Diet and Nutrition

8 Supplements for Arthritis Pain

8 Supplements for Arthritis Pain

Arthritis is a painful condition that usually affects the joints. Around 350 million people in the world have arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately more than 50 million people with arthritis symptoms in the US alone. 

Supplements for Arthritis

Below are a some of the top foods to consume to fight the symptoms of arthritis. Consuming a smart arthritis diet should be loaded with anti-inflammatory foods. 

1. Devil's Claw

It is a desert plant of South Africa. Its fruits are covered by miniature claw-like hooks. The prominent ingredient in devil’s claw is harpagoside, which has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce acute joint pain and inflammation. Devil's claw can also help reduce uric acid levels in people with gout. It is also an appetite booster. An individual with arthritis can take up to 1,000 mg of devil's claw in a day. The powdered devil's claw capsule can be taken three times daily, but only after a doctor’s consultation.

Devils claw has been reported to help treat knee osteoarthritis and lower back pain. There was a study was conducted on 227 volunteers, who were given 60 mg of devil's claw extract for eight weeks. The results showed that in almost 70 percent of the volunteers, there was pain relief along with more flexible joints.

In Europe, devil's claw is widely used for the treatment of lower back pain, arthritis pain, and headaches. Evidence shows that the herb is capable of alleviating pain and stiffness due to osteoarthritis. However, the herb can interfere with medications for diabetes, certain prescription medications, and blood thinners. Moreover, people with stomach ulcers should avoid taking this herb. Talk with your doctor before taking any kind of supplement.

2. Fish Oil

Taking fish oil supplements is helpful in many ways including relieving arthritis. Fish oil is extracted from mackerel, salmon, cod, and herring. It is also known to contain loads of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is considered as one of the best supplements for arthritis. Studies have shown that after the consumption of fish oil, it gets converted into resolvins, which are powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Resolvins are molecules that tend to block inflammatory cells. They help reduce high blood pressure and promote a healthy heart. They also make the joints more flexible, alleviates arthritis pain, and severe joint inflammation.

Fish oil can be consumed in the form of capsules, soft gels, and liquid. Tuna, herring, and mackerel can be included in the diet. However, there is a risk of consuming too much mercury when you frequently eat fish. Thus, it is a good idea to consume fish oil in the form of supplements. In case of severe arthritis, a dosage of 2.6 mg of fish oil capsule with 30 percent DHA or EPA may be taken. You may gradually notice a decrease in inflammation by taking fish oil.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also helpful even in other chronic inflammatory conditions such as lupus. You can take omega-3 fatty acids through flax and flaxseed oil, rapeseed oil, and walnut. Fish oil is different from cod liver oil. An excessive consumption of cod liver oil may cause an overdose of vitamin A. People who want to take omega-3 fatty acids should take pure fish oil and not cod liver oil. Since the effect of fish oil is slow, you can try the supplement for three months to see if it is indeed beneficial.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a powerful herb with anti-inflammatory effects. There has been evidence that turmeric can significantly reduce inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6, which is an inflammatory cytokine involved in the rheumatoid arthritis process. Thus, the onset of arthritis can be prevented right from the beginning by the regular use of turmeric. Turmeric can be sprinkled on food, but it has been found to be more effective if it is taken in the form of supplements. Turmeric is known for its medicinal properties in India, China, and many Western countries.

It is used to reduce inflammation and joint pain, especially for people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, and ankylosing spondylitis. Turmeric contains 3-5 percent of the active compound called curcumin, which provides many health benefits.

For curcumin to be effective, many experts recommend taking turmeric in supplement form. Turmeric supplements of 200 mg to 1,000 mg contain 95 percent of curcuminoids. However, people with iron deficiency should avoid turmeric supplements. The herb may also interact with certain medications such as blood thinners, medications for diabetes, antacids, and sulfasalazine. Hence, consult your doctor first before taking any turmeric supplements.

4. Chondroitin Sulfate

Chondroitin helps retain water in the cartilage. It is naturally found in the connective tissues of animals and humans. In the market, it is available as chondroitin sulfate, which is obtained from animal or marine cartilage. It is widely used in Europe for the treatment of osteoarthritis, especially for people who have hand and knee osteoarthritis. 

Chondroitin can also be used as a substitute for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) since it has no side effects. For the elderly, these supplements are also found to be very beneficial. Chondroitin can help slow down the progression of osteoarthritis, reduce inflammation, and arthritis pain. Studies have shown that taking chondroitin supplements along with glucosamine sulfate is very effective.

A study was done wherein 604 people diagnosed with knee arthritis were given one of the three treatments: chondroitin sulfate, celecoxib, and placebo pills. It was found out that there was a significant reduction of all the patients’ knee pain and joint pain after 3-6 months, especially in people taking the NSAID celecoxib and chondroitin sulfate. It was further found that the patients who were taking celecoxib had shown the best improvement. However, there was no difference in the effectiveness seen between chondroitin and celecoxib treatment except for their timing. The patients who took chondroitin reported symptom relief at 90 days while those who took celecoxib experienced relief only after 30 days. 

5. Glucosamine

Glucosamine is often combined with chondroitin sulfate. Glucosamine reduces pain, brings flexibility by helping the joints to move better, and protects the cartilage from degenerating. It is beneficial for people with moderate arthritis. Studies have shown that glucosamine may be helpful in moderate and severe arthritis but not mild arthritis. Glucosamine can help ease arthritis pain since it is a sulfate preparation.

Examples of glucosamine supplements are glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride. Glucosamine can be made from shellfish or made in the laboratory. It is also naturally produced by the body. It plays a vital role in the formation of tendons, ligaments, synovial fluid, and cartilage. These building blocks are glycosaminoglycans and glycoproteins.

However, there have been mixed results about the use of glucosamine for osteoarthritis. It may cause certain mild side effects such as diarrhea, constipation, rashes, headache, and stomach upset. Also, people who have diabetes should be cautious since it may increase blood sugar levels. Moreover, there have been reports of glucosamine interacting with chemotherapy drugs and medications that lower blood cholesterol. Mostly, a 500-mg glucosamine supplement is taken thrice a day. Glucosamine sulfate has been found to be more effective than glucosamine hydrochloride.

6. Vitamin C

Fresh orange juice for breakfast has been found effective for joint pain. It was shown in one study that those who had less vitamin C in their body were three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis. Thus, it was concluded that the regular the intake of vitamin C could help maintain healthy joints and reduce the chances of inflammation. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps build connective tissues. Hence, foods containing vitamin C such as grapes, strawberries, and oranges can effectively manage arthritis pain. Vitamin C is recommended to be obtained from the diet rather than supplements.  

Vitamin C in collagen synthesis serves as a cofactor, which is the main protein of the bone and joint tissues. It is believed that infection can trigger rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin C also helps fight infection and control inflammation related to infection. It is known to destroy the substances that can trigger a rheumatoid inflammation. Thus, taking vitamin C in moderate amount is found to be beneficial when it comes to maintaining healthy joints and bones. However, excessive vitamin C in the body may make the problem worse.

The recommended daily dosage of vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. Research has shown that when vitamin C is intravenously administered in high doses, inflammation due to rheumatoid arthritis is significantly reduced.

7. MSM

MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is found in grains, fruits, and vegetables. It is believed to reduce arthritis pain by building the connective tissues in the body. Some studies have reported that MSM may lessen inflammation. However, its effect has been moderate.

MSM is odorless, tasteless, and is organic in nature. It is a sulfur compound, which is also available in the form of powder, capsule, and liquid. Up to 3,000 mg of MSM can be taken during meals but only after a doctor’s consultation. 

MSM is found in foods, but when foods are processed, MSM is believed to be destroyed. In recent years, MSM supplements have become popular because of their pain-relieving effects. Although research has shown improvement in arthritis pain after taking MSM supplements, more research still needs to be done in this area.

It is also better to avoid taking blood thinners while taking MSM supplements. People with heart conditions should also talk to their doctor about taking dietary supplements. The long-term benefits and safety of MSM are still unknown.

8. SAM-e

SAM-e (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) is a naturally occurring chemical in the body, which is helpful for osteoarthritis. It is equally effective as NSAIDs since it also possesses analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used to treat musculoskeletal disorders and other conditions of the heart, infertility, and mental conditions such as depression. It can also help ease stiffness and joint pain, as well as improve flexibility, mobility, and effective rebuilding of cartilage. If you have osteoarthritis, 1,200 mg of SAM-e supplement can be taken three times a day. However, take this dose only after consulting your doctor. 

SAM-e is found to be more effective when combined with vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Research has shown the effectiveness of SAM-e in treating osteoarthritis. Studies revealed that 600-1,200 mg of SAM-e taken daily showed significant improvement in pain compared to other groups taking NSAIDs. Moreover, there were no gastrointestinal side effects.

Another study showed an improvement in pain, tenderness, and depression compared with a placebo. However, there are some side effects associated with this supplement. They include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, skin rashes, and headache at higher doses. It has also been shown to interact with drugs for Parkinson's disease and antidepressants. 

Key Takeaways

  • Arthritis affects many people and limits their daily activities. It causes inflammation, stiffness, and joint pain.
  • Consuming a healthy diet is important to prevent or reduce arthritis. However, some essential nutrients can be obtained from dietary supplements as well.
  • Supplements can help build connective tissues, reduce inflammation, and arthritis pain.