What Role can Dietary Supplements play in the Treatment of Arthritis?
You might have been hearing recently about the power of supplements in the treatment of arthritis. But is this a breakthrough, or just another fad? As always – it depends.
Arthritis is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in a person’s joints. There are two major kinds – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the more common kind, and is more common in those above the age of 50. Of course, it can still occur in those younger too. It thins the cartilage on joints, making movement harder and more painful, eventually leading to swelling in the local tissue.
Rheumatoid arthritis is less common, and has a different cause behind similar symptoms. With this type of arthritis, the immune system begins to target the joints, leading to swelling, pain and difficulty moving. This can also affect other tissues, unlike osteoarthritis.
Whilst the supplements we’re about to look at can be used to help with either of these, it’s worth checking in with a doctor to see which of these you have – or, if it’s a similar but different condition!
There are a few key supplements that can be useful with arthritis, though they shouldn’t be used in place of a healthy diet or medical treatment, but rather, alongside. They are;
Glucosamine Sulphate or Chondroitin Sulphate
The cartilage in your joints naturally contains these two compounds, and it’s therefore common for those with arthritis to take them. Research is, as yet, varied, but it’s shown that Glucosamine Sulphate is definitely more effective that Glucosamine Hydrochloride. With these, you are best taking one or the other, as taking two simultaneously doesn’t seem to add much. In general, you’ll want to trial these for three months to see how effective they are. They’re not recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, so do speak to your doctor about taking them. However, they do have research into them so they’ll be easy to research.
Fish Oil (Omega-3)
This is our main recommendation – omega-3 has been proven to help with some types of arthritis (especially rheumatoid and reactive arthritis). Research even shows that it can assist alongside strong disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. However, adding this into your diet can take up to three months to show any response, and it can also bring about certain side effects – such as stomach upsets. Many people prefer to gain this in arthritis supplement form as it’s easier (and some may say safer) than eating large amounts of fish. However, ensure its fish oil not fish liver oil you take as liver oil contains high amounts of vitamin A, and this can end up being harmful. In addition, check with your GP as it can interact badly with blood-thinning medications.
Vitamin D is one of the few supplements we recommend taking! Many people aren’t exposed to nearly enough sun, so if you’re worried that you don’t get enough (especially in winter), add this in. It can help to protect your joints from osteoarthritis damage, and it’s thought to also help the joints themselves when it comes to collagen production.
Vitamin B won’t necessarily help your arthritis, but it may help to balance some of arthritis’ other effects. Research suggests that the amount of inflammation caused by the disease can burn through your vitamin B intake incredibly fast, leaving you short of it. Before trying supplements, you might want to add in some dark, leafy greens (like kale and spinach) or broccoli (which is currently undergoing study for possible benefits to arthritis treatments too!). However, if you struggle with this, it may be worth adding in supplement form.
Calcium should be added in through your diet where possible. It’s vital for your bones, hence why it can help with arthritis issues. Upping your calcium intake alongside your vitamin D intake is even more effective – vitamin D boosts its absorption rate, making what you do eat more effective. If dairy products aren’t your thing, try dark leafy greens too – but if that fails, supplements are well worth it as they demonstrably can improve joint health.
As with adding any supplement into your diet, they shouldn’t be the first resort – and you should ensure the product you’re buying fits with our checklist. Make sure you’ve adjusted the 9 factors in your life before adding these in – work on your nutrition intake through your diet as suggested in It Starts With Food, go through an exercise plan with a physio or other professional, and make sure to sleep enough! If you still feel the need to add in supplements, do so alongside a doctor as they can interact with medications you may be on.