Foods Cross-Reacting May Contribute to Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Gut-Joint Axis

Dr. Scot Lewey

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Out of Norway, published in the British journal Gut, comes additional new evidence of the link between foods and rheumatoid arthritis. Professor Bradtzaeg and his colleagues at the Institute of Pathology in Oslo measured IgG, IgA, and IgM antibodies to foods in blood and intestinal fluid in 14 people with rheumatoid arthritis compared with 20 healthy people. Testing these antibodies to the following food antigens: gliadin, oats, cow’s milk proteins (casein, lactalbumin, lactoglobulin), soy, pork, cod fish, and egg (ovalbumin) revealed “particularly striking of cross reactive food antibodies in proximal gut secretions” and increased IgM antibodies to some foods in the blood but less so.

As a result measuring blood antibodies to foods in rheumatoid arthritis they believe provides little information about the role of foods whereas intestinal antibodies not only show this “striking” pattern of elevation as well as potential cumulative effect of multiple foods. The results support the connection of mucosal (gut) immune activation and causation by cross reactive foods in at least some people with rheumatoid arthritis.

What does this potentially mean? Multiple foods, especially foods that frequently show up as suspects in food allergies and sensitivities contributing to inflammatory and/or autoimmune conditions, are likely contributing to the process of gut inflammation resulting in injury (the leaky gut). This injury, especially in genetically predisposed people and in the setting of altered gut bacteria (dysbiosis), predisposes to further injury and the entry of toxic food protein-bacteria complexes resulting in inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

This gut-joint axis is likely the same mechanism as the gut-brain axis (and gut-skin axis) that produces the myriad of symptoms and diseases seen that we are increasingly finding associated with food proteins and bacteria in the gut. Much more needs to learned, but it is interesting that some foods keep showing up as the usual suspects. Grains (especially wheat, barley, rye, oats, corn), dairy (casein), nightshades (potato, tomato, peppers) and peanuts, soy and other legumes particularly stand out for their proposed link to many diseases and the success of diets eliminating or restricting such foods.

The Paleolithic or Hunter-Gatherer diet specifically recommends restricting grains, dairy and legumes. Various anti-inflammatory or arthritis diets usually recommend eliminating either wheat or gluten, dairy and the nightshades. The dietary approach to autism commonly advocated is a casein-free, gluten-free diet. Despite lay public reports of great successes with such elimination diets, mainstream medicine continues to be slow to study the dietary treatment of disease. However, especially in the past two to three years more studies are appearing showing links supporting a significant role of food and bacteria in the gut and various autoimmune diseases. Continue to stay tuned for more from the Food Doc on breaking news highlighting these links. Through his soon to be launched premier website, his online articles, and his cutting edge food doc blog, Dr. Scot Lewey, the Food Doc, is dedicated to helping you eat right to feel right.

Reference: Hvatum M, Kanerud L, Hallgren, Brandtzaeg P. The gut-joint axis: cross reactive food antibodies in rheumatoid arthritis. Gut 2006; 55:1240-1247.

Copyright 2006 The Food Doc, LLC. All Rights Reserved. dedicated to helping people choose the “right foods to feel right".


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