“Arthritis” means “inflamed joints.” About 100 different types exist, and each has its own treatment. On top of this list are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In medicine, the conventional treatments for any disease are provided under “clinical practice guidelines.” For arthritis, these and “patient resources” are listed at www.rheumatology.org. However, each patient responds differently so the treatment is carefully determined by the physician.
Although many conventional medical diets exist, some diets and supplements fall under “complementary” medicine, a method of health care sought by up to 90 percent of adults with arthritis. Does diet help? Researchers suggest that vegetarian diets may help people with RA. An elimination may help because grains (gluten), dairy, meats and citrus were among the top 10 common foods that worsen RA symptoms. Not all people with arthritis have food sensitivities. For those that do, an elimination diet under the guidance of a registered dietitian may help find the offending foods. Losing excess weight may very well alleviate OA pain, especially in the knees where the protective pad wears out between the two bones pressing against each other. Avoiding obesity is the best preventative measure against OA that affects 1/3 of the people over 65.
Numerous dietary supplements have been touted to help arthritis, and those with some limited clinical research support in humans, are now briefly listed below:
Avocado/Soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) — A Cochrane review of two OA studies show improvement in function, pain, and reduced medications.
Bromelain — This enzyme found in pineapples has been traditionally used by boxers to reduce their hand inflammation. One OA study found it was as beneficial as anti-inflammatory drugs in relieving pain.
Cat’s Claw — Three studies support the use of cat’s claw for OA. This vine native to the Amazon has been used for centuries.
Chondroitin Sulphate — Although it takes two months to show an effect, if any because results are mixed, this supplement may relieve OA pain.
Collagen — Polymerized collagen reduces inflammation in OA.
Devil’s Claw — A few studies show that pain, stiffness, and function improve in OA.
Fish Oil — Strong research support exists for treating RA pain.
GLA (gamma linolenic acid) — About 7 studies suggest that this omega-6 fatty acid found in evening primrose oil, black currant oil, and barrage oil, may reduce the stiffness, pain, and amount of required medication for RA.
Ginger — Reduced knee pain was observed in one OA study (possibly RA).
Glucosamine — Some, but not all, people with OA respond after about two months on this natural substance. Diabetics should monitor their blood glucose when taking glucosamine-containing supplements.
Glucosamine Chondroitin — A National Institutes of Health study (GAIT) supported its use in OA patients where it provided significant knee pain relief, but only for moderate or severe pain.
Hyaluronic Acid — Found naturally in the body and used on horses, studies show it helps people too.
Rose Hips — Two studies show that rose hips reduced the pain of OA and RA.
SAM-e — Many studies support S-adenosylmethionine use for joint pain, but it is also used for depression.
Stinging Nettle — Several studies show that this supplement taken orally or applied to the skin as a cream may be helpful in reducing OA inflammation and pain.
Tumeric — Curcumin, a yellow coloring agent extracted from tumeric, may reduce inflammation in the body, including that caused by arthritis.