Dear Dietitian: Exploring the role of supplements in healing arthritis pain
When it comes to physical activities, have you concluded that you’re not as young as you used to be? Maybe you were once a runner and now the knees don’t bend like they used to. Or perhaps you were a star athlete in high school and now your star just isn’t as bright. The body has gotten older, the joints stiffer, maybe it’s even affecting your everyday life. It’s a foe that sometimes rears its ugly head in mid-life - it’s arthritis.
In the U.S., as many as 54 million people suffer from osteoarthritis (OA). The word comes from the Greek “osteon” meaning bone, and “itis” meaning inflammation. OA is the most common form of arthritis and occurs when the cartilage that cushions bones wears down over time. Joints can become painful, swollen and difficult to move. The most commonly affected areas are knees, hands, hips, lower back and neck.
Some supplements claim to ease arthritis pain, but do they work? Glucosamine, chondroitin and curcumin (found in turmeric) are three dietary supplements we will explore.
Glucosamine and chondroitin, often sold in combination, are two of the top-selling natural remedies for OA. In a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (the gold standard for research) found that glucosamine was more effective than a sugar pill in alleviating joint stiffness. At the same time, chondroitin was better at improving pain and mobility. The analysis did not find enough studies to draw a conclusion about the combination therapy of the two.
In the 2019 treatment guidelines, the Arthritis Foundation and American College of Rheumatology gave a conditional recommendation of chondroitin sulfate for hand OA. However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says the evidence on glucosamine for OA is unclear, and chondroitin isn’t helpful. Still, these supplements have not found to be harmful.
Another popular remedy for OA is curcumin, the ingredient in turmeric that has anti-inflammatory effects. Another meta-analysis concluded that curcumin, in addition to conventional medicine, may be useful in treating arthritis symptoms. In another study, curcumin was found to be as effective in treating arthritis of the knee as the drug diclofenac. However, this study was small and only lasted one month.
When it comes to your health, be an informed consumer. A little homework may be necessary before purchasing a supplement for arthritis symptoms. The following websites will help you make a sound decision:
Consult your doctor before beginning any dietary supplement.
Until next time, be healthy!
Leanne McCrate is an award-winning dietitian with over 15 years of clinical experience. She is registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Have a nutrition question? Email it to DearDietitian411@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.