Supplements are hugely popular — but some argue that they’re unnecessary. A survey conducted by The Harris Poll reported that 86% of Americans take some sort of vitamin or supplement.1 However, that same survey also concluded that only 21% of Americans have a nutritional deficiency that requires a supplement. So, what’s going on here?
The short answer is that people hope that they do work. In fact, some people report improvements in their health, and several studies have concluded that certain supplements’ values go beyond basic nutritional needs to provide a wide range of health benefits.
However, supplements aren’t medication. In fact, anything labeled as a “supplement” cannot legally claim to treat any condition, illness, or disease — including arthritis.
To be clear, supplements are generally safe to take and could have some joint health benefits, depending on your condition. In terms of products that claim to improve arthritis symptoms, you should take them only under a doctor’s supervision. We can recommend 5 popular supplements that some arthritis patients take to reduce inflammation and relieve joint pain.
1. Fish Oil
Fish oil is arguably the most popular supplement to take for joint inflammation associated with certain types of inflammatory arthritis. It contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids — DHA and EPA — both of which come from the skin of fatty cold-water fish, such as salmon, trout, and mackerel. These healthy fats can be found in other arthritis-positive foods, like olive oil, flaxseed, and nuts.
DHA and EPA share a host of reported health benefits, such as decreased inflammation and anti-coagulating properties. Therefore, many people with arthritis take fish oil to reduce the amount of NSAIDs they take.
Another popular supplement, glucosamine is a type of sugar used to make cartilage, the tissue found between our joints. While the substance naturally occurs in the body, people tend to take it as a dietary supplement in the hopes of reducing pain, restoring cartilage, and improving their range of motion. This supplement is geared toward osteoarthritis patients, as it claims to slow the “wear and tear” of joints.
But there’s a catch.
Scientifically speaking, there are no proven health benefits to taking glucosamine. However, it’s generally safe to take, and plenty of anecdotal evidence exists with people swearing by its benefits. Talk to your doctor before you try it.
3. Turmeric / Curcumin
You’ve probably seen turmeric in the spice section of your local supermarket, or you currently have it in your pantry. This aromatic seasoning comes from a root in the ginger family, and it’s been used by humans for thousands of years for a multitude of purposes, from flavoring food and dyeing clothes to addressing ailments.
But what is curcumin? It’s the chemical that gives turmeric its amazing golden hue. This powerful antioxidant has shown to block 5-LOX and COX-2, both of which are pro-inflammatory enzymes. However, turmeric (the spice) only contains a small percentage of curcumin as an active ingredient. Thus, many people skip turmeric entirely and take curcumin extract as a supplement.
While it is still considered a supplement, curcumin shows promising results, as several studies have reported patients noticing reduced inflammation and joint pain.
Another supplement that comes from food, capsaicin is the chemical that gives chili peppers their spicy flavor. It helps arthritis sufferers by interfering with certain nerve functions to reduce pain. Specifically, it stimulates a neurotransmitter in your body associated with pain and inflammation — substance P.
When applied topically as a cream, capsaicin has been reported to deplete the presence of substance P in the affected joint area, thereby resulting in fewer pain signals being sent to the brain from the joint. Just like when eating a chili pepper, the cream will burn for a few minutes, and then it will eventually subside and relieve you of joint pain after a few weeks of consistent application.
S-adenosylmethionine, or SAM-e for short, is a naturally occurring substance in the body that helps regulate hormones and reduce inflammation. It might possibly assist in the regrowth and restoration of cartilage — a critical scientific hurdle in the race to cure arthritis.
Several animal studies have shown that SAM-e can stimulate the production of cartilage, which shows promising results for osteoarthritis patients with deteriorated cartilage. Currently, SAM-e hasn’t been studied enough to prove any substantial evidence in regenerating cartilage in humans or improving arthritis symptoms. Nevertheless, studies continue to show positive effects, especially for mood disorders like depression.
Talk to Your Doctor Before Taking Any New Supplement
While you don’t need a prescription to purchase a supplement, it’s always best to talk to your doctor before trying any of them — even if it’s generally safe to take. Some supplements can interact negatively with certain medications and even worsen conditions like asthma, high blood pressure, and more.
You could also consider treatment options like those offered at Arthritis Relief & Vascular Centers. While supplements will always have their place in a health and wellness regimen, our specialists offer scientifically proven medical treatments for arthritis joint pain and inflammation. Contact us to schedule a risk-free consultation with a specialist today!