But before you head to your kitchen, or the grocery store, you need to find out which ones will fit best into your rheumatoid arthritis treatment plan. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health, just about all supplements have the potential to interfere with your regular medications or cause other unwanted side effects, such as an allergic reaction, so learning more about them and talking with your doctor beforehand is essential.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Supplements
A variety of complementary and alternative claim to be helpful for arthritis. Some of the most commonly known supplements include:
Borage oil comes from a plant and contains omega-6 fatty acids, which are thought to offer people with rheumatoid arthritis some relief from pain and joint stiffness. According to NCCAM, however, results of studies involving borage oil for rheumatoid arthritis have not been conclusive. Borage oil and other oils that contain omega-6 fatty acids, such as evening primrose oil, can increase bleeding and bruising. NCCAM also warns that borage oil is made with an additive that may increase liver damage. Also, the appropriate dose of borage oil varies with each individual, so discuss what is appropriate for you with your rheumatologist.
Capsaicin cream is numbing agent that comes from cayenne peppers. The cream is rubbed onto joints that are sore and inflamed. Studies suggest that this cream is modestly effective in reducing joint pain if it is used daily. Side effects can include a burning sensation after application.
Cod liver oil, a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, is the only dietary supplement that has been strongly associated with relieving symptoms such as inflammation and pain among people with rheumatoid arthritis. “It has results similar to non-steroidal drugs like ibuprofen and can be used safely,” says Robert W. Hoffman, DO, professor and chief of the division of rheumatology and immunology in the department of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “It also has cardiovascular protective benefits.”
The risks of cod liver oil include increased bleeding and bruising and possible exposure to mercury from the original codfish. Research has shown 10 grams of cod liver oil daily to have a positive effect on joint pain, but there are no official recommendations about how much you should take.
Flaxseed oil, which comes from ground flax seeds, also contains omega-3 fatty acids. This oil is available in gel capsules and as in oil form for salad dressings or foods, but it must be kept refrigerated. Adults can take about 3,000 milligrams a day. It is available at pharmacies, health food stores, and some grocery stores.