20 Supplements and Vitamins for Arthritis

There are a large number of vitamins, minerals, and herbs that are thought to help people manage their arthritis symptoms, but some of them are not supported by science. Here, we take a closer look at supplements and vitamins thought to aid people with arthritis and whether there is research to support those claims.

Consult a Healthcare Professional

Before exploring with any vitamins and supplements for arthritis, make sure to speak with a healthcare professional.

Vitamins

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Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an antioxidant that is known to support bone growth. It also keeps the digestive tract, respiratory system, and skin healthy. Vitamin A also has a role as an anti-inflammatory agent. Supplementation with vitamin A has been found to be beneficial in a number of inflammatory conditions.Vitamin A can help relieve pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

You can get vitamin A in foods such as:

  • Carrots
  • Cantaloupes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Liver
  • Eggs
  • Fortified milk

The recommended daily amount of vitamin A is 700 micrograms for women and 900 micrograms for men. Vitamin A deficiency can cause a weakened immune system. Too much vitamin A can cause nausea, vomiting, and vertigo.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has antioxidant properties that are known to help build the immune system, protect the cells from free-radicals, and help to build and maintain collagen and connective tissue in the body. Studies have shown that vitamin C can benefit most people with early osteoarthritis.

Recommended dietary allowance is 75 milligrams for women and 90 milligrams for men daily. Some of the known side effects include vomiting, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea. Vitamin C is available through fruits such as:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell pepper
  • Strawberries
  • Kiwi

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is known to have the potential to prevent or treat osteoarthritis due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This vitamin may also slow down the progression of osteoarthritis by improving oxidative stress and inflammation in the joints. More studies need to be conducted to get a clear conclusion as to whether or not vitamin E can fully help osteoarthritis.

There are not a lot of known risks of too much vitamin E. The primary side effect is the risk of bleeding. Symptoms of deficiency include:

  • Decreased immune function
  • Retinopathy
  • Damage to the retina of the eyes
  • Peripheral neuropathy (a condition that causes weakness or pain in the hands and feet due to peripheral nerve damage)

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 15 milligrams (mg) for adults. More than 1,000 mg of vitamin E can increase bleeding risk when it is used with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin. Vitamin E can be found in foods such as:

  • Mango
  • Avocado
  • Peanuts
  • Collard greens
  • Pumpkin
  • Bell pepper
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli

Vitamin K

Vitamin K has a protein called osteocalcin. This protein aids in the production of healthy bone tissues in the body. Research has shown that sufficient levels of vitamin K in the body is known to help the progression of osteoarthritis. There is limited evidence from clinical trials so more research needs to be conducted.

The primary signs of vitamin K deficiency are bleeding and osteoporosis. Antibiotics are also known to eliminate the production of vitamin K in the body. The recommended dietary allowance is 90 micrograms for women and 120 micrograms for men. Since many Americans don't get the recommended dosages from food alone, it is recommended that you contact your healthcare professional to discuss whether or not supplements are needed for specific dietary needs.

Vitamin K1 is found in:

  • Collard greens
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Plant oils such as canola and soybean

Vitamin K2 is found in:

  • Some cheeses
  • Egg yolk
  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir

Minerals and Nutrients

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Calcium

Calcium is a mineral that helps to maintain strong teeth and bones. It also regulates muscles. It is known to help prevent the loss of bone density and fractures. This can help patients who have osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

A calcium deficiency can cause hypertension, bone loss, tooth loss, and muscle cramps. Too much calcium can cause kidney stones, and block the absorption of other minerals such as zinc and iron. The recommended dose of calcium is 1200 mg a day for men and women. For arthritis patients and postmenopausal women, 1,500 mg a day is ideal. Consult with your healthcare professional to discuss options.

Foods that contain calcium include:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Salmon
  • Canned sardines
  • Calcium-fortified cereals
  • Milk

Collagen

Collagen is a protein that consists of amino acids. It is also known to provide support to the connective tissues. Collagen also serves as a support for the skin, tendons, bones, and ligaments. There are 28 different types of collagen. The most common types are I through IV. Type I is naturally in the human body.

Studies have shown that the use of collagen hydrolysate could help patients with osteoarthritis. In another study, reports showed that the daily consumption of hydrolyzed type 1 collagen protects against cartilage loss and reduces pain in osteoarthritis patients.

You can get supplements through:

  • Bone broth
  • Chicken
  • Citrus fruits
  • Berries

A safe and recommended dose of collagen is 2.5 to 15 g per day. There are no known risks of consuming collagen.

Omega 3

Omega-3 has fatty acids that are known to reduce inflammation and help arthritis patients. The fatty acids that are in omega-3 are:

  • Eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

EPA and DHA are the two fatty acids that are known to help arthritis patients. Studies have shown that an increase in omega-3 fatty acids can lead to the reduction of inflammation. The way to increase the levels of omega-3 fatty acid is through food and dietary supplements.

Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids may regulate disease activity and reduce the effect of the autoimmune inflammatory response in those with rheumatoid arthritis. The recommended dosages of omega- 3 fatty acids is 1,100 mg for women and 1,600 mg for men, The recommended dosages of EPA and DHA is 200-500 mg.

This can be obtained through:

  • Salmon
  • Anchovies
  • Tuna

Supplements

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Glucosamine

Glucosamine is the structural part of the cartilage that cushions the joint that is naturally produced in the body. There was a study that concluded that an oral once-daily dosage of 1,500 mg of glucosamine is more effective than a placebo in treating osteoarthritis symptoms in the knee. In another study participants who took daily doses of 1,500 mg of glucosamine and a placebo for 12 weeks with conventional medication. The results in the patients of self-evaluation noted that the treatment showed noticeable improvements in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Glucosamine is available in supplement form. It is known to be safe in most adults, but be aware that it is manufactured from the shells of shellfish. Some side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness

Chondroitin

Chondroitin can come from natural sources, such as shark or bovine cartilage, or it can be made in a lab. Chondroitin is also known as chondroitin sulfate and chondroitin sulfuric acid. Chondroitin sulfate is a combination of chondroitin and mineral salt.

Studies have shown that oral consumption of chondroitin is more effective than the placebo given in the study on relieving pain. Other studies could not conclude that chondroitin can help grow or repair new cartilage. Chondroitin is usually taken as a supplement. The recommended dose is 400 mg, 3 times a day. Some side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach

Dimethyl Sulfoxide DSMO

Dimethyl sulfoxide (DSMO) is a colorless and sulfur-containing product that is known to improve joint mobility and relieve pain and inflammation in patients who have osteoarthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. It is known to increase blood flow to the skin and manage the excessive build-up of protein in the organs. This is typical in rheumatoid arthritis.

This is used topically as an anti-inflammatory. The quality of the topical formulation over the counter is variable and may contain impurities which can lead to serious health issues; its safety, especially with oral use, is unknown and best be avoided.

Methylsulfonylmethane

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is used for a number of purposes. The most common is an anti-inflammatory agent.

In a study of 100 people over the age of 50, the participants found a decrease in pain after taking 1,200 mg of MSM for 12 weeks compared to a placebo.

In another study, people with osteoarthritis in the knee who took MSM for 12 weeks showed an improvement in physical function and pain. Although an improvement was found, more studies need to be evaluated to determine a clinical significance.

MSM is a compound that contains sulfur and naturally found in humans, animals, and plants. The suggested dose of MSM is for osteoarthritis patients is 1.5 to 6 grams of MSM daily taken in up to three divided doses for up to 12 weeks has been. Side effects include:

  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Itching
  • Nausea

S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine (SAMe)

S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) is produced naturally in the body from the essential amino acid methionine and an energy-producing compound called adenosine triphosphate.

SAMe has anti-inflammatory properties and is known to promote cartilage repair and help the treatment of osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. Some of the side effects of SAMe include nausea, minor digestive issues, and—for some people—an allergic reaction can occur.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is naturally present in the human body. It is a gel-like substance that provides lubrication, growth of bones and cartilage, and reduces inflammation.

Studies have shown that taking oral supplements of hyaluronic acid could help osteoarthritis patients with mild knee pain. Another study concluded that hyaluronic acid injections can help control inflammation in the ankle and foot joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

There is not a lot of research on side effects. In one study of participants receiving hyaluronic acid reported no side effects among the participants. The common recommendation is 200 (mg) daily. Hyaluronic acid can be obtained through injections or taking supplements.

Avocado-Soybean Unsaponifiable (ASU) 

Avocado soybean unsaponifiable (ASU) is a natural vegetable extract made from both avocado and soybean oil. ASU may have some beneficial effects on chemical functions that contribute to osteoarthritis. On a clinical level, ASU also reduces pain and improves joint function.

There are not a lot of side effects, although ASU that contains glucosamine which could have an allergic reaction in individuals who have a shellfish allergy. Others may experience mild symptoms of nasal congestion or hives. The recommended dosage is 300 mg of soft gel daily.

Herbs, Plants, and Spices

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Green Tea

Green tea has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This is due to the polyphenols. The other ingredient in green tea that produces strong antioxidant properties is epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG). This is known to help preserve the bones and cartilage.

Research concluded that green tea and exercise alone or together showed improvements in disease activity, bone remolding, and reduction of bone loss process in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. More research needs to be conducted to specify the needs of the patients, status of disease, and the various exercises and amounts of tea to determine the long-term effect.

There are several types of green teas to try or you can get the benefits through supplement form. If an individual is on blood thinners or taking aspirin regularly, green tea should be avoided. Studies have recommended dosages of EGCG between 90 and 300 mg a day. This is equivalent to a few cups a day. An average cup of green tea has approximately 60 mg to 125 mg. The daily dose can be obtained in a couple of cups a day.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your doctor prior to taking any supplements or vitamins, as the effect on the baby and fetus may be unknown or potentially harmful.

Devil’s Claw

Devil’s claw is a plant native to South Africa that is known to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

In a clinical study, 89 people with osteoarthritis were randomized to receive a placebo or devil’s claw for eight weeks. The study identified that after 30 and 60 days of treatment, patients who received devil’s claw had a significant reduction in pain.

The main side effects of devil's claw are:

  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Ringing in the ears

Devils claw can be consumed through capsules, powder, or liquid form. The recommended dose is 750 to 1,000 mg three times a day. Its long-term safety is unclear.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a root plant that is related to ginger. Curcumin is a known ingredient in turmeric that helps to block inflammation and may have a blood-thinning effect. Studies suggest that turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can aid in helping prevent arthritis.

Turmeric comes in power, root, liquid, and supplement form. The recommended dose is 500 to 2,000 mg per day. The side effects include mild symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, or dizziness.

Ginger

Ginger is a root that may help symptoms of arthritis. The phytochemicals in ginger have anti-inflammatory properties that may aid in relieving inflammation and pain in the joints. Studies have shown that ginger decreases the pro-inflammatory gene expression and also increases the ability to increase anti-inflammatory genes.

Ginger comes in:

  • Powder
  • Capsules
  • Tea
  • Extract
  • Oil form

The suggested amount is 2 g in three divided doses per day or up to 4 cups of tea daily. The mild side effects of ginger include heartburn, nausea, and gas. If you are taking blood thinners or have gallstones, ginger may not be recommended.

Bromelain Extract

Bromelain is a group of enzymes found in the fruit and stem of the pineapple plant. This supplement is known to help reduce pain, swelling, and aid people with osteoarthritis. A study showed that bromelain has the potential for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. More research needs to be conducted to confirm the full effect of bromelain as it relates to osteoarthritis.

The common side effects are upset stomach and diarrhea. Bromelain supplements are sold as powders, creams, tablets or capsules, which may be used alone or in combination with other ingredients. The recommended doses are 500 to 2,000 mg of capsules or tablets three times a day between meals.

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