Arthritis inflammation and pain relief

Customer Question: We have received a couple of customer requests around which supplements may help with managing inflammation and pain around arthritis.

In this blog Dr Shane highlights some of the nutrients that have been shown to of real value. Plus reducing our chances of developing arthritis, we need to also consider key nutrients obtained through our diets and supplementation.

As we age it is likely that we will all experience at some point in our lives, stiffness, and joint pain. This may be defined as osteoarthritis or more generally symptoms such as swelling, tenderness, grating or crackling sounds when we move around, affecting our joints, which may be more severe upon rising.

The causes of the pain and stiffness can be the result of prolonged low-level damage and the destruction of the protective cartilage around our joints. The precise reason is not wholly known, but several factors are thought to increase our risk, including acute joint injury, age, family history, obesity, and gender (more likely in females).

The traditional treatment for arthritis is usually the adoption of painkillers to manage pain and through weight loss and exercise, as lifestyle modification strategies. Aimed at pain reduction, reduced inflammation and improved patients’ life. Data from clinical trials are now showing that nutritional factors have a potential role in improving symptoms and treating arthritis, plus slowing down the progression. The three main categories of nutrients that have been investigated are macronutrients, micronutrients and “other ingredients”.

Macronutrients and arthritis

The macronutrients that are of interest and will be briefly discussed are Omega 3 fatty acids, Hyaluronic acid, Glucosamine, and Chondroitin Sulphate. Studies have indicated that Omega 3 fatty acids are effective in controlling pain in patients with osteoarthritis by reducing inflammatory markers.1 Hyaluronic acid is a polysaccharide (carbohydrate) and supplementation has been suggested to be effective to prevent and treat osteoarthritis. Glucosamine is an amino monosaccharide (amino acid joined to a carbohydrate) that has been effectively used in the production of essential components of cartilage (proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans). Regarding Chondroitin Sulphate, research has shown improved absorption of water and nutrients in cartilage. In addition to maintaining the viscosity of the joints, reducing cartilage cell destruction, stimulating the mechanisms of cartilage repair, and inhibiting the enzymes that cause cartilage breakdown.

Micronutrients and arthritis

Of interest are the vitamins (both antioxidant and non-antioxidant) C, B Vitamins, D, E, K, and the minerals: Copper, Magnesium, Selenium, and Zinc. Research has indicated that increased intakes of Vitamin C is associated with reductions in knee pain.2 B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12) supplementation has been also linked with reduced osteoporosis risk and improved osteoarthritis symptoms in women.3 Vitamin D is essential in bone and cartilage health. Therefore, any deficiency likely impacts on joint structure, osteoporosis, bone density, and articular cartilage circulation. Benefits have been noted in maintaining knee cartilage, reducing pain and improving physical function with those with knee osteoarthritis.4 Vitamin E (specifically Alpha-tocopherol) supplementation has been shown to reduce stiffness and pain and improve physical function in relation to knee osteoarthritis and reduced osteoporosis. Both reduced Vitamin K status and high status have been shown to impact on the incidence of knee osteoarthritis and reduced joint space and osteoporosis.5

Higher levels of Magnesium have been shown to be associate with lower prevalence of knee osteoarthritis and less destruction of joint space. Selenium is important as it is an essential component of the enzyme glutathione oxidase. Which protects against oxidative and may thus help reduce joint pain and inflammation. Similarly, low levels of Zinc and Copper have been demonstrated in osteoarthritis suffers.

Other ingredients and arthritis

These are Polyphenols, Collagen Hydrolysates, Turmeric, Boswellia Serrata, and Ginger Root Extract, SAMe and MSM. Polyphenols such as Pycnogel and phenols found in Green Tea Extract have been reported to be effective in relieving pain and inflammation relating to knee osteoarthritis, as well as improving physical function.6 Collagen Hydrolysates in our diets allows the body to absorb larger amounts of the amino acids in collagen, which improve the structure of the cartilage matrix. The anti-inflammatory effects of Turmeric and Curcumin (one of the active ingredients) are also essential in helping in reducing pain and inflammation in osteoarthritis.7 Long used in treating inflammatory diseases, Boswellia Serrata has shown to be effective in minimising inflammation relating to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Ginger Extracts, with specific phytochemicals, are reported to be  effective in reducing inflammation and relieving pain, so it can be used as a safe supplement for patients with painful osteoarthritis of the knee.8 SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine) is widely used to treat osteoarthritis and help reduce osteoarthritis pain. Similarly, MSM (Methyl sulfonyl methane) has been reported to help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which tends to lessen the pain commonly associated with arthritis.9

Concluding thoughts

This blog has referred to many nutrients that may offer help and support to those currently experiencing the symptoms relating to arthritis. All the nutrients are found within the foods we eat if our diet is rich in whole foods and broad enough to cover all. Nutritional supplementation, by the health focused, may help address pain and the reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs. A good quality multi-nutrient product will help optimise our levels of the key vitamins (including antioxidants) and minerals. Adding Omega 3 has numerous other benefits as well, as will a Turmeric / Curcumin product. Targeting joint health, Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulphate, SAMe and / or MSM would also be prudent. Especially a single product that has many of these nutrients in.

If we remain active (moderate, routine exercise) and try to minimise lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking, highly repetitive tasks, we will be well on track to enjoying an active old age. Prioritising good wholesome food and appropriate supplementation will also help us optimise our joint and bone health.

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If you have a specific interest or would like to see a particular product or nutrient reviewed, please email your request to Educating our customers in respect to the importance of nutrients and the idiosyncrasies between formulas and products is at the heart of what we want to achieve.

This post is meant for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or nutritional advice or act as a substitute for seeking such advice from a qualified health professional. In order to make the blog series easier to read, I have used a conversational tone in many places with personal pronouns, such as “I” and “you.” This is meant only to make it more pleasant to read, and is not meant to imply that the information constitutes any form of advice, whether personal or general.