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What is the Link Between Gluten and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Gluten is the primary driver for an autoimmune condition called celiac disease. This condition occurs as a result of gradual inflammation of the intestines due to persistent exposure to gluten which is a protein widely found in wheat, rye, and barley. Genes also play a crucial role in determining if an individual is at an increased risk for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Rheumatoid Arthritis once again is an autoimmune disorder in which there is chronic inflammation of various joints of the body. The link between celiac disease or gluten sensitivity with other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis has been much talked about by various researchers[1].

There have been many studies undertaken to better understand the link between these two disorders. The studies have clearly showed a direct link between celiac disease and diabetes mellitus and Sjogren syndrome. The link between rheumatoid arthritis with gluten has however led to varied opinions. It is quite clear that gluten plays a major role in the development of major autoimmune conditions causing inflammation and tissue destruction[1].

This is also evident from the fact that when gluten is removed from the diet then there is significant improvement in the condition if not complete cure. Additionally, the alteration in the way that food travels from the digestive tract through the gut along with an altered immunological response triggers the immune system to produce antigens that are directed against sites that are far away from the stomach. This increases the risk for the patient developing conditions like rheumatoid arthritis since both celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis share the same autoimmune mechanism[1].

This is further substantiated by the fact that dietary modifications by removing celiac from the diet has led to improvement in the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. This article describes in detail the link between gluten and rheumatoid arthritis[1].

What is the Link Between Gluten and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

What is the Link Between Gluten and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Based on research data, there is some link identified between gluten caused celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis but the exact relationship is not entirely clear.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy tissues of the various joints of the body causing pain and inflammation. Studies have shown that removing gluten rich foods from the diet has caused improvement in pain and inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis [2].

However, there is a consensus among scientists that more research needs to be done to establish an exact association of gluten with rheumatoid arthritis. When a study was conducted on people with rheumatoid arthritis it was observed that if those people ate food that was rich in gluten there was a significant flare up of symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. However, this may have been due to gluten sensitivity some clinicians observe[2].

Severe gluten sensitivity results in the development of celiac disease. It is quite a common autoimmune condition and affects 1 in 100 people. People with celiac disease when fed with food containing gluten may result in severe pain and inflammation in various parts of the body including the joints. This may trigger symptoms that are quite similar to rheumatoid arthritis. This occurs due to immune response triggered by the body where it takes gluten to be the invader and attacks it[2].

When some of these inflammatory agents produced during the process get mixed with the blood then it may result in development of symptoms similar to rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have shown that people with rheumatoid arthritis tend to more likely have gluten sensitivity with resultant celiac disease than people without it[2].

The study states that the antibodies produced by the immune system in response to gluten in the diet are seen more frequently in people with rheumatoid arthritis. This again points towards a direct link between these two conditions. Another research suggests that people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity tend to have markers of rheumatoid arthritis and also people with rheumatoid arthritis commonly have signs similar to celiac disease again point to a link between these two conditions[2].

However, the researchers state that it is not necessary for everyone with rheumatoid arthritis to have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. It is however best for physicians to test for both rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease if an individual experiences symptoms similar to either of the conditions to formulate the best treatment plan[2].

Gluten sensitivity or celiac disease can be easily identified by doing a blood test. The blood test will show elevated levels of Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies which is a marker for gluten sensitivity. Once an individual is diagnosed with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease then dietary modifications is a must to deal with the symptoms of the condition[2]

In conclusion, several research and studies have come up with positive results pertaining to the association of gluten with rheumatoid arthritis. There are significant similarities between these two conditions. The first and foremost is that they both are autoimmune conditions. The studies have also revealed that people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease have markers for rheumatoid arthritis. Similarly people with rheumatoid arthritis often tend to also have celiac disease[2]

All these studies point towards a link between these two conditions. Studies have also shown that if people with rheumatoid arthritis remove gluten from their diet then they experience a marked improvement in their symptoms. However, all the researchers are of the opinion that still more research needs to be done to come up with conclusive evidence of a common link between gluten and rheumatoid arthritis[2]


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 12, 2019

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