Are There Any Good Supplements for Arthritis?

12/22/2021 | 8 min. read

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Are you dealing with long-standing pain and discomfort in your joints?

Pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen, are readily available on the market. However, their side effects may not be the same for everyone.

Fortunately, many supplements and vitamins can help soothe joint pain and stiffness. But how do we know which ones are effective? Are they even safe for everyone?

Supplements for Arthritis

Many supplements are touted for relieving stiffness, pain, and other arthritis symptoms. In addition, they are products that may naturally improve bone and joint health, especially when taken with conventional medicine. Here are some of the best supplements to help aid arthritis.

Glucosamine

Glucosamine boosts the health of connective tissues in your joints and may protect them against inflammation. Unfortunately, its levels drop as you age -- leaving you at risk of developing joint issues.

Glucosamine supplements may help retain water, keep your joints lubricated, and prevent the loss of connective tissue.

Two popular forms include glucosamine hydrochloride and glucosamine sulfate. The second form, glucosamine hydrochloride, may be more effective for soothing pain.

A typical recommended amount is 1,500 milligrams in single or divided doses. However, it is essential to note the side effects, which may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches

You can also find sources of glucosamine in shellfish, such as lobsters, shrimps, and crabs.

Chondroitin

Chondroitin is also present in your joint's connective tissues and is usually used along with glucosamine to soothe pain and boost joint mobility. It increases shock-absorbing properties of the connective tissues and blocks enzymes that destroy tissues.

A 2006 trial suggests using chondroitin and glucosamine for optimal effect on joints. But they were effective only in people with moderate or severe joint problems.

It is safe to take 400 to 800 mg of chondroitin per day. Some of the side effects may include headaches, drowsiness, and upset stomach.

Sources include pork byproducts or cow trachea.

Calcium 

This vitamin supports bone health. Your body also uses calcium for muscle contraction and pumping of the heart.

If you have low calcium in your blood, your body takes it from the bones. With calcium supplements, you can ensure that your body will receive adequate bone calcium.

Most people require about 1,000-1,200 mg of elemental calcium. You can get this amount easily from fortified foods, dairy foods, or supplements.

Vitamin D3

Your bones can absorb calcium only in the presence of vitamin D. So, adequate levels of this vitamin are vital for bone health.

Your body produces vitamin D3, an essential form of vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight.

An Australian study suggests a lesser bone loss in winter by taking vitamin D3 and calcium supplements. Another study also proves its effectiveness in improving bone density.

The ideal dose is 800 IU - 2,000 IU for optimal benefits. While choosing a supplement, opt for 800 IU of vitamin D3. However, always be sure to discuss with your doctor.

Ginger

The use of this spice dates back hundreds of years in traditional Chinese and Indian ayurvedic medicine.

Ginger supplements use underground stems and roots. They soothe joint pain and swelling.

There is limited evidence for ginger supporting the health of bones and joints. However, a 2008 study in Food and Chemical Toxicology suggests its effectiveness against inflammation.

The ideal intake of ginger is 2g in a divided dose.

Ginger supplements may cause some side effects such as nausea, heartburn, and flatulence.

Turmeric

Curcumin, another essential ingredient, in turmeric is used in Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for enhancing bone and joint health.

Turmeric comforts joint pain and stiffness due to inflammation.

A 2006 study indicates the usefulness of turmeric in preventing joint problems. Another study also supports this claim and found its effectiveness in temporarily soothing joint pain.

You may take between 500 to 2,000 mg of turmeric per day in divided doses. Common side effects include diarrhea, nausea, and dizziness.

Omega-3 

These healthy fatty acids are present in soybean and canola oils, fatty fishes such as tuna and salmon, and walnuts.

Fish oil supplements are rich in omega-3 and maintain healthy cells in your joints and other body parts. They also boost the production of chemicals that may calm inflammation of tissues and joints.

Multiple studies propose improvement in joint tenderness and inflammation with fish supplements for three months.

Besides, fish oil supplements with both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are the best choice. The safe amount of EPA and DHA is 1-2 grams a day.

Green Tea

The phytochemicals in green tea are effective against heart diseases. Research also suggests its benefits with pain and inflammation of joints.

While further research is needed to prove these claims, there are no harms of taking green tea.

Most studies prove the efficacy of green tea for pain use between four to six cups of green tea daily.

Moreover, these benefits are also present in decaffeinated products. Therefore, this can be an option if you do not prefer the stimulatory effect of regular green tea.

Bromelain

This enzyme in the pineapple plant promotes protein digestion when taken with a meal. But when this supplement is taken on an empty stomach, it soothes inflammation and alleviates joint swelling and pain.

A study offers evidence that bromelain may lower inflammation and reduce pain. Another research suggests the effectiveness of this enzyme for inflammatory joint problems.

PS: This supplement may not be suitable for people with allergies to pineapples, honey bees, grass pollens, and latex.

The recommended dose is 500 to 2,000 mg. Common side effects include diarrhea and an upset stomach.

Devil's Claw

This herb is a popular South African medicine for head and joint pain.

While further research is needed, studies have shown its efficacy to soothe pain and inflammation, and its action may be comparable to anti-inflammatory medicines.

In another study, 50% to 70% of the participants with low back pain reported improvements after taking 60 mg of this supplement for about eight weeks.

Studies support safety when taken for three to four months. However, its long-term safety is not known.

You can take about 600 to 800 mg three times a day.

It may cause side effects such as headache, nausea, upset stomach, loss of appetite, and ringing in the ears.

SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine

SAMe is a chemical naturally present in your body that can rebuild connective tissues, improve mobility, and reduce pain.

Studies show that SAMe acts quickly, and you may be able to see results within a week.

A study review in the Journal of Family Practice shows SAMe to improve joint function and pain effectively. Its supplement is also less likely to cause adverse effects.

Take enough B vitamins, including B6 and B12, to get the maximum benefit from SAMe.

Its ideal dose is 200 to 400 mg thrice a day.

Some side effects are digestive problems, nausea, or an allergic reaction.

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)

This sulfur compound is naturally present in animals, humans, vegetables, fruits, and grains.

MSM may help you with joint inflammation and discomfort. The sulfur content of MSM boosts the health of connective tissue and may combat nerve impulses transmitting discomfort.

In a 2006 study, adults with joint problems and arthritis were given 6,000 milligrams of MSM. The participants reported joint function and temporary pain improvement without significant adverse effects.

Usually, the recommended dose is 1,500 to 6,000 milligrams a day.

Common side effects include bloating, insomnia, nausea, fatigue, and itching.

Stinging Nettle

This stalk-like plant is native to North America and Europe and is a popular traditional remedy for arthritis symptoms.

Its stems and leaves are processed into tablets, extracts, capsules, and tinctures.

Early evidence suggests that compounds in stinging nettle modify the immune system and reduce inflammation. However, the evidence is not enough, and further studies are needed to prove its effectiveness.

Lifestyle Modifications That May Help You with Arthritis

Supplements may help strengthen your bones and connective tissues, but they may not be able to manage joint problems entirely. Some lifestyle changes can also help prevent damage to joints and bones and enhance the effect of supplements.

Being Active

Exercise improves joint mobility and also aids to shed pounds. It also strengthens tissues and muscles supporting your joints. Low-impact and non-weight-bearing exercises, water aerobics, gentle yoga, physical therapy, and tai chi are good options. But if you did not exercise before and starting it after a long time, it is best to consult your doctor.

Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Obesity increases stress on your joints. It also affects your blood circulation. If you are overweight, losing weight reduces pressure on your joints and boosts your blood flow, alleviating pain.

Consume a Healthy Diet

Diet rich in unhealthy fats such as burgers and fried items triggers an inflammatory response. Moreover, excess carbohydrates increase your blood sugar levels, which may trigger pain and inflammation.

Here are some healthy food options:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats from fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts
  • Omega-9 fatty acids from avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, almonds, and peanuts
  • Omega-6 fatty acids from sunflower seeds, pine nuts, and pistachios

Conclusion 

Many nutrients and natural products may boost your joint mobility and alleviate pain. But their recommended dose may vary. So, it is best to consult your doctor before taking any supplements for arthritis.

Besides, these supplements are no quick fixes for your problem and need to be taken along with the conventional treatment. However, you can boost their effect by making simple lifestyle changes, such as staying active and following a healthy diet.

Sources:

Dietary supplements for treating osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis | NCBI

Marine Oil Supplements for Arthritis Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials | NCBI

Nutraceutical Supplements in the Management and Prevention of Osteoarthritis | NCBI

Arthritis pain? These supplements provide little relief | NCBI

Healthy Directions Staff Editor