Did you know that joint pain could be occurring from what you're eating on a daily basis? The American diet is saturated with ultra-processed foods, all of which can produce an inflammatory effect on the body. Among these foods include packaged, sugary snacks, and red meat—both of which could be the reason your joints ache.
It's true, eating a diet that's largely void of processed foods may help to prevent arthritis or chronic joint pain. Plenty of recent research suggests that eating a predominantly plant-based diet can help alleviate symptoms of joint pain. For example, one 2015 study found that people who ate a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods experienced a significant decrease in their osteoarthritis pain after just two weeks. Participants also reported they had more energy and better physical functioning by the end of the six-week study.
In addition, the findings from a 2017 study indicate that fiber could also play a role in preventing arthritis. Those who switched to a high-fiber diet reduced their risk for knee osteoarthritis by as much as 61%. And while there are several risk factors associated with arthritis, your gut health may be a key one.
Foods that are high in fat and very processed can alter your gut microbiota, which could be the cause of a slew of health issues. In contrast, plant-based foods—which are rich in both prebiotics and probiotics—can help diversify healthy gut bacteria and reduce inflammation.
Now, new research out of Mayo Clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine shows that your gut microbiome could predict whether or not you'll develop rheumatoid arthritis.
The study, which was published in the journal Genome Medicine, discovered several traits within the gut microbiome that were linked to a future prognosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). For context, RA is a chronic, inflammatory disorder that occurs when the immune system begins to attack its own tissues, joints included. Some symptoms of RA include stiffness, pain, and swelling in more than one joint, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers propose that examining peoples' gut microbiome profiles could help them detect whether or not someone's at risk of diagnosis later on in life. If someone does exhibit certain biomarkers, the hope is they could then be instructed to take preventive measures immediately and spare themselves the burden of developing RA in the future.
"With further development, such prognostic biomarkers could identify patients who will achieve early clinical improvement with a given therapy, thereby sparing them the expense and risk of other therapies that are less likely to be effective," John M. Davis III, MD, co-senior study author, and clinical rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic said in a statement.
"Conversely, such tools can detect patients whose disease symptoms are less likely to improve, and perhaps allow clinicians to target and monitor them more closely. Much is left to be done, but we're on the right path toward advancing our understanding of this disease in order to individualize medicine for patients with rheumatoid arthritis," he said.
In the interim, it can't hurt to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet to support your gut microbiome and overall health. Be sure to check out The #1 Best Diet to Reduce Inflammation, Says Dietitian for tips!