In this article, we will explore the Top 3 nutrients for arthritis-related inflammation (Then stay tuned for the next article on the critical nutrients that play a role in pain management.)
Welcome back to our ongoing series aimed at empowering active individuals to take control of their health through science-backed nutrition. If you caught our first part, “Defining Arthritis,” you already know that arthritis pain is multifaceted, and that arthritis itself really is more of a symptom of some other deeper issue. Nutrition is one critical part of the puzzle! There are nutrients needed to help with inflammation, bone health, cartilage health, and more.
In this article, we are diving into more specifics on nutrients that can help with arthritis-related inflammation. When the joint becomes inflamed, it can become stiff, painful, swollen, and have reduced stability and range of motion and therefore overall performance.
Whether you’re a weekend warrior, a gym enthusiast, or someone who simply loves the great outdoors—managing joint health effectively is essential for maintaining your lifestyle and sometimes even your self identity! While conventional methods like medications offer quick fixes, they often come with side effects and don’t address the root cause of the issue.
That’s where nutrition comes in. Imagine being able to tackle that nagging joint pain or muscle soreness through the foods you eat and nutrients you supplement, all while staying aligned with your active lifestyle. Sounds like a win-win, right?
If you want to get nerdy with me, this past article, “Pain: Causes and Cures,” goes much more in depth on the science behind pain.
*These articles and this website are for educational purposes only, and do not substitute for medical care. It is best to work with a dietitian or functional medicine practitioner for personalized plans. Do not start taking any supplements without medical guidance*
Top Three Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients for Arthritis
Arthritis does not have one universal root cause, so there unfortunately is not one universal cure for it. But, as discussed in the last article, “arthritis” simply means “joint + Inflammation.” All forms of arthritis still have the shared ripple effect of inflammation.
And many different supplements have been studied over the years. So which have come out looking the strongest?
Fish Oils and Omega-3’s
Let’s start with fish oil – one of the most common. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid). These fatty acids have immunosuppressive properties, making fish oil beneficial for people with rheumatoid arthritis. It has also been shown to alleviate work-related joint pain, making it a popular supplement among athletes.
The ratio of omega 3 to 6 is important, and since most Americans have too much Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3, that is pro-inflammatory. Therefore, correcting this imbalance by adding in omega-3s is often anti-inflammatory for people, on average – but not everyone. Too much of a good thing is not good, and it is possible to overdo the omega 3s and throw yourself out of balance the other direction. Having an improper ratio of these fats in either direction can disrupt cell membranes and cause problems; it is best to have a fatty acid profile test done to determine your needs.
Studies show: 3 grams of combined EPA and DHA per day was helpful in reducing pain and inflammation. This can be achieved by eating fatty fish like salmon or sardines, or by taking fish oil.
Storage: Store your fish oil in a cool place away from light to prevent oxidation. Tinted bottles are preferable. It’s crucial to note that fish oil can oxidize when exposed to oxygen, heat, or light, affecting its quality.
Quality: Oxidized for “fishy” fish and oils are usually bad and pro-inflammatory. Your fish, fish oils, and fish oil supplements should not smell “fishy” or cause fishy burps.
Cautions: the right ratio matters, and can backfire if you overdo your omega-3s. It is also a blood thinner, so be sure to discuss with your medical team.
Curcumin: An Anti-inflammatory Powerhouse
Curcumin is a bioactive compound found in turmeric (Curcuma longa) and has been widely studied for its anti-inflammatory properties. It works by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, which are key players in the body’s inflammatory response. This mechanism is similar to that of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Numerous studies have shown curcumin’s positive effects on osteoarthritis symptoms, particularly in reducing pain and improving physical function.
Curcumin is poorly absorbed by the body, so it’s often paired with piperine (a black pepper extract) or lipids to enhance its bioavailability. You can enjoy turmeric in soups, curries, and stir fry! There are various proprietary formulations that have been studied if looking at supplements.
Curcumin with Piperine: A blend of 500 mg of curcumin with 20 mg of piperine, taken three times a day (1,500 mg of curcumin and 60 mg of piperine per day).
BCM-95®: A patented combination of curcumin and essential oils, taken as 500 mg twice a day (1,000 mg/day).
Meriva®: A patented combination of curcumin and soy lecithin, taken as 200–500 mg twice a day (400–1,000 mg/day).
Cautions: It’s generally advised to take curcumin with food. It is also a natural blood thinner. Caution with certain health issues or medications
Ok, so fish oils and curcumin or turmeric are pretty well known. I think a lot of people have at least heard of them as helpful supplements for a variety of issues – remember, they help reduce inflammation, and inflammation is at the root of most health issues.
Let’s hit one that NOT as many people are aware of, but also has some potent anti-inflammatory properties, in the research ….
Pycnogenol: Bark with a Beneficial Bite!
Like curcumin and fish oil, it has many benefits and can potentially assist in many health issues due to its overall properties
Pycnogenol is a patented pine bark extract that contains procyanidin, a type of polyphenol. It is known for its ability to improve blood flow and reduce inflammation. Blood flow is important because we don’t naturally get a lot of blood flow into connective tissues, such as cartilage, tendons, or ligaments; or the meniscus. Specific exercises can help, as ultimately we need to be able to drive blood into these tissues. So supporting blood flow may have some extra benefits.
Pycnogenol is also an antioxidant, which is beneficial in overall health. New research done this year also showed that antioxidants can decrease disease-related symptoms in patients with knee osteoarthritis.
Most research on this supplement was for diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart health, but there is good preliminary evidence suggesting that Pycnogenol may be beneficial for individuals with osteoarthritis as well, although more research is needed to confirm its efficacy.
For osteoarthritis supplementation, the studies found 100–200 mg of Pycnogenol once a day with a meal to be helpful, with maximum benefits usually experienced after three months of continuous use.
Cautions: Without an autoimmune condition, no major side effects typically reported, even for up to 1 year. The most common were upset stomach or headaches. However, because Pycnogenol may strengthen and activate the immune system, it is unclear if it would be problematic for autoimmune issues or if you are on an immunosuppressant. More studies are needed, but IT IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR RHEUMATOID OR PSORIATIC ARTHRITIS AT THIS TIME.
Again, always consult with a medical professional especially if you have other health issues or medications that may interact
The Bottom Line:
Thank you for joining us in this deep dive into the top three supplements for managing arthritis-related inflammation. We’ve explored how fish oils, curcumin, and Pycnogenol can be powerful allies in your quest for better joint health. But remember, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Nutrition is a critical part of a multi-faceted approach to managing arthritis and improving your quality of life. Stay tuned for our upcoming article where we’ll delve into the critical nutrients that can help ease pain. Trust us, you won’t want to miss it!
There isn’t a silver-bullet cure-all nutrient for inflammation, as we are all different in what our bodies most need and best respond to, but there are some that are better than others. If you want to drop inflammation fast, set up a Complimentary Call to discuss ways to personalize your plan and start to feel better in less than 10 days! Test, don’t guess, to know exactly what you should eat to start feeling and performing better, and exactly which nutrients have the strongest effect on your inflammation levels!
Whatever your health and fitness goals, understanding the role of these supplements can empower you to take control of your health. So, are you ready to forge your own path and defy your diagnosis? Stay active, stay informed, and stay tuned!
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