Approximately 1.5 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with around 71 diagnoses out of every 100,000 people given yearly. A systemic disease, RA can affect the entire body and attack vital organs such as the heart, lungs, eyes, skin, and blood. Furthermore, it can exacerbate other health conditions and increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
While a range of medications and lifestyle choices can achieve remission, there is also a range of dietary supplements that help ease the suffering and inflammation caused by RA. This article will look at what supplements are good for rheumatoid arthritis that offer relief from common arthritis symptoms when taken with traditional medicines. There are also several combined supplements for arthritis and joint pain available, that mix some of the more effective ingredients into combined pills.
RA is associated with several types of anemia, including anemia of chronic inflammation. It is thought that inflammation from RA makes it harder to absorb iron. While too much iron can cause other medical issues (including liver disease, heart problems, and diabetes), iron supplements can help those suffering from RA-related anemia when taken in supplement form. In fact, when taken as part of a healthy diet, low iron levels can be quickly reversed, often faster than any dietary intervention.
Although supplements are often considered the treatment method of choice, iron is found naturally in various foods, including fish, nuts, wholemeal pasta and bread, oats, and dried food. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron in healthy people is 8mg per day for males 18 and over and 18mg per day for women aged 19-50, and women over 51 have an allowance of 8mg per day. To treat an iron deficiency, doctors often recommend 50 to 100 milligrams [er dau divided into two to three doses.
As always, seek professional medical advice before taking iron supplements, as they can interact with several medications, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, carbamazepine, quinolone antibiotics, and tetracycline antibiotics.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Two popular supplements for RA, glucosamine and chondroitin, help maintain cartilage structure and protect chondrocyte cells — the cells responsible for human cartilage formation. It is thought that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements (often taken as a single dose) can reduce joint deterioration and pain.
It is worth noting, however, that glucosamine is commonly derived from a compound found in shellfish. Those with shellfish allergies should carefully read the label of any glucosamine and chondroitin supplements.
Although research into glucosamine and chondroitin’s effect is somewhat mixed, when it comes to reducing arthritis pain, inflammation, and stiffness, a 2016 international trial found that the combined supplements can be as effective as NSAID celecoxib. When taken as single supplements, chondroitin is thought to aid pain reduction, while glucosamine may have some antioxidant effects.
Studies have observed improvements in osteoarthritis symptoms when administered in routine doses of 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine sulfate and 1,200 milligrams of chondroitin sulfate. It should be noted, however, that improvements may not show for up to four months in some patients. Although not common, there could be some side effects from taking glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, including bloating, nausea, and diarrhea.
It is thought that up to 42% of the US is vitamin D deficient, with leading causes attributed to lack of sunlight and poor dietary habits. Regarding RA, studies have shown that reduced vitamin D intake is linked to increased susceptibility to its development. Research also suggests that those with the lowest vitamin D levels are likely to have more serious cases of RA and the worst treatment response.
Upping your vitamin D intake could help relieve arthritis symptoms, including joint pain and chronic inflammation. While it is recommended that healthy people take 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D daily, it is thought that between 1,000 and 2,000 IUs could benefit those with deficiencies.
Vitamin D supplements are widely available (including in liquid-pill form) and can also be found in oily fish, egg yolks, yogurts, and breakfast cereals. It’s also worth noting that one tablespoon of cod liver oil contains as much vitamin D as three servings of oily fish.
One of the 8 B vitamins, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), helps the body to convert carbohydrates into glucose, which is then used to produce energy. The vitamin also has a hand in metabolizing fats and protein and is crucial for the health of the liver, skin, eyes, and hair.
Research has shown, however, that RA patients treated with methotrexate may find difficulty absorbing vitamin B2. Symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency include cracked lips, dry skin, mouth ulcers, joint pain and inflammation of the tongue, among others.
The Oregon State University recommends 1.3 milligrams of vitamin B2 per day for men over 19 and 1.1 milligrams for women. While some supplements are dangerous in large amounts, the body can absorb around 27 milligrams, with the excess being expelled in urine. Aside from supplements, sources of vitamin B2 can be found in dairy milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt, and lean beef and pork.
Vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient that helps the body metabolize integral chemicals such as amino acids, lipids, and glucose. The vitamin is also a cofactor in the biosynthesis of dopamine, serotonin, and epinephrine.
It is thought that vitamin B6 can aid in the reduction of inflammation markers in RA. Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include the appearance of rashes and inflammation around the mouth and eyes, as well as other neurological effects, such as drowsiness.
Although vitamin B6 deficiency is rare in healthy adults, it is recommended that adults take approximately 1.0 to 2.0 milligrams daily. The daily recommended limits vary between countries, with the lowest set at 25 milligrams and the highest being 100 milligrams.
Vitamin B6 occurs naturally in various foods and can be found in dairy, mollusks, chickpeas, and chicken. Vitamin B6 supplements are also widely available online for those looking to stock up.
A nutrient found throughout the body, Zinc helps the function of both the immune system and metabolism. Alongside vitamin D, some people take zinc supplements to help support the immune system when they are suffering from colds.
Although a healthy diet should provide you with enough zinc, studies have found that people with RA tend to suffer from lower levels of zinc. Researchers have suggested that RA sufferers could benefit from zinc supplements to help support the immune system and protect against cartilage degradation.
The RDA of zinc for adults is 11 milligrams for men and 8 milligrams for women. Pregnant women may need slightly more at 11 milligrams. The National Institutes of Health recommends an upper limit of 40 milligrams per day for adults and four milligrams per day for infants under six months. Zinc can be found naturally in seeds, nuts, eggs, and lean meats. You can also find supplements online from a variety of online stores.
Derived from the tissues of oily fish, fish oil is a supplement enjoyed by people worldwide and contains omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both these acids are known for reducing inflammation throughout the body. Several studies have shown that fish oil has beneficial properties for those with RA, as it has been shown to help reduce stiffness and joint pain.
It is suggested that to reduce the joint inflammation caused by RA, 2.7 grams of omega-3 fats should be taken daily. As 1000 milligrams of fish oil capsules usually only contain up to 400 milligrams of omega-3 fats, a person would need to ingest nine to 14 standard 1000 milligram fish oil supplements daily.
This is the equivalent of 15ml of bottled fish oil, which can also be bought online. It is worth noting, however, that a person may not feel a positive effect from the supplements for around two to three months.
Common sources of fish oil include oil from tuna, pollock, mackerel, salmon, swordfish, herring, and sardines. For those allergic to fish and who want to avoid taking fish oil supplements, omega-3 fatty acids are also found in flaxseed, walnut, soybean, turkey, and a variety of common vegetables. Other sources of Omega 3 fatty acids are still effective, whilst there is some difference in fish oil and algae oil’s make up, it is relatively negligible overall and generally there isn’t any major reason to go for a more expensive option. Whilst algae may have lower DHA and EPA, it’s also more bioavailable, thus the body absorbs it more effectively so it doesn’t make much difference in a good omega 3 joint supplements.
Also known as the “Indian Saffron” turmeric is derived from a flowering plant that, when processed, takes the form of a bright yellow powder. Although known by many as a food ingredient, Indian medical practitioners have used turmeric for healing for thousands of years.
Studies show that curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric, may help those suffering from RA thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and neuroprotective properties. Research has also shown that curcumin blocks selected enzymes and cytokines that lead to inflammation.
While commonly taken as a supplement to treat arthritis, turmeric is also used as a spice in curries, smoothies, salads, and green tea. The Arthritis Foundation recommends at least 500 milligrams of curcumin taken twice daily for those looking to take turmeric in supplement form.
It’s been shown to be effective in randomized clinical trials for both pain relief and improvement in mobility due to it’s anti inflammatory properties. It wasn’t enough by itself to completely reduce ra symptoms, but did reduce arthritis pain, leading to reduction in other medications required for pain relief.
As with all supplements, however, it’s important to talk to your doctor, especially if you are on other medications for diabetes or cholesterol or if you happen to take blood thinners. It’s also worth noting that turmeric supplements sometimes contain piperine, which also interferes with some medications.