The Link Between Leaky Gut and Arthritis

It seems an odd connection; gut health, and arthritis, but the two are connected in multiple ways. We see a lot of patients here at My Pet Nutritionist, suffering from Leaky Gut, and/or arthritis. Read on to learn more about the connection between Leaky Gut and Arthritis!

What is Leaky Gut?

The condition is growing more and more common in both us humans, and our canine counterparts, and can lead to some pretty serious health issues, long term. The name ‘Leaky Gut’ does somewhat give the game away, but let’s look deeper into what actually happens in the gut of a normal dog, compared to one with Leaky Gut.

In healthy individuals, after eating, the food passes through the gut. The gut consists of the stomach followed by the small intestine, followed by the large intestine (known as the ‘colon’), through which nutrients from the digested food are absorbed, before the waste is pushed out through the rectum, then anus. To enable a large surface area, for optimum nutrient absorption, the small intestine is lined with small finger-like structures called villi, which themselves are covered in even smaller finger-like structures, known as microvilli. The gut also houses lots of good bacteria to aid digestion – the colonies of good bacteria, along with yeast cells, any viral particles, or parasitic burdens, are collectively known as the‘microbiome’. The gut wall is extremely thin, to allow efficient nutrientabsorption. The cells lining the gut stay close together, and are supported by the interactions of immune cells, and good bacteria in the gut.

In those suffering with Leaky Gut, inflammation occurs in the gut for various reasons, which causes the tight intestine wall to permeate, creating microscopic channels between the cells. Proteins/partially undigested foods then leak out through these channels and are detected by the immune system as a threat, causing a histamine response to occur, which is why one of the most common symptoms of Leaky Gut, is food intolerances.

Other symptoms of Leaky Gut include:

–       Autoimmune Diseases

–       Issues with stools or sickness

–       Joint issues

–       Yeast

–       Problems concerning other major organs in the body

–       Hypothyroidism

–       Changes in behaviour; often anxious behaviour, and short tempered behaviour

Possible Causes of Leaky Gut include:

Over-use of vaccines; the adjuvants may damagethe gut flora

Use of certain pharmaceuticals

– Flea, tick, and worm medications; they disrupt the gut microbiome by not only eradicating the visiting parasites (or often lack thereof), but the good bacteria too.

– Antibiotics; these wipe out the good and bad bacteria

– Antihistamines; these can interfere with the production of mucus in the gut, and can also interfere with the proper functioning of Diamine Oxidase (DAO), which is the     enzyme responsible for breaking down, and removing histamine from within the gut.

– NSAIDs and Steroids; these can cause ulcerations in the gut and interfere with mucosal production.

SIBO and Yeast overgrowth; Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth and Yeast damage the gut lining

Diet; feeding a dry food diet may put stress on the gut. Kibble can sometimes contain Glyphosate, which is an antibiotic herbicide and is toxic, as well as very damaging to the gut. Diets inclusive of legumes and other high-lectin content pulses, nightshades and vegetables may contribute to Leaky Gut as lectin causes poor gut integrity. Microscopic moulds often found on kibbles, known as mycotoxins can also bedetrimental to gut health, contributing to Leaky Gut.

Stress can have a huge effect on the gut integrity, as stress leads to inflammation

Ageing; as our dogs age, the microbiome becomes less diverse which leads to gut damage.

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Read our full Gut Dysbiosis blog here!

What is Arthritis, and How is it Connected to Leaky Gut?

Arthritis is a disease caused by chronic inflammation of the joints. There are numerous types of arthritis, from Osteoarthritis to Rheumatoid Arthritis to Septic Arthritis. Let’s take a look at these types, and their connection with Leaky Gut.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis seen in our pets, and it is especially common in the later years, or following trauma. Other names for osteoarthritis are Degenerative Joint Disease, and Osteoarthrosis. Osteoarthritis affects the body’s synovial joints (these are the joints where a smooth layer of cartilage covers the end of each bone associated with the joint) as well as the tissues around them. It can be a crippling disease, but there are some herbal supplements which have been proven to benefit those suffering from it. Read about these here!

The gut isn’t the first thing most people think of when looking at internal associations with osteoarthritis, but the gut-joint axis is very much affected! Like all types of arthritis, inflammation is a huge part, which is where Leaky Gut comes into play. When ‘foreign’ particles are leaked through the gut wall, the body’s natural response is highly inflammatory. The pressure on the body from this inflammation causes an increase in risk of Osteoarthritis. Equally, the gut-brain axis may be affected by the pain and stress caused by the Osteoarthritis, causing poor gut motility, and increased permeability causing systemic inflammation.

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Studies show that building intestinal mucosal immunity, and repopulating the gut, has positive affects on those suffering with Osteoarthritis, as well as helping to prevent it.

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Having a highly permeable gut also leads to increased transportation of microbes, including cytokines, such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS), particularly in overweight individuals. LPS is known for inducing inflammation, and in many studies it is found in unexpectedly high amounts in the serum around the affected synovial joints.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune inflammatory joint disease. Multiple joints are often affected at the same time, and symptoms not only include swollen, warm joints and joint stiffness, but also fatigue and loss of appetite. The animal model of Rheumatoid Arthritis is called Collagen Induced Arthritis, for which many studies were originally carried out on mice.

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A protein called Zonulin plays a part in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). When Zonulin is overrepresented, the gut permeability cannot be controlled, and allows useful and harmful substances to enter the blood stream, which are then detected as threats by the immune system. The upregulation of Zonulin, paired with the downregulation of Tight Junction barrier cells (the cells in the gut wall which help form a tight barrier, and therefore a strong gut integrity), causes more leakage of particles into the body, which in turn causes major inflammation throughout the joints in the body, causing RA. As with other autoimmune conditions, specific strains of good bacteria in the microbiome being leaked and attacked, cause the onset of RA.

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Septic Arthritis

Septic Arthritis occurs due bacterial infection often following surgery or trauma. This type of arthritis can affect many joints, and be reoccurring. In one study, the risk of prevalence in male dogs vs female dogs, favoured male dogs, who were found to suffer with Septic Arthritis more often than females. Various studies show a range of ages of dogs suffering from Septic Arthritis, but nearly 40% of those affected were under 1 year of age. Mostmof these cases were following surgery. Another study suggests middle aged medium to large breed dogs with pre-existing arthritis are more susceptible to suffer from Septic Arthritis. Septic Arthritis is detected through analysis of bacteria in the synovial fluid in the affected joints, and can result in removal of joints if courses of antimicrobial drugs do not help. Cytokines, released from inflammation in the body, can also contribute to the severity of the condition, so keeping the gut less permeable, and therefore keeping in control of bodily inflammation is very important.

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Supporting the Body


As with most health complaints, a good diet is key to reducing the risk of the issue developing, or progressing. Feeding a balanced fresh food, whether it’s raw or cooked, is essential to general health and wellbeing. Highly processed foods such as dry foods, are high in carbohydrates which contribute to inflammation, as well as containing Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) and often Glyphosate, which also contribute to poor gut permeability, and inflammation in the body.

Many commercially prepared pet foods contain either grain, or a huge amount of legumes and/or nightshades. Grains have an inflammatory effect on the canine body, and are difficult to digest. Legumes and nightshadesare high in Lectin, which contributes to leaky gut by damaging the gut wall.

Stick to a fresh, balanced diet, whether it’s a commercially prepared raw food, a home prepared raw food, or cooked food following our recipes!


Gut Healing

Gut healing supplements are essential to help increase gut wall stability and reduce permeability, to in turn, reduce leakage from the gut and reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases developing, and to also relieve symptoms of those already diagnoses with one of the aforementioned autoimmune diseases. Slippery Elm, Marshmallow Root and Deglycyrrhizinated Liquorice (DGL) are great for gut healing.

Gut Colonising

To recolonise the gut with good bacteria, probiotics would be a great addition to the regime. Using a good, clean probiotic, for example a soil based probiotic (SBO) is a great place to start. Many studies mentioned throughout this blog state a positive affiliation between introducing probiotics into the diet, and reducing symptoms of various autoimmune diseases.

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive Enzymes may be useful for those struggling with digestion due to a leaky gut, especially at the beginning of your pet’s gut healing journey.

Omega 3

Sources of omega 3 include raw eggs, raw oily fish, tinned sardines, krill oil, sardine oil and algae oil. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory, so is essential to supplement in the diet, to help bring down the inflammatory effect of the omega 6 found in our farmed meats.

Joint Support

When looking at joint support, quality is important. Try to stay away from supplements with anti-caking and bulking ingredients like Maltodextrin. The joint support market is a real minefield, with so many options promising so much!

Green Lipped Mussel

Green Lipped Mussels (if you can get them fresh, great! However, they originate from New Zealand, so a powdered supplement may be best) are proven in studies, to reduce pain and inflammation of joints. GLM is lipid-rich, and the most prominent source of anti-inflammatory properties within the mussels, is in the high Polyunsaturated Free Fatty Acid (PUFA) content.

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Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Two compounds that often go hand in hand, Glucosamine and Chondroitin are naturally found in the cartilage of mammals. Feeding fresh, raw cartilage is a great source of both, however it can also be found in a powdered form in numerous joint-targeted supplements. Glucosamine and Chondroitin have been found to have positive effects on pain levels for those suffering with Osteo- or Rheumatoid Arthritis.

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Turmeric and Ginger

Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory plant, as it neutralizes free radicals, which reduces damage to cells of varying types, including skin and connective tissue. It’s also a great source of polyphenols. Polyphenols are fantastic for reducing the effects of chronic disease and cell proliferation.

Turmeric is best use either as an ingredient of Golden Paste, as it requires a fat as an uptake agent, or in it’s active ingredient’s liposomal state. Liposomal Curcumin (the active nutrient in Turmeric) is the most bioavailable form.

Ginger is also a powerful antioxidant, and also a great source of polyphenols. Anti-oxidants help protect the body against free radicals, which is essential for those suffering with a chronic inflammatory disease.

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Boswellia Serrata

Boswellia serrata is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It is particularly useful in reducing the effects of Collagen Induced Rheumatoid Arthritis, as part of modulation of the immune system. If using this supplement, ensure it is of a high quality, and pure.

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It may seem strange that exercise helps those suffering with painful joint conditions, but exercise is incredibly important when diagnosed with Arthritis. When joints degrade, they require extra support by the muscles surrounding them.

Of course, when exercising your arthritic pet, its essential to tailor the exercise to ensure muscles are used correctly, but the dog is not over-worked so as not to further damage the joints. Keep exercise calm, and steady.

Exercise is also crucial for keeping your pet from being overweight. Overweight dogs will suffer more with chronic inflammation and pain conditions than those carrying less weight. Ensure you keep your dog at the lower end of the ‘ideal’ body condition.

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Alternative Therapies

Red Light Therapy

Red Light Therapy is offered at many canine physiotherapy centres, and can also be performed at home using the veterinary approved Photizo device. Red Light Therapy targets the cells mitochondria (the powerhouse of our cells), which enables a reduction in inflammation, and also helping to repair damaged cells and tissues in the targeted area.

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Hydrotherapy is increasingly popular, and for good reason! As it is a non-weight bearing activity, it is particularly good for muscle strengthening in those who are unable to walk long distances due to pain, age, or weight. The ability to completely control movements in the water is also useful to ensure the current muscles are being worked in order to help keep the degraded joint in place.

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Another increasingly popular alternative therapy, acupuncture is fantastic for relieving the body of pain, and also helps stimulate the targeted muscle. During the treatment, specific nerves are targeted, which releases pain-relieving endorphins.

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If your pet is struggling with Leaky Gut, or any type of joint stiffness or arthritis, book in with one of our team so we can help you make beneficial improvements to your pet’s diet and lifestyle!

MPN Team x

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