Do you ever suffer from stiff joints in the early morning or the feeling of stiffness after you have rested for a little while, or joint pain that is worse after you have been active for a little while?
Chances are you may be suffering from osteoarthritis.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joints. There are several different forms of arthritis, but the most common form is osteoarthritis, which is also referred to as degenerative joint disease.
Osteoarthritis is characterized by joint degeneration and loss of cartilage - the shock absorbing gel like material between the joints.
It is estimated that over 80% of people over the age of 50 suffer some form of osteoarthritis. The hands and the weight bearing joints such as the knees, hips and spine are the most commonly affected areas (1).
The good news is you don’t have to just put up with it; there is a lot you can do to reduce the pain and reclaim mobility in your joints. Let me show you the most common natural supplements available to fight osteoarthritis.
Treatments for Osteoarthritis
I am sure you have heard of glucosamine! Glucosamine is a natural chemical found in the body and as we age the natural levels of glucosamine in our body decreases. Glucosamine is responsible for stimulating the formation and repair of cartilage so a decrease in glucosamine production can lead to gradual deterioration of the joint. (1)
There are several different forms of glucosamine available; Glucosamine sulphate, glucosamine hydrochloride, and N-acetyl-glucosamine. Most commonly found forms are glucosamine sulphate and glucosamine hydrochloride with a recommended dosage is 1500mg per day.
It is important to note that most glucosamine is derived from shellfish so are not suitable for those with shell fish allergies. There are vegetarian forms of glucosamine available derived from corn for those who have shellfish allergies. In addition most forms of glucosamine sulphate contain potassium so it is not suitable for those on some blood pressure medications, so in this case it is best to use glucosamine hydrochloride instead.
Chondroitin sulphate is a naturally occurring substance in the body. It is a major constituent of cartilage - the tough, elastic connective tissue found in the joints. Essentially chondroitin works similarly to glucosamine in reducing the degradation of cartilage.
Chondroitin has a very poor absorption rate, as low as 13%. It is best taken with glucosamine as it absorbs more readily with glucosamine that on its own.
Recommended dosage of chondroitin is 400mg up to 3 times a day.
MSM - Methylsulfonylmethane
MSM is a natural form of sulphur; Sulphur is involved in many functions in the body, including pain control, regulation of inflammation, detoxification and tissue building. Taking MSM by mouth seems to greatly reduce some symptoms of arthritis of the knee, such as pain and joint movement.
MSM is not recommended to those who have sulphur allergies. MSM can cause stomach upset in those with sensitive stomachs.
Recommended dosage is 1500mg-3000mg daily in divided doses.
Fish oil contains omega 3 fatty acids that reduce joint inflammation and promote joint lubrication.
Taking a daily dose of at least 1.8mg of DHA and 1.2mg of EPA over at least 8 weeks will help to reduce the inflammation in the body. Fish oil may also be beneficial for heart health, brain health and skin health.
Bromelain is an enzyme found in the stem of pineapples. Bromelain has been found to fight inflammation by inhibiting the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body.
Bromelain is also used to help wound healing, to enhance digestion when taken before meals and may even help to prevent cancer.
Taking Bromelain in between meals will give you an anti inflammatory effect and the recommended dosage is 500mg to 2000mg per day in divided doses.
Anti Inflammatory Herbs
There is an abundance of anti inflammatory herbs available to help treat osteoarthritis. So before you reach for you prescription anti inflammatory why not try a natural alternative. The most common herbal anti inflammatory herbs are; Devils claw, Boswellia and Turmeric.
Devils Claw is a fabulous anti inflammatory herb that also helps to the reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis. (2) It is available in tablet, capsule and liquid form.
Boswellia is a must have herb for anyone with osteoarthritis. This herb not only reduces inflammation, but it is also helps to prevent the cartilage from breaking down and it improves blood supply to the joint tissues. (2)
Boswellia is best taken in tablet form as the liquid may leave you with an upset stomach.
You may have heard of turmeric or ‘curcumin’ for the treatment of arthritis. Curcumin is the active substance in turmeric; it is curcumin that packs a punch when it comes to arthritis. Patients report curcumin helps to reduce swelling and tenderness of the joints and also reduces associated pain. (2)
Curcumin is best taken in capsule or liquid form. You can of course add turmeric powder to your food and you will get some anti inflammatory benefit but you will get a greater effect by taking it in supplement form.
Foods can have a big effect on how the body functions, when it comes to osteoarthritis there are some foods that seem to make the condition worse for some people.
• The nightshade family (solanaceae genus) of vegetables are thought to inhibit the repair of collagen in the joints leading to joint degradation. Many people do report that eliminating this group of foods which includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, chilli, capsicum and also tobacco tend to make their joints feel better (3)
• High salicylate containing foods have been known to irritate arthritis in some people. Some high salicylate foods are; citrus fruit, berries, watermelon, avocado, tomato sauce and mint flavouring are naturally high in salicylates and so are processed foods with those flavours. (3)
• There are many foods considered pro inflammatory meaning they may induce inflammation in the body. Some pro inflammatory foods include sugar, dairy, refined grains, tea, coffee, alcohol and processed meats.
There are also many foods that can help ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis. These foods include; cold water fish, apple cider vinegar, linseeds and linseed oil, oats, mussels, whole grains, nuts and ginger.
As you can see there is a lot you can do to lessen the pain of osteoarthritis. By taking a few supplements and changing your diet you can see a great improvement in your joint health. Why not start today!
Written by Lea McIntyre - Naturopath - ND BHSc
Lea has had many years of professional experience as a naturopath working with her patients and clients both in her clinic and as a senior retail naturopathic adviser. When Lea is not helping people stay well and enjoy a healthy lifestyle, she is busy caring for and nurturing her two young children.
1. Pizzorno J, Murray M Encyclopaedia of natural medicine 2nd edition. Little brown book group London 1998
2. Bone K, Mills S. Principles and practice of phytotherapy2000. Churchill livingstone
3. Holford, P. The optimum nutrition bible.Little brown book group, London.2004
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