Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) sufferers are no exception, with many seeking information on natural supplements that could help with RA symptoms. If you are one of those people, you should know that supplements are not as well-researched or tightly-regulated as conventional medications, and some pose a risk of side-effects or interactions with RA medications. That said, some supplements that have shown promise in reliving arthritis and RA symptoms. Just remember to consult your doctor before you try them.
Herbal and Dietary Supplements that May Help
A number of supplements have become widely used to help manage the symptoms of arthritis and RA. While scientific evidence of the effectiveness of these substances is thin, there is preliminary and anecdotal evidence that a few may offer some significant relief. Among these supplements are:
Fish oil supplements
These common pills contain high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that have powerful anti-inflammatory affects. Fish oil supplements have shown some benefit in the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases, including RA. People have reported decreased pain and morning joint stiffness, and in some cases, reduced need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Drawbacks of fish oil use include potential gastrointestinal side effects, including gas, bloating and diarrhea, increased risk for bleeding and possible interactions with certain medications, especially blood pressure drugs.
Evening primrose, borage and black currant oils
These three oils are presented together, since they all have the same active ingredient: Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that may be converted into inflammation-fighting substances in the body. While studies on GLA have had inconsistent results, there is some evidence that it may relieve RA joint symptoms and reduce need for NSAIDs. Side effects of GLA can include gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas, bloating, soft stools, constipation and belching. Some borage oil products can contain alkaloids that can damage the liver.
Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)
An extract made from avocado and soybean oils, ASU has been studied and used extensively in Europe for more than 15 years. It been has shown to reduce arthritis and RA symptoms by blocking chemicals that promote inflammation and preventing deterioration of cells that make up joint linings. It is thought to aid in the regeneration of normal connective tissues. No significant side effects have been reported with use of ASU.
Other supplements have shown some promise as ant-inflammatory agents in lab and animal testing but have yet to be proven beneficial in rigorous human clinical trials. These include turmeric and ginger, which are common kitchen spices, green tea, and boswellia, also known as Indian Frankincense, which is a resin extracted from India’s boswellia trees.
It is important to note that natural does not always mean safe. If you choose to try them, these supplements should only be used with the approval of your health care professional. As noted above, side effects and drug interactions can occur with many or even most of these supplements. Additionally, they should be used in conjunction with proven medical treatments, not as a replacement for them.