Literally meaning joint inflammation, arthritis is a general term used for more than 100 different rheumatic diseases and conditions that relate to joint pain or joint disease. Now considered a common ailment, especially among women and those advancing in years, doctor-diagnosed arthritis affects approximately 54.4 million American adults, a number expected to rise to 78 million by 2040. Symptoms of pain, stiffness and swelling in and around the joints and surrounding tissues, as well as loss of mobility and reduced joint flexibility, may develop gradually or suddenly, may be mild, moderate or severe, and may come and go with periods of time between flare-ups.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is an often painful, degenerative joint disease that can affect the hips, knees, neck, lower back and smaller knuckle joints. OA generally begins with the gradual deterioration of cartilage, the strong and flexible fibrous connective tissue that cushions the joints, absorbs shock, and allows for bones to glide over each other with movement. Over time, cartilage breakdown leads to joint damage and loss of the synovial fluid that lubricates the joint, resulting in bone-on-bone friction, pain, and inflammation. Initial signs of OA might include morning joint stiffness that lessens with movement, or joint pain after exercise or strenuous activity. Osteoarthritis may develop with aging, sports participation, repetitive overuse or joint stress resulting from injury or obesity.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory autoimmune disorder in which the body releases enzymes that attack joint linings, causing swelling, pain, stiffness, and malformation, as well as reduced movement and loss of functionality. This abnormal immune response plays a leading role in the inflammation and joint damage that occurs. RA often affects the fingers, thumbs, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles and feet. Because RA causes high levels of systemic inflammation, it can affect organ and body systems, resulting in symptoms of dry eye, eye sensitivity and irritation, dry mouth, gum irritation or infection, inflammation of the blood vessels and lungs, anemia and skin nodules. As there is no cure, RA must be managed to target remission, control pain and fatigue, and prevent damage to joints and tissues. Typically, a combination of medication, exercise, lifestyle changes, and an anti-inflammatory diet high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, are recommended protocols for treatment.
Gout is another form of inflammatory arthritis that causes extremely painful joint inflammation, largely affecting the big toe. Gout occurs when the body produces an excess of uric acid or is unable to eliminate it quickly enough. Initially symptomless, when the blood level of uric acid is high, sharp needle-like crystals can begin to form in the joint. A gout attack generally occurs suddenly without warning, causing an episode of severe pain, tenderness, warmth and swelling that may last for up to a week or longer. Certain health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease may contribute to a higher risk of gout. Although some will experience chronic gout flares, lifestyle and dietary changes can help with reducing interval flare-ups. Avoiding red and organ meats, shellfish, excessive alcohol, and fructose sweetened drinks can help reduce gout risk. Following a life-long heart healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and engaging in physical activity are important strategies for uric acid reduction and gout management.
Exercise that emphasizes stretching, strengthening and range of motion, such as tai chi, swimming, low-impact aerobics, and restorative yoga, is often helpful and encouraged to support dexterity and protect against further degeneration, while periodic rests from repetitive movement help to reduce inflammation and fatigue. Topical analgesics or patches applied directly to the affected areas, such as those than contain eucalyptus or capsaicin, help to reduce pain by stimulating the nerve endings that distract the brain from joint pain. Heat treatments, such as warm compresses, heating pads and 15-20-minute bath soaks can soothe affected joints, improve pain tolerance and help to maintain flexibility. For acute flares, cold treatment is best as it helps to reduce inflammation and numb pain. Acupuncture or acupressure, relaxation techniques, massage and chiropractic manipulation can also help to relieve stress, pain, inflammation, and other symptoms associated with different forms of arthritis. The following science-backed supplements may be effective in the management of arthritis:
Hyaluronic Acid – Hyaluronic acid is found in all connective tissues and is a major component of cartilage and synovial fluid that surrounds the joints. It’s hyaluronic acid that retains the moisture that lubricates and protects cartilage. Research has shown that hyaluronic acid helps to relieve achy joints.
MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) – This organic sulfur compound, found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and grains, is an important building block for healthy bones and joints. Evidence shows that MSM may have a moderate effect in improving joint pain and swelling and may improve general functional wellbeing in those with OA.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids – EPA and DHA essential fatty acids found in cold water fish block powerful inflammatory cytokines and provide anti-inflammatory compounds that protect against inflammatory conditions, including arthritis, heart disease, and high blood pressure. According to the Arthritis Foundation, extensively studied omega-3’s significantly decrease joint tenderness and stiffness.
Bromelain – Found naturally in pineapple, bromelain has been shown to cause uric acid crystals to decompose, helping to relieve pain associated with gout. Taken regularly as a supplement, bromelain can help reduce swelling, pain and tenderness and may also help prevent future attacks.
Spices – Turmeric and ginger contain natural anti-inflammatory and pain relieving compounds. Applied topically, capsaicin provides pain relief and helps to temporarily reduce bodily chemicals that contribute to inflammation.
As always, if you pregnant, taking medications or have a medical condition, please consult your healthcare provider before beginning a supplement regimen.
Professional Supplement Center carries many high quality supplements to support a healthy inflammatory response and overall health.
Bromelain-5000 by Douglas Laboratories: Obtained from pineapple, bromelain is a blend of enzymes shown to support a healthy inflammatory response, aid digestion, and promote muscle and joint comfort. Gluten, soy, wheat, and dairy free.
Uric Acid Formula by Pure Encapsulations®: This formula provides vitamins and botanicals to support healthy uric acid metabolism by promoting healthy liver enzyme activity, immune mediator activity and alkalization. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
ON SALE Advanced Bio-Curcumin® with Ginger Tumerones by Life Extension: Formulated with BCM-95® Bio-Curcumin®, standardized ginger extracts, turmeric oil compounds and phospholipids, this highly absorbable formula promotes a healthy inflammatory response by inhibiting key inflammatory factors.
ON SALE Hyaluronic Acid by Olympian Labs: This product provides a blend of hyaluronic acid and BioCell collagen in support of properly hydrated joints and skin. Soy free formulation.
MSM by Pure Encapsulations: Well known for maintaining connective tissue heath, MSM is a source of organic sulfur, which supports healthy joint function as well as hair, skin and nails. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
ON SALE Hyaluronic Acid with MSM by Now Foods: This product provides hyaluronic acid as well as MSM in support of connective tissue and joint lubrication and shock absorption. Gluten, soy, wheat, yeast, and milk free.
ON SALE ProOmega Lemon 1000 mg by Nordic Naturals: This popular product provides high potency omega-3 fatty acids derived from purified deep sea fish oil. Shown to clinically support cardiovascular health and the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response, this double strength formula is guaranteed to be fresh and pure. Gluten free, Non-GMO formulation.
What Is Arthritis? http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/what-is-arthritis.php
Arthritis Basics. https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/index.html
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). https://www.rheumatoidarthritis.org/ra/
What is Cartilage? http://www.arthritis-health.com/types/joint-anatomy/what-cartilage
Osteoarthritis Symptoms and Signs. http://www.arthritis-health.com/types/osteoarthritis/osteoarthritis-symptoms-and-signs
Gout Self Care. http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/gout/self-care.php
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment. http://www.arthritis-health.com/types/rheumatoid/rheumatoid-arthritis-treatment