When suffering from debilitating Rheumatoid Arthritis most of us rarely give a thought to intestinal health. Most of the time, we are caught up in the pain and discomfort of the joint inflammation and the collection of drugs that we are taking on a regular basis and spend most of our time in a pain management mode.
This is where I was for several years. I was on the toxic staple ‘Methotrexate’ and regular pain killers, trying to work out how I was going to be able to stand up at my own wedding. With my knee swollen like a cantaloupe and my fingers, wrists, ankles and feet all screaming in pain, I really was in a bad way and getting worse.
Fortunately, I turned my attention to the digestive process and, after a tremendous amount of research, trial and error, I was able to get off my drugs and get my life back on track. Before Rheumatoid Arthritis I knew nothing about intestines, enzymes and gut bacteria. But after seeing scientific study after scientific study showing the undeniable relationship between diet and rheumatoid arthritis [References], especially the aggravating nature of meat, dairy, fat and cereal grains, there is no doubt that digestion (or rather in-digestion) of food is directly related to RA severity. So I think it is worth spending this chapter going through the reasoning behind this so we can appreciate what exactly is going on between the time we swallow and the time we press ‘flush’.
Your RA is a symptom of poor inner health, reflecting an intestinal environment that is characteristic of an overgrowth of unwanted microforms such as yeast and bad bacteria, along with low levels of ‘good bacteria’, a perforated intestinal wall (or ‘leaky gut’), over acidity a compromised mucosal barrier and a lack of digestive capability (or digestive enzymes). Thus, particles traversing the intestinal path are incompletely digested and may end up inadvertendly in the blood stream triggering an autoimmune response. However, sometimes these particles can look like the proteins of our joint linings, leading to ‘molecular mimicry’ and the body attacking the joint directly. In a nutshell, the pain you experience in your joints is a result of an ineffectiveness of the digestive process. So how do things get so bad on our insides? Let’s look at the BLAME in more detail.
In an ideal state of health you would have between 2-4 pounds of bacteria living inside your intestines in numbers upwards of 40 Trillion. This may sound like the premise of a horror film, but don’t freak out, the vast majority of organisms living in there are helpful, or at least not harmful, to our lives. Beneficial Bacteria (also called Probiotics or Microflora) are the good bacteria that live inside us with the majority found between the end of the small intestine and the distal colon. These tiny organisms are absolutely imperative to our health and we should really think of this big mass of mini life as a vital organ like a lung or a kidney.
The many important functions that our bacteria perform for us includes killing harmful bacteria, killing fungus (caused by the yeast known as candida), and building B vitamins for the rest of our body to use. They also help our bodies produce enzymes, help to change the acidity within our cells and play an important role in the development of the immune system by maintaining a constant dialog with our internal bodies through the surface of the gut. Our microflora also influences many of our hormones. So this healthy bacteria is very important stuff.
Without the correct approach, the challenge to uphold our intestinal health is a difficult one. Besides antibiotics, birth control pills, alcoholic beverages and many other drugs contribute to the destruction of this valuable intestinal flora. Indeed, two of the most damaging substances to our delicate intestinal flora balance are chlorine and fluoride – which are added in most city tap waters. All of these factors which contribute to the downfall of our inner health come from Western Society, where as a population we are living in a way that goes against nature.
It is possible to increase your intake of healthy bacteria via probiotic supplements. Alternatively you can feed the existing bacteria with their favorite foods which allows their populations to grow naturally, rather than trying to add new guys to the mix. So what do your bacteria want to eat? Good bacteria love fiber. Each species of bacteria survives best on specific kinds of nutrients. Friendly bacteria love all kinds of plant-food remnants, especially fiber from green leafy vegetables, whilst pathogens thrive when the diet is low in plant foods and high in animal products and processed foods.
The only protection that you have between all the items that enter your body through your mouth and what enters your blood stream is the single cellular layer of your intestinal wall. Problems arise when infections and toxins cause gaps in your intestinal wall, which is referred to as a ‘leaky gut’. As we discussed above, it is possible for these perforations in your intestinal wall to allow large foreign proteins to pass through the ‘leaky gut’ and enter your blood stream. These foreign proteins, which may be either undigested food particles and/or microorganisms, are referred to as ‘antigens’.
These antigens escape the confines of your intestines and end up in your blood stream, where they are successfully identified as foreign bodies, in the same way your body identifies other foreign proteins of bacteria, viruses and parasites. To combat the antigens, your body makes an antibody and attaches it to the antigen to form a large complex in the blood. Normally, this antibody-to-antigen process is easy to undertake and also easy to remove from the body. However, if there are simply too many of these antigen-antibody complexes for the body to handle then some of them may survive. The complexes are attempted to be filtered out but may get stuck in the small capillaries of the body found in the joints, skin and kidneys. Stuck in the capillaries these complexes cause an inflammatory reaction.
Over time, this prolonged process can trigger a state known as ‘molecular mimicry’. This is when your body begins to mistake these invading antigens with the proteins in your own body and begins to attack your joints, in a state of innocent confusion.
The correct diet will allow the intestinal wall to heal, whilst also minimizing the amount of antigens entering the bloodstream. This, in turn, reduces the load on your immune system which is continually making antibody-antigen complexes.. The ideal diet will also allow the defense system in the intestines to work at its full capacity to remove antigens that enter the system. The Paddison Program for Rheumatoid Arthritis is designed to do just that.
Everything that you swallow will either help you or hurt you. One guideline as to which way it will go is a measure of the acidity levels of the food after it has been digested. That is, once a food gets ‘burned’ via the stomach digestive juices, it leaves an ash in the same way that a log on the fire will leave an ash after it is burned. This ash has a pH level (or ‘potential of hydrogen’) which, once it is assimilated with the human body, will either raise the acidity level of our cells or lower the acidity levels (i.e. make us more alkaline).
If we consider cancer for the moment, we might recall that cancer thrives in an acidic environment, and can’t live in an alkaline environment. This was established in 1931 when Dr. Warburg won his first Nobel Prize for work proving cancer is caused by a lack of oxygen respiration in cells. In keeping with these findings, it has been my personal experience, via trial and error, that alkaline-forming foods are also helpful for Rheumatoid Arthritis.
As a result of eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) our bodies invariably end up overly acidic. All meat and dairy products are highly acid-forming, along with foods that are processed, foods that are sugar-rich, and beverages like sodas, alcohol and coffee. So unless you are acutely aware of this effect that foods have on your body, your body is way too acidic. In The Paddison Program we shift easily onto an alkaline diet.
Under normal working conditions, a mucosal barrier exists over the lining of your intestinal wall which absorbs and digests nutrients, using enzymes to break down complex molecules into smaller, simple molecules. These simple molecules are then able to pass through the wall of your intestine, absorbed into your bloodstream and used as nutrients.
Without this protective mucosal barrier, the intestinal wall is left exposed, making it more likely that larger particles are able to pass through the intestinal wall and wreak havoc on the immune process.
No plant, animal, or human could exist without enzymes since they are responsible for every activity of life. During every living moment, millions of enzymes within each and every cell of your body are working, causing reactions to occur in numbers beyond comprehension. You couldn’t breathe, walk, talk, taste or read these words without enzymes. Even thinking requires enzyme activity. Without enzymes, the grass or trees would not grow, seeds would not sprout and flowers would not bloom. Basically, without enzymes, we’re all dead.
The enzymes involved in the digestive process are called ‘digestive enzymes’, which help us to break down, assimilate, utilize and eliminate our food. Digestive enzymes act like tiny scissors, ‘snipping’ the larger food molecules into their most basic constituents so that we can absorb nutrients in our small intestine.
Unfortunately for us, we all have a limited capacity to produce enzymes, in the same way an engine of a car that has a limited capacity to produce horsepower. Further to this, our capacity to produce enzymes declines with age. It is this general decline in enzyme activity in our body that is a fundamental cause of aging. The presence of enzymes in young adults is 30 times greater than that of older individuals. So, when enzyme activity gets too low, the process of death occurs.
One of the first indication that enzyme activity is waning in your body is a reduction in the efficiency of your digestive system. Virtually all of us have a rapid deterioration in the efficiency of our digestive system as we grow older due to a decrease of digestive enzymes. So serious is this that around two-thirds of all hospitalizations are for problems of the digestive system. Medicines for the digestive system are the number one selling class of drugs. As we age, we lose the ability to produce adequate hydrochloric acid while 35 percent of people over 65 produce none at all. While the digestive system is deteriorating, the enzyme activity throughout the rest of your body is also in decline. This decline is a fundamental cause of aging as well as many of the diseases associated with aging.
We are all born with a ‘bank account’ full of enzymes. Every time we eat raw foods, we put enzymes in our bank account. Every time we eat ‘dead’ food, or food with no enzymes, we must pull enzymes out of our bank account to help us digest the food. Year by year, our bodies are being depleted of enzymes.
So how do we get enough enzymes into our diet? Nature has designed vegetables to contain at least the enzymes needed to break itself down. The secret is to eat foods with your meals that are exceptionally high in enzyme content, over and above what is needed by the food to break itself down, so that there are left over or ‘free’ enzymes available for our bodies. For example, pineapple contains very little protein, yet it contains a high amount of the enzyme Bromelain which is excellent at breaking down proteins. Thus, nature has offered us this gift in the form of Pineapple and Bromelain has been used as a digestive aid and anti inflammatory for now decades. For our purposes, which is to minimize sugar for now, we will move past pineapple and onto a source of enzymes that are a whole order of magnitude more plentiful.
The most enzyme-rich foods are germinated (‘sprouted’) seeds (grains) and beans. The process of sprouting is when a seed begins to transform from its inert state and starts the process of becoming a plant. This transition phase is called the ‘sprouting’ phase
While raw vegetables and fruits have enzymes, they are low in concentration compared to sprouted seeds. The differences in enzyme concentration are enormous. There is 10 to 100 times more enzymes in sprouted seeds than in vegetables or fruits depending on the enzyme and the seed that is being sprouted. There is no food on the planet higher in enzymes than sprouted seeds. They are also a great source of vitamins C, carotenoid A, B vitamins, and minerals. The 2 seeds that are very high in enzymes and recommend in The Paddison Program are mung bean and alfalfa. Vegetable juices, which are also very high in enzymes, are also part of this program.
We now know that our digestive conditions are far from perfect and we have a multitude of things wrong down there, causing particles to enter our blood stream and upsetting our immune response. By eating lots of foods that are high in enzymes through raw plant-based foods we can increase our own enzyme reserves. Further, we can kick-start the production of our own enzymes via our healthy bacteria by eating lots of plants that are high in fiber. We will then be able to break down and digest our food better, thereby avoiding the presence of larger molecules in our intestines. Greater enzyme levels also provide a powerful platform for our body’s ability to heal itself.
We will also enjoy additional health benefits as we repopulate our levels of healthy bacteria. This includes the production of much needed B-vitamins, which are linked to energy levels, as well as keeping the unwanted pathogens in our tummy at bay. Sound good? Well keep in mind that large changes are required because we have enjoyed many years of putting foods into our bodies that have been exacerbating our internal horror. No matter how well we eat, we will not succeed on our mission if we continue to also consume foods that are counterproductive to our health.
If you’d like to know more about The Paddison Program for Rheumatoid Arthritis and how you can eat your way to inner and outer health then click here.
What do you think? What foods have you noticed most of all that have helped you reduce your RA pain?
Disclaimer: Do not take this information as personal medical advice. Do not change your diet if you are ill or on medication without the advice of a qualified health care provider (your physician, for example).