by Dr. Emily Splichal, DPM MS
From heel pain to a sprained ankle, inflammation of the foot and ankle is often a defense reaction of the body against injury. The associated redness and heat are the result of blood vessel permeability and other protective mechanisms within the body to trigger a healing response.
When the process of inflammation has been initiated, it will continue until either the source of the inflammation has been erased or the healing process has completed. However, if the cause of the inflammation cannot be eliminated, the inflammation will continue, and then it will often vary in intensity over time.
Chronic, low-grade systemic inflammation is an often-overlooked contributor to foot pain and is one to consider especially in those with waxing and waning foot pain or foot pain that flares up based on stress levels, diet, auto-immune conditions or metabolic disease.
The Gut & Inflammation
The bacterial flora (microbiota) of the gut has been shown to play a role in inflammation both in the contribution of but also mitigation of inflammatory markers. Adjusting the composition of the gut microbiota can be a strategy to reduce systemic inflammation and potentially certain types of foot pain.
Ingesting probiotics can affect the composition of the resident gut microbiota, but probiotics may also have more direct effects on the immune system and the permeability of the gut mucosa or lining.
The better the gut barrier, the lower the risk of pro-inflammatory components leaking into or out of the gut and therefore impacting systemic inflammation levels.
Probiotics & Foot Pain
The most studied inflammation-suppressing and immune boosting probiotics for the GI microbiota are certain species/strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Both of these bacteria can be found in probiotics such as Floracor-GI which contains a revolutionary blend of probiotics, prebiotics and enzymes, all of which can play a role in systemic inflammation management.
To explore the connection between gut health and musculoskeletal pain, a 2014 study published in the journal Nutrition tested 46 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a common autoimmune and inflammatory condition.
One group received daily supplements containing Lactobacillus and the other group received a placebo. After an eight-week period, several markers of inflammation and subjective pain levels were significantly lower in the probiotic group.
This study led researchers to state that, although further studies are needed to confirm the results, these conclusions may lead to the use of probiotics as an adjunct therapy for patients with RA, or other inflammatory conditions.
Since many people with RA experience chronic foot pain which fluctuates based on their overall immune health and inflammatory levels, this study suggests the potential benefit of using probiotics to mitigate chronic foot pain.
If you are curious to learn more about probiotics, systemic inflammation and foot pain, speak to your medical provider to see if they may be an option for you.