s gross, but they crawl out of your butt and up into your bladder.
Can you change the profile of bacteria in the gut and get rid of Proteus? Actually yes, you can!
Early studies were performed two decades ago. Researchers decided to put participants on a diet that was a huge shift from what they typically ate to see how it affected their gut flora. The researchers opted for a vegan diet (big dietary change) and sure enough the gut flora not only altered, but it happened within days.
The real test was to put those suffering with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on the diet. Again success was seen – those with RA experienced relief and the greater their gut flora changed, the greater their improvement.
Excitingly, the presence of the bacteria Proteus, in particular, lessened on the vegan diet. The immune system’s response against the bacteria, called antibodies, was seen to diminish in those following the predominantly plant-based diet. Reduced antibodies means reduced incidence of autoimmune disease.
Does a plant-based diet act as a natural antibiotic?
Another exciting finding was a higher level of lignans found in the urine of those on the plant-based diet.
Lignans are found in:
Lignans are known for their anti-cancer benefits, but these researchers found them to also be anti-bacterial. The lignan level created from the plant-based diet acted as a natural antibiotic if you will, helping to eliminate any Proteus that did try to enter the bladder.
Is this a “cure” for rheumatoid arthritis?
This opens the door to a dietary change that works to lessen symptoms of RA, but what about reversal and prevention?
If a plant-based diet prevents Proteus infections from occurring, can that prevent RA altogether?
Once RA has occurred, can immediate dietary interventions stop joint destruction?
These are questions that need to be answered, but the future looks bright and certainly we’ve experienced great success in our patients with RA.
A Plan to Treat and Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis
- It seems obvious that we must reduce the population of Proteus in the gut flora.
- Similarly, it would be smart to keep the urine rich in lignans, since it acts as an antimicrobial.
- Of course autoimmune disease comes about due to an overtaxed immune system, so taking steps to reduce the factors overwhelming it would also make sense.
To the above point, identifying and removing any additional stressors to the immune system, beyond a Proteus infection, is key.
This is exactly the program we offer here at Root Cause Medical. Long before we appreciated the link between Proteus and RA, we still placed patients on a high whole food plant-based diet which, unbeknownst to us at the time, lessened the impact of Proteus and patients’ symptoms improved.
This is exactly what happened in the 1999 research. They weren’t exactly sure why they saw all the improvements they did, they just knew the dietary change caused them.
I well remember the patient in her 60s who had suffered with RA for decades. She had been on every drug imaginable and finally had enough. Her joint destruction was severe and she was in a great deal of pain, with open sores over her knuckles.
We did our typical program and she improved dramatically. Her joint destruction was not reversible after so many decades, but her pain levels reduced so substantially that she regained improved function and mobility in her many of her joints. Specifically, her hand mobility improved so much she was able to return to work – her goal at the time she started care.
Who do you know who has autoimmune disease?
Do you have a friend or family member suffering from autoimmune disease? Do you suffer yourself?
If you have one autoimmune disease you are 3 to 10 times more likely to develop another. In my opinion that can be prevented by taking the steps we’ve discussed.
Traditional medicine only offers dangerous drugs. These prescribed medications do not offer a cure, they simply “control” symptoms while the underlying root cause continues to worsen.
What if autoimmune disease could be improved, prevented and even reversed?
I believe it can. Here at the clinic we certainly have seen a tremendous number of patients who have improved and reversed their conditions.
If you have an autoimmune disease, you need to embrace some dietary and lifestyle changes. We make it as easy as we can, but it does require a commitment.
New lab test available
Do you have autoimmune disease in your family and you don’t want to head in that direction?
Are you not feeling your best and want to know if you are developing any autoimmune tendencies?
Good news: a blood test is available that can show you if you are in the early stages of developing autoimmune. The test is accurate for early changes, sometimes years before a diagnosis would occur.
It’s ciritical to catch such changes early and this test does exactly that.
Do you want to regain your health?
Is your health not where you want it to be?
Are you confused about what to do?
We can help.
Contact us for a Free Consultation – Call (408) 733-0400.
If you are not local to us you can still receive help; our Destination Clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally.
We help the world’s busiest people regain, retain and reclaim their health, energy and resilience.
If you liked this blog please share it with friends and family.
To reclaiming your best health,
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC, CCN
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of eBook: “Gluten: What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You”
- A Ebringer, T Rashid. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a Proteus urinary tract infection. APMIS. 2014 May;122(5):363-8.
- A Ebringer, T Rashid. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by Proteus: the molecular mimicry theory and Karl Popper. Frontiers in Bioscience. 2009 Jun 1;1:577-86.
- C Wilson, et al. Molecular mimicry between HLA-DR alleles associated with rheumatoid arthritis and Proteus mirabilis as the Aetiological basis for autoimmunity. Microbes and Infection. 2000 Oct;2(12):1489-96.
- L Guilherme, et al. Molecular mimicry in the autoimmune pathogenesis of rheumatic heart disease. Autoimmunity. 2006 Feb;39(1):31-9.
- G Furneri, et al. Systematic literature review on economic implications and pharmacoeconomic issues of rheumatoid arthritis. Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology. 2012 Jul-Aug;30(4 Suppl 73):S72-84.
- M Saleem, et al. An update on bioactive plant lignans. Natural Product Reports. 2005 Dec;22(6):696-716.