Nature Arthritis Pain Relief
There are dozens of supplements that claim they’re effective arthritis treatments, but can they help improve your arthritis pain? Research shows some really may help and might even enable you to take lower doses of prescription drugs, says Nathan Wei, MD, a board-certified rheumatologist and director at the Arthritis Treatment Center in Frederick, Md. There are some other supplements, however, that you should probably leave on the shelf. Inflammation could it be the Problem?
There are many things to keep in mind even about those arthritis supplements that may be helpful. For one, they aren’t free of side effects and they aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That means you’ll have to do your own research to find out which ones are effective and to determine those that could interact with your other medications. Always discuss any supplements with your doctor before taking them to avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions.
Glucosamine is thought to help with osteoarthritis pain and protect cartilage from deteriorating, while helping your joints to move better. A large National Institutes of Health (NIH) study of glucosamine and chondroitin had lukewarm results, showing that glucosamine may have an effect on moderate and severe arthritis, but didn’t seem to help mild arthritis pain, Dr. Wei says.
Studies performed in Europe, however, have shown that glucosamine may be a more widely effective arthritis treatment, and the reason may be the type of preparation used. Studies of the sulfate preparation of glucosamine suggest it does help ease arthritis pain, Wei says.
Chondroitin sulfate can help slow down osteoarthritis progression and may lower arthritis pain and inflammation. Experts believe this arthritis treatment works by helping keep cartilage healthy, and a review of studies found it significantly improved joint function and helped with pain and inflammation. An NIH study found this arthritis supplement is more effective when taken in combination with something else, including glucosamine sulfate, discussed on the previous page.
Several studies have found S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e), a chemical that occurs naturally in the body, to be helpful for osteoarthritis. Research has even shown it may be as effective an arthritis treatment as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
“I have patients who come in and say they take SAM-e and it seems to help,” says Wei. While you should always be sure to tell your doctor when you take any arthritis supplement, be certain to discuss taking SAM-e, as it can cause many side effects including upset stomach and diarrhea. It can also interfere with other medications, including antidepressants and drugs for Parkinson’s disease.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There’s good evidence that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects, Wei says. Experts say fish oil, which contains omega-3s, can help treat rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other inflammatory conditions. Studies have found omega-3s can help people with rheumatoid arthritis lower their doses of corticosteroids or NSAIDs.
Omega-3s are found in cold-water fish like mackerel and salmon, but because there’s risk of getting too much mercury from eating more than six to eight ounces of fish a week, it’s a good idea to take fish oil supplements for this arthritis treatment. Plant sources, like flax and flaxseed oil, are other good ways to add omega-3s to your arthritis diet, Wei suggests.
MSM, which stands for methylsulfonylmethane, is naturally found in healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, and is thought to help form connective tissue in the body and may reduce arthritis pain. Some studies have supported the claim that MSM can lower inflammation, Wei notes, but the effects are modest. In one review of studies on MSM, researchers found it seemed to have a positive effect on knee osteoarthritis, but the results weren’t conclusive due to flaws in the design of the studies. Likewise, not much is known about the possible side effects associated with MSM. It should be avoided if you’re taking any blood-thinning medications.
Some studies have found the antioxidant vitamin C is important for building connective tissue, but it’s hard to say whether that translates to less arthritis pain, Wei says. Rather than taking vitamin C as a supplement, he recommends getting it through a healthy diet. Research has found that people with the least amount of vitamin C in their diet were three times more likely to develop arthritis than people whose diets included plenty of fruits and vegetables. Natural Arthritis Remedies
The South African herb devil’s claw is thought to help with pain and inflammation. Wei says he has doubts about whether it can play a helpful role in arthritis treatment, though, and adds “studies have been inconclusive.” Devil’s claw can interfere with diabetes medications, blood thinners, and other prescription drugs. Once again, be sure to talk to your doctor before taking this or any arthritis supplement.
Ginger root, either fresh or dried, is known to improve joint pain and reduce inflammation for people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Wei recommends adding ginger to your diet as an arthritis treatment to reduce inflammation rather than taking it in supplement form. Ginger in supplement form can interact with blood thinners and can aggravate gallbladder disease.
Original article By: Marie Suszynski
Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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