Experts believe that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may be the result of a combination of risk factors, including genetics, environment and other co-factors, such as gender, hormones and stress. In the following article, Katherine Poehlmann, PhD, shares her views on the effects of joint trauma as one possible RA trigger and antibiotic therapy as a targeted treatment option.
By the time we reach middle age, we may have acquired multiple bacterial infections. These microbes can generate both beneficial and harmful bioactive enzymes. We live more or less symbiotically with these microorganisms as long as the immune system is able to keep the colonies within manageable bounds. When that balance is upset by poor diet or trauma, the immune system is overloaded and autoimmune disease is the result.
For example, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) can be triggered by joint trauma. Childhood illnesses like strep throat, bronchitis, and pneumonia leave behind pathogenic microbe remnants (L-forms) that usually settle in the synovial tissues surrounding the joints. These microorganisms have been found in the gums, respiratory system, GI tract, bladder, and elsewhere, often as cysts. When the time is right to emerge, they mutate with usually benign, resident mycoplasmas and form a colony. The immune system detects these invaders but has trouble finding them. This is because lipids and proteins on the surface of these pathogens bond with those of healthy cells and other plasma molecules to cloak themselves. These shape-shifting microbes are able to infiltrate the very T-cells and B-cells sent to fight them.
In the past decade, there has been a steadily growing acceptance of infection’s role in rheumatic disease, but with competing models for explaining the actual mechanism. In the autoimmune model, the body is seen as attacking its own cells. But that model breaks down when the inflammation subsides as soon as the microbes are removed or significantly suppressed. The other model sees the role of infection as central not only in the initial stages of the disease, but throughout the process.
The new COX-2 inhibitors and TNF blockers prescribed as RA painkillers are designed to halt the runaway inflammation cascade causing pain and swelling in the joints. For the COX-2 enzyme to work properly, the body needs sufficient and balanced levels of copper and zinc. If a deficiency exists, the COX-2 molecule will have a different shape — ineffective and perhaps even harmful.
To some extent, immunosuppression is beneficial because infectious microbes that have infested the immune system’s cells are prevented from replicating and causing further damage. However, by suppressing the immune system, these drugs also lower the body’s defenses to fend off other, more serious infections such as Chlamydia pneumoniae (also known as Chlamydophila pneumonia). Such infections lead to atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s lesions, heart disease and stroke, staphylococcus, and tuberculosis.
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) like methotrexate interfere with intracellular replication in the infiltrated cells, but there are more benign methods. Vitamin C in levels of 3-5 grams daily is especially effective in blocking the action of hyaluronidase enzymes that facilitate bacterial replication and colonization, and that contribute to the inflammatory response. Hyaluronidase destroys the shock-absorbing lubricating molecules that protect the cartilage from damage. According to Dr. Earl Mindell (Herb Bible, Simon & Schuster, 1992) echinacea also inhibits hyaluronidase production.
Vitamins and supplements should always be discussed with one’s health care provider to be sure there are no allergic reactions or contraindications with other medications or conditions. Thorough allergy testing may reveal sensitivities to substances used in vitamin manufacture, such as corn, gluten, whey, and brewer’s yeast.
Target the cause, not the symptoms
Dr. Thomas McPherson Brown associated the link between microbial infection and connective tissue diseases (RA, Lupus, Scleroderma, and others) in the 1940s. For several decades, he documented research and case studies showing that these conditions respond well to the tetracycline family of antibiotics, administered in a low dose over a long period of time.
In parallel with the antibiotic protocol, one must take steps to enhance the immune system through diet, gentle exercise, and vitamins/supplements if necessary. The goal is to suppress the bacterial colony to the point where a robust immune system can take over, and the antibiotic treatment can then be discontinued. Remission can be achieved, but the microbes are not completely destroyed. Survivors retreat to hide in the joints, waiting for an opportune moment to emerge and re-colonize. Trauma (physical, emotional, or psychological) or a weakened immune system provide that opportunity.
Because these microbes are anaerobic (sensitive to increased oxygen in cells), it behooves the RA sufferer to increase oxygen levels by means of gentle aerobic exercise (e.g., stretching, swimming), Co-Enzyme Q10, and Vitamins B-5, B-6, and E. This anaerobic characteristic explains why hyperbaric oxygen treatment is so successful against RA. Quinine and enzyme therapy can also combat the infection.
Erosion of cartilage as a result of RA
Warning signs of RA are chronic fatigue, joint pain, and inflammation. A joint trauma will exacerbate those symptoms, and the injury will fail to heal in a reasonable length of time. Specific diagnostic tests can determine whether microbial infection is present. The best of these are C-reactive Protein (CRP) testing, neutrophil measurement, Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR, or Sed Rate ), Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), Joint Scan, and testing for anti-IgG antibodies (the Rheumatoid Factor).
A rheumatic disease like RA causes the destruction of collagen, the building block of cartilage, through the inflammatory action of destructive enzymes like collagenase and hyaluronidase. Weakened, shredded, or eroded cartilage can lead to joint instability, imbalance, and accidental falls.
Symptoms of latent bacterial infection may not be obvious until a specific condition — injury, pneumonia, food poisoning, allergic reaction — triggers growth of the colony. After a fall, especially one that involves joint trauma to the wrists, elbows, knees, or hips, it is important to take immediate action to help the immune system heal the injury and suppress the replication of harmful, opportunistic microbes and their destructive enzymes. Antibiotic therapy can be key factor in recovery.
Our bodies are in constant tear down/rebuild mode. A dysfunctional immune system cannot keep up with a non-stop inflammation that delays the healing process. Long term joint inflammation can hasten the onset of osteoarthritis as cartilage is worn away.
Katherine Poehlmann was stricken with RA in her forties following injury from a fall. Having discovered antibiotic therapy, she is now in remission. Click here to read Katherine’s remission story.
For information about her books and ongoing research, visit: www.RA-Infection-Connection.com