Arthritis and the Role of Natural Products
Over three million Canadians suffer with the debilitating symptoms of arthritis – pain and inflammation. Arthritis encompasses over 100 forms of inflammatory disorders with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis the most common. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition caused by wear and tear of the connective tissue and cartilage that cushions the joint. It typically occurs later in life and affects the weight bearing joints – hips, knees and spine – leading to pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can appear suddenly at any age, and may fluctuate in severity. The immune system produces antibodies that cause damage to the joints leading to redness, pain, inflammation and deformation.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to dampen the pain and inflammation of arthritis, yet their popularity is waning as many serious and life threatening side effects have emerged, such as stomach ulcers and bleeding, increased gut permeability, water retention and kidney damage. Recently, one class of these drugs (COX-2 inhibitors) has been linked to increased risk of heart attacks. Ironically, long term use of these drugs can actually worsen joint health by accelerating the breakdown of cartilage and destroying healthy cartilage tissue. With all these drawbacks, it is not surprising that many are turning to natural approaches to managing arthritis. Below are my top supplement recommendations for arthritis relief:
The newest ingredient to hit the arthritis market is Celadrin. This patented blend of fatty acids works to reduce inflammation, lubricate joints and promote healing, thus offering benefits for both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis sufferers. In a study of sixty-four individuals with knee osteoarthritis the use of Celadrin was found to reduce pain and swelling, and improve flexibility and range of motion compared to placebo. (Hesslink, 2002) Celadrin is available in tablets, capsules and creams and has no side effects. The recommended dosage is 1500 mg daily. Cream is applied twice daily.
Essential Fatty Acids
Both the omega-3s (fish oil) and omega-6s (borage, primrose oil) have been found to help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. These “good” fats work in part by boost levels of prostaglandins – hormone-like substances that have anti-inflammatory activity. Usual dosage of these oils is between 2 and 4 grams daily.
Glucosamine is nutrient used by the body in the production of cartilage. It stimulates the production of new cartilage, blocks enzymes that break down connective tissue, and reduces pain and inflammation. Glucosamine has been studied extensively for osteoarthritis and found to be comparable to NSAIDs, yet better tolerated. The recommended dosage is 1500 mg daily.
SAMe is a nutrient produced in the body that is vital to the health and development of my tissues and organs. In the joint, SAMe is involved in cartilage formation and repair.
Supplementing with SAMe has been found to reduce the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis and to stimulate cartilage formation in numerous studies. Recently, the US government Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality conducted a review of 10 studies on SAMe for osteoarthritis and found it equally effective to NSAIDs. (Hardy et al, 2002) SAMe is very safe and well tolerated. The recommended dosage range is 400 to 1200 mg of natural (Isoactive) SAMe daily.
All of these nutritional supplements are backed by solid clinical research and can offer great help to those suffering with arthritis.
Hardy M, Coulter I, Morton SC, et al. S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine for Treatment of Depression, Osteoarthritis, and Liver Disease. Evidence Report-Technology Assessment Number 64. (Prepared by Southern California Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-97-001.) AHRQ Publication No. 02-E034 Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. October 2002.
Hesslink R, Armstrong D, Nagendran MV, et al. Cetylated Fatty Acids Improve Knee Function in Patients with Osteoarthritis J Rheumatol 2002;29:1708-12.