Even knowing that so many illnesses that seem so far removed from the gut actually start there (autism, Parkinson’s, depression, etc.), I am constantly amazed when I come across yet another one. Today, I’m writing about an article I just finished reading on Ankylosing Spondylitis.
According to the Spondylitis Association of America, “Common features of spondyloarthritis include inflammatory back pain, as well as pain and inflammation in the pelvis, neck, intestine, eyes, heels, and various larger joints….Common features of spondyloarthritis include inflammatory back pain, as well as pain and inflammation in the pelvis, neck, intestine, eyes, heels, and various larger joints.”[i]
I had heard of the illness, but knew nothing about it, and you know me…never content to remain in ignorance. I learned that it is a member of a family of rheumatic diseases that includes enteropathic arthritis, reactive arthritis, undifferentiated spondyloarthritis, juvenile spondyloarthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. (I’d heard of the last one as the famous golfer, Phil Michelson, suffers from it.) I have learned that there is really no doubt that it starts in the gut. And maybe most remarkable of all: I learned that about 2.7 million people suffer from spondylitis in the USA, which is almost 3X the number of people with Parkinson’s. (According to of the Parkinson’s Foundation, “Nearly one million will be living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in the U.S. by 2020, which is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease (or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).”[ii]
So spondylitis sufferers vastly outnumber all those well-known illnesses…and yet virtually no one has heard of it.
As Biome Buzz readers, you are like me, and want to know. 🙂
A Possible Role of Intestinal Microbiota in the Pathogenesis of Ankylosing Spondylitis[iii] was a fascinating read. Here are 6 highlights:
The take-away message is pertinent to anyone suffering from any kind of autoimmune and/or inflammatory disease. Genes certainly play a role in terms of increasing susceptibility to specific illnesses, but it takes an environmental insult – a disruption of the gut flora – to invoke disease. Most people with the HLA-B27 will not develop AS…and conversely, not everyone with AS has that particular genetic marker. If we could just learn to support and protect our biomes, starting at birth, the number of people suffering from these horrendous life-long illnesses would undoubtedly drop dramatically.
[iii] Yang, L, Wang, L, Wang, X, Xian, CJ, Lu, H. A possible role of intestinal microbiota in the pathogenesis of Ankylosing Spondylitis. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2016;17(12). doi: 10.3390/ijms17122126.