How You Can Beat Arthritis, Part 1

You can beat arthritis by eating an anti-inflammatory diet, doing low-impact mobility and stretching exercises and supplementing with specific, proven herbs and vitamins.

How you can beat arthritis

ODDS ARE that you don’t have it… yet. Live long enough, however, and someday you’re likely to get arthritis somewhere in your body.

The Arthritis Foundation reports that:

“Over 50 million Americans have arthritis, making it the number one cause of disability in the country. That means 1 in every 5 adults, 300,000 children and countless families.”

This is the first of a seven-part series on how to beat arthritis, specifically the two most prevalent kinds: inflammatory arthritis, usually referred to as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and noninflammatory arthritis is known as osteoarthritis (OA).

I’ll be addressing what causes RA and OA, the joints they effect, what you can do to prevent or manage it so that you can live a life unburdened by joint pain and compromised mobility.

The seven-part series breakdown looks like this:

  • Part 1 How You Can Beat Arthritis (You’re reading this one now.)
  • Part 2 How You Can Beat Arthritis In Your Neck
  • Part 3 How You Can Beat Arthritis In Your Shoulders
  • Part 4 How You Can Beat Arthritis In Your Elbows and Wrists
  • Part 5 How You Can Beat Arthritis In Your Lower Back
  • Part 6 How You Can Beat Arthritis In Your Hips
  • Part 7 How You Can Beat Arthritis In Your Knees and Ankles

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What is arthritis;
  • The differences between the two most common types;
  • How arthritis is diagnosed and treated;
  • Exercises to beat arthritis
  • 10 foods you should eat to beat arthritis and 8 to avoid; and
  • The supplements proven to help beat arthritis.

Let’s dig in…

 

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis literally means “joint inflammation”; hence, to put it simply, arthritis is a condition whereby one or more of your joints are inflamed. Arthritis also generally refers to the more than 100 rheumatic diseases and related conditions that can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints and connective tissues.

If you’re thinking, “Hey, I only have a 1-in-5 chance of getting arthritis, not bad odds”, think again. That stat refers to all adults, including that buoyant, indestructible former young self.

Check out what happens as we get older:

The CDC combined data from the National Health Interview Survey years 2007–2009

Yes, as the years roll by the accumulated impact of increasing inflammation (characteristic of aging) and lack of mobility (characteristic of sitting) makes arthritis inevitable for over 60% of women and nearly 50% of men.

And the future’s not bright. Check out the CDC’s projected increase of arthritis in the U.S. population:

 

As mentioned, the focus here is on the two most prevalent forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, so let’s shed some light on them.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones where they meet to form joints. It’s often called “degenerative joint disease” and is the most common type of arthritis experienced by people over 50.

As we age, the rubbery cartilage that acts as a shock absorber for your joints becomes stiff, loses its elasticity and thereby becomes vulnerable to damage. This breakdown of cartilage integrity causes the bones on either side of the joint to rub against each other and tendons and ligaments stretch, causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint. Bony projections, or spurs, can develop around the joint.

All this can occur in almost any joint in the body – most commonly in the fingers, hips, knees, and spine.

Symptoms include joint aching and soreness, pain, and bony knots in the finger joints.

Medications, painkillers, and alternative supplements (like glucosamine and chondroitin) can help relieve the pain. But lifestyle changes like weight loss may also be necessary to reduce stress on weight-bearing joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints that occurs when the body’s immune system – which normally protects us from infection – mistakenly attacks the synovium, the thin membrane that lines the joints. The result can be joint damage, pain, swelling, inflammation, loss of function and disability.

The joint involvement of rheumatoid arthritis is symmetrical. That means if, for instance, one shoulder is affected the other likely will be as well. With rheumatoid arthritis, the inflammation occurs in joints on both sides of the body, a symmetry that helps distinguish it from other types of arthritis.

Although rheumatoid arthritis share many symptoms with other types of arthritis, such as joint pain and swelling, joint stiffness, and fatigue, this form of arthritis is very different from degenerative joint disease, such as osteoporosis.

 

Another distinctive trait of rheumatoid arthritis is that it may happen because of an autoimmune dysfunction. Researchers believe that an external organism – like a virus or bacteria – may alter the immune system, causing it to attack the joints and sometimes other organs.

Robert Hoffman, MD, chief of rheumatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine gives this warning and suggestion:

Rheumatoid arthritis is not just a benign joint disease. It can lead to early death. With rheumatoid arthritis, there is quite good evidence that early diagnosis and aggressive treatment can help to maintain function, prevent disability, and improve survival. (source)

What Causes Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Simply put: Arthritis is cartilage breakdown and/or inflammation within a joint. That said, OA and RA have very different causes.

Osteoarthritis is caused by a breakdown of cartilage, the connective tissue that covers and cushions the ends of the bones in a joint. Despite being referred to as “noninflammatory arthritis”, inflammation can still occur, given that with OA the inflammation typically results from wear and tear.

Injuring a joint can accelerate the progression of OA, but being overweight strains the joints and even everyday activities can contribute to it over time as we age.

OA is most commonly found in the knees, hips, spine, and hands.

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a mysterious set of complications that emanate from autoimmune disease. This means the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue, usually affecting the hands, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles and feet.

Women are more likely to develop RA than are men. Researchers theorize that this may be due to genetic or hormonal factors. RA can also appear in children, and affect other body parts not considered vulnerable to arthritis, such as the eyes and lungs.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Joint stiffness an pain are symptomatic of both RA and OA; however, there are differences:

  • The stiffness associated with RA tends to last longer than it does during flare-ups of OA, and is worse in the morning.
  • RA is a systemic disease, so its symptoms can also include weakness and fatigue.
  • The discomfort associated with OA is usually concentrated in the affected joints.

 

Diagnosing and Treating Arthritis

Typically, your doctor will ask you a series of questions pertaining to when, where and how you’re experiencing pain in your joints. He/she will likely assist you in doing a series of mobility movements for the affected joint to assess when pain is felt and how encumbered is the joint articulation (degrees of movement).

After the physical examination of the arthritic joint, your doctor may order screening tests. MRI can reveal the state of soft tissues in a joint, such as cartilage. Standard X-rays can also show cartilage breakdown and bone damage, or erosion.

Your doctor may order a blood test to determine if the joint problem is due to RA. This is to look for the presence of “rheumatoid factor” or cyclic citrullinated antibodies that are found in most RA cases.

Arthritis is treated differently depending on the type.  I’ll report the typical, conventional Western medical pharmaceutical drug/physical therapy approach, and then dig deeper into the potential arthritis alleviating benefits of certain foods, supplements, exercise and various therapies.

Osteoarthritis treatment may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen for minor flare-ups or mild cases of arthritis. Corticosteroids, which can be taken orally or by injection, can reduce inflammation and minimize the impact of the immune system on the joints.

Physical therapy can help improve muscle strength and the joint’s range of motion. When damage to the joint is severe, surgical interventions such as joint repair or replacement may be indicated.

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment frequently includes the use of NSAIDs and corticosteroids to reduce pain and swelling. Also, a powerful drug called methotrexate, which is also prescribed for serious cases of psoriasis, is extremely effective at eliminating symptoms and preventing joint damage. It’s taken only once a week when treating RA.

New drugs continue to be tested to help treat RA and reduce symptom intensity. And like OA, RA can sometimes be relieved through physical therapy.

That said, my inclination is to first plumb the depths of non-drug options, and that’s what’s next up.

 

Exercise To Beat Arthritis

Exercise focused on joint mobility and soft tissue stretching is considered the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing arthritic pain and improving movement. A tailored arthritis exercise program can help relieve pain and fatigue and preserve joint structure and function.

Although the stiffness, pain, and swelling associated with arthritis can severely reduce the range of motion of joints (the distance joints can move in certain directions), avoiding physical activity because of pain or discomfort can lead to significant muscle loss and excessive weight gain.

Exercise, as part of a comprehensive arthritis treatment plan, can improve joint mobility, muscle strength, and overall physical conditioning, and help you maintain a healthy weight.

According to WebMD, a tailored program that includes a balance of three types of exercises — range-of-motion, strengthening, and endurance — can relieve the symptoms of arthritis and protect joints from further damage. Exercise also may:

  • Help maintain normal joint movement
  • Increase muscle flexibility and strength
  • Help maintain weight to reduce pressure on joints
  • Help keep bone and cartilage tissue strong and healthy
  • Improve endurance and cardiovascular fitness

It’s wise to ask your doctor or physical therapist to review your arthritis-relieving exercise routine. It’s not unusual that former jocks (like myself) will resist excluding exercises that do more harm than good.

Stop all exercise and review what you’ve been doing with your medical practitioner if you experience:

  • Unusual or persistent fatigue
  • Sharp or increased pain
  • Increased weakness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Increased joint swelling
  • Continuing pain

In subsequent articles in this seven-part arthritis series, I’ll suggest specific exercises for the different joints that can be affected by arthritis.

 

10 Foods You Should Eat To Beat Arthritis and 8 To Avoid

I’ll give you the summary of Healthline’s article about why each food can ease inflammation and may relieve some of the joint pain associated with arthritis, and a review of Arthritis.org’s article on foods to avoid. If you want fuller descriptions and the research footnotes, click on the above links.

10 Foods to Eat to Help Prevent and Ease the Symptoms of Arthritis

(1) Fatty Fish

It’s high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, both of which may be beneficial for reducing inflammation and the severity of arthritis symptoms.

(2) Garlic

Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties, say human and test-tube studies, and eating it may be associated with a decreased risk of osteoarthritis.

(3) Ginger

Prized for its medicinal and culinary properties in Asian cultures for thousands of years, ginger has been shown to reduce symptoms of arthritis. Test-tube and animal studies have also found it may decrease inflammation, but more research in humans is needed.

(4) Broccoli

This cruciferous vegetable and member of the cabbage family contains sulforaphane, which according to test-tube studies has anti-inflammatory properties.

(5) Walnuts

This nut is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which could alleviate arthritis symptoms as well as inflammation.

(6) Berries

Not only are berries a good low-sugar fruit choice, but they contain antioxidants that have been shown to decrease arthritis-related inflammatory markers in test-tube and animal studies.

(7) Spinach

Spinach is rich in antioxidants, including the flavonoid kaempferol. Test-tube studies have found that kaempferol can reduce inflammation and slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

(8) Grapes

Grapes have a mix of antioxidants, including flavonoids and resveratrol, which have anti-inflammatory properties.

(9) Olive Oil

Perhaps the most renowned and best loved export from the Mediterranean Basin, olive oil has been shown to reduce inflammation and may be associated with a lower risk of arthritis. One animal study found that it may slow arthritis progression and ease symptoms.  Quality matters — make sure you use double virgin, cold pressed olive oil.

(10) Tart Cherry Juice

The sharp pungent and sour taste of pure cherry juice might need to be diluted with water, but it’s worth drinking given it could lower inflammation and alleviate some symptoms of arthritis.

9 Foods to Avoid to Beat Arthritis

When you have arthritis, your body’s in an inflammatory state. What you eat may not only increase inflammation, it can also set you up for other chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Arthritis.org offers these eight food inflammation-inducing ingredients to avoid:

(1) Sugar

It may be hard to resist desserts, pastries, chocolate bars, sodas, even fruit juices. However, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Sugar goes by many names so look out for any word ending in “ose,” e.g. fructose or sucrose on ingredient labels.

(2) Saturated Fats

Several studies have shown that saturated fats trigger adipose (fat tissue) inflammation, which is not only an indicator for heart disease but it also worsens arthritis inflammation. Pizza and cheese are the biggest sources of saturated fats in the average American diet, according to the National Cancer Institute. Other culprits include meat products (especially red meat), full-fat dairy products, pasta dishes and grain-based desserts.

(3) Trans Fats

Harvard School of Public Health researchers helped sound the alarm about trans fat in the early 1990s. Known to trigger systemic inflammation, trans fat can be found in fast foods and other fried products, processed snack foods, frozen breakfast products, cookies, donuts, crackers and most stick margarines. Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient labels.

(4) Omega 6 Fatty Acids

Omega 6 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid that the body needs for normal growth and development. The body needs a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Excess consumption of omega-6s can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals. These fatty acids are found in oils such corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut, and vegetable; mayonnaise; and many salad dressings.

(5) Refined Carbohydrates

White flour products (breads, rolls, crackers) white rice, white potatoes (instant mashed potatoes, or french fries) and many cereals are refined carbohydrates. According to Scientific American, processed carbohydrates may trump fats as the main driver of escalating rates of obesity and other chronic conditions. These high-glycemic index foods fuel the production of advanced glycation end (AGE) products that stimulate inflammation.

(6) MSG

Mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor-enhancing food additive most commonly found in prepared Asian food and soy sauce, but it can also be added to fast foods, prepared soups and soup mixes, salad dressings and deli meats. This chemical can trigger two important pathways of chronic inflammation, and affect liver health.

(7) Gluten and Casein

People who have joint pain and are sensitive to gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye, or casein, found in dairy products, may find relief by avoiding them. And those diagnosed with celiac disease, in which gluten sets off an autoimmune response that damages the small intestine and sometimes causes joint pain may find relief when they adopt a gluten-free diet. There may be an overlap in which some people with arthritis also have gluten sensitivity or also have celiac disease.

(8) Aspartame

Trying to go sugar-free? Aspartame is a non-nutritive, intense artificial sweetener found in more than 4,000 products worldwide. While it’s approved by the FDA, studies on its effects are mixed, and the impact on people with autoimmune disease are unknown. If you are sensitive to this chemical, your immune system may react to the “foreign substance” by attacking the chemical, which in return, will trigger an inflammatory response.

(9) Alcohol

Alcohol is a burden to the liver. Excessive use weakens liver function and disrupts other multi-organ interactions and can cause inflammation. It is best eliminated or used in moderation.

(Check out my article reviewing Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammation diet.)

Now that you know what to eat to help prevent/improve arthritis, let’s examine which supplements might be useful.

 

Use These Supplements To Beat Arthritis

There’s no end to the list of supplements that claim to help arthritis suffers. To help build a list of scientifically-proven supplements for arthritis relief, I have relied on the work of Arthritis.org and Examine.com.

The Arthritis.org list of supplements is freely accessible, but I had to go to my Examine.com Supplement Reference Guide for their Joint Health publication. I have permission to share their proprietary research with my readers from time to time in exchange for providing a link to their very worthwhile, money-saving Guide, which will help you eliminate the guesswork about which supplements will help you with specific health issues and goals.

You may also consult with The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Medline Plus website and ConsumerLabs.com (a subscription service).

What follows is a list of arthritis supplements recommended by Arthritis.org and Examine.com, both proven and potential options.

This table summarizes their suggestions:

Supplement Arthritis Focus Recommended By
Boswellia Serrata OA Arthritis.org (proven), Examine.com (proven)
Curcumin OA and RA Arthritis.org (proven), Examine.com (proven)
Fish Oil OA and RA Arthritis.org (proven), Examine.com (proven)
Glucosamine Sulfate OA Examine.com (proven)
Chondroitin OA Examine.com (proven)
Vitamin C No mention Examine.com (proven)
SAM-e OA Arthritis.org (proven)
Capsaicin OA and RA Arthritis.org (proven)
ASU OA Arthritis.org (proven)
Cat’s Claw RA Arthritis.org (proven)
GLA RA Arthritis.org (proven)
Ginger OA and RA Arthritis.org (proven)
Pyncogenol OA Examine.com (potential)
Cissus quadrangularis OA Examine.com (potential)

 

Supplements Regarded “Proven” by Both Examine.com and Arthritis.org
Boswellia Serrate (Indian frankincense)

The active components (Boswellic acids) have anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties, particularly for knees. It It also may help prevent cartilage loss and inhibit the autoimmune process. In a 2008 study, the extract, also known as Loxin 5, significantly improved OA pain and function within seven days. An Indian study also revealed it slowed cartilage damage after three months of use.

Best for: Osteoarthritis; more evidence is needed before it can be recommended for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

How to take it:

  • Studies tend to use two concentrated brand name products called 5-Loxin and Aflapin.
  • To supplement either one, take 100 – 250 mg, once a day, with a meal.

More research is needed to determine the dose for phytosomal Boswellia serrata supplementation.

Curcumin (Curcuma longa)

Curcumin is the chemical in turmeric that can reduce joint pain and swelling by blocking inflammatory cytokines and enzymes. A 2010 clinical trial using a turmeric supplement showed long-term improvement in pain and function in patients with knee OA. A small 2012 study using a curcumin product, BCM-95, showed more reduced joint pain and swelling in patients with active RA when compared to diclofenac sodium.

Examine.com says that curcumin has only been proven to be helpful to those with knee osteoarthritis.

Best for: Osteoarthritis
Also used for: Rheumatoid Arthritis

How to take it:

  • Given that it’s poorly absorbed, increase curcumin’s bioavailability by the phytosome form paired with black pepper extract (bioperine).
  • Take 200 mg of a curcumin phytosome, twice a day, with meals. If joint pain persists, this dose can be increased up to 500 mg, taken twice a day for a total daily dose of 1,000 mg.
  • To supplement curcumin alongside black pepper, take 500 mg of curcumin with 20 mg of piperine (a compound in black pepper), three times a day, with meals.

Note: The Meriva curcumin brand was used in studies examining curcumin phytosome supplementation. Prohealth also makes several highly absorbable curcumin supplements that I use and wrote about in a three-part series called, The Golden Spice.

Fish Oil (Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA)

Omega-3s block inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins, and are converted by the body into powerful anti-inflammatory chemicals called resolvins. EPA and DHA have been extensively studied for RA and dozens of other inflammatory conditions. A 2010 meta-analysis found that due to its immunosuppressive properties fish oil significantly decreased joint tenderness and stiffness in RA patients and reduced or eliminated NSAID use

Best for: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Also used for: Osteoarthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome

How to take it:

  • To alleviate joint pain requires high dosages of fish oil, usually more than 2,500 mg.
  • Fish oil should be taken with a meal, and can be divided into multiple doses throughout the day, although this is not required.
  • People with diets high in fatty fish do not need to supplement as much sh oil as described above.

 

Supplements Regarded “Proven” by Examine.com
Glucosamine Sulfate

Glucosamine is the most researched joint health supplement for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis.

Supplementing glucosamine sulfate (not to be confused with glucosamine hydrochloride) has been shown to be comparable to taking acetaminophen, a pharmaceutical for treating knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.

Unfortunately, glucosamine doesn’t work for everyone, which may be why Arthritis.org doesn’t mention it.

Best for: Osteoarthritis

How to take it:

  • Take 500 mg of glucosamine sulfate, three times a day, with a meal, for a total daily dose of 1,500 mg.
  • Do not supplement glucosamine hydrochloride.
Chondroitin

Chondroitin is a chain of sugars containing nitrogen, known as a glycosaminoglycan. It is a component of cartilage, and used as an oral supplement to support joint health. Chondroitin, in the form of chondroitin sulfate, is commonly supplemented alongside glucosamine for convenience.

Chondroitin is most studied in the context of alleviating knee osteoarthritis. Supplementing chondroitin can reduce pain and improve mobility. It may also reduce water retention in inflamed joints.

More research is needed to determine whether chondroitin and glucosamine are synergistic when supplemented together.

Chondroitin may have an anti-coagulant effect. People on blood thinning medication like warfarin should be very cautious when supplementing chondroitin.

Best for: Osteoarthritis

How to take it:

  • Take 200 – 400 mg of chondroitin sulfate, three times a day for a total daily dose of 600 – 1,200 mg.
  • Use the Higher to help relieve joint pain.
Vitamin C

Although vitamin C does not play a major role in most joint disorders, it’s effective at preventing complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). CRPS is a very painful chronic joint condition.

CRPS is characterized by swollen joints and changes in skin and hair quality. It can be caused by orthopedic surgery or joint injury. The only known preventative measure is vitamin C supplementation.

Vitamin C is also vital for collagen formation; consequently, a vitamin C defciency can be detrimental for joint health.

Best for: Unspecified

How to take it:

  • To treat CRPS pain, take 500 mg, once a day, ideally in the morning.
  • People with joint pain not associated with CRPS can take 500 mg of vitamin C a day, for up to two months. If, after two months, pain has not been reduced, cease supplementation.
Supplements Regarded “Proven” by Arthritis.org
SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine)

SAM-e acts as an analgesic (pain reliever) and has anti-inflammatory properties. It may stimulate cartilage growth and also affects neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which reduce pain perception. Two studies have shown that it relieves OA symptoms as effectively as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with fewer side effects and more prolonged benefit.

Best for: Osteoarthritis

How to take it: Unspecified — follow directions on bottle

Capsaicin (Capsicum frutescens)

Capsaicin temporarily reduces substance P, a pain transmitter. Its pain-relieving properties have been shown in many studies, including a 2010 study published in Phytotherapy Research, which revealed a 50 percent reduction in joint pain after three weeks of use. It is available as a topical cream, gel or patch.

Best for: Osteoarthritis
Also used for: Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

How to take it: Unspecified — follow directions on bottle

Avocado-soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)

ASU blocks pro-inflammatory chemicals, prevents deterioration of synovial cells, which line joints, and may help regenerate normal connective tissue. A large three-year study published in 2013 showed that ASU significantly reduced progression of hip OA compared with placebo. A 2008 meta-analysis found that ASU improved symptoms of hip and knee OA, and reduced or eliminated NSAID use.

Best for: Osteoarthritis

How to take it: Unspecified — follow directions on bottle

Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)

How it works: Cat’s claw is an anti-inflammatory that inhibits tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a target of powerful RA drugs. It also contains compounds that may benefit the immune system. A small 2002 trial showed it reduced joint pain and swelling by more than 50 percent compared with placebo. Look for a brand that is free of tetra-cyclic oxindole alkaloids.

Best for: Rheumatoid Arthritis

How to take it: Unspecified — follow directions on bottle

Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA)

GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that the body converts into anti-inflammatory chemicals. In one trial, 56 patients with active RA showed significant improvement in joint pain, stiffness and grip strength after six months and progressive improvement in control of disease activity at one year. A smaller study found that a combination of GLA and fish oil significantly reduced the need for conventional pain relievers.

Best for: rheumatoid arthritis

How to take it: Unspecified — follow directions on bottle

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen and COX-2 inhibitors. In a 2012 study, a specialized ginger extract reduced inflammatory reactions in RA as effectively as steroids did.

Earlier studies showed that taking a certain extract four times daily reduced osteoarthritis pain in the knee after three months of treatment, and another taken twice daily worked about as well as ibuprofen taken three times daily for hip and knee OA pain.

Best for: Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

How to take it: Unspecified — follow directions on bottle

 

Supplements Regarded “Unproven” but potentially useful by Examine.com and Arthritis.org

Pyncogenol

Pycnogenol is the brand name for a source of procyanidin B2. Procyanidin B2 has anti-inflammatory properties and can improve blood flow.

Pycnogenol supplementation has been found to benefit people with osteoarthritis, although further research is needed to confirm this effect. Patience is requreid when using Pycnogenol, as it can take longer than most supplements to set in. Maximal benefit is usually experienced after three months of continuous supplementation.

Grape seed extract is another source of procyanidin B2. It is cheaper than Pycnogenol and may be more viable for supplementation.

Best for: Osteoarthritis

How to take it:

  • To supplement Pycnogenol, take 90 – 200 mg, once a day, with breakfast.
  • To supplement grape seed extract (GSE), take 150 – 300 mg, once a day, with breakfast.

Note: GSE may be cheaper, but there’s less evidence for its effectiveness, given that its usefuleness for joint health have never been directly demonstrated.

Cissus Quadrangularis

Cissus quadrangularis is an herb traditionally used to heal joints and bone fractures. Its healing effects may be due to its anti-inflammatory properties, and the growth factors it induces in bone and tissue joints.

Cissus quadrangularis is frequently supplemented by athletes, particularly martial artists, to alleviate joint pain. Much more research is needed to determine if Cissus quadrangularis supplementation really can alleviate joint pain, but preliminary evidence is promising.

Best for: Osteoarthritis

How to take it:

  • Take 300 – 600 mg of a Cissus quadrangularis supplement standardized at 2.5% ketosteroid content.
  • Start at the low end of the dosage range and supplement for a week before slowly increasing the dose to 3,200 mg, or until Cissus quadrangularis supplementation alleviates joint pain. Benefits for joint pain are usually seen at doses of 3,200 mg.
  • Cissus quadrangularis supplementation may relax the muscles, so it should be taken a er a workout or before bed.
Supplement Safety and Quality

Talk to your doctor before taking a supplement so you understand the potential side effects and interactions with your medication. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not test supplements, but there are private companies that do. Be sure to research these products and share the information with your doctor. You can find supplement information on The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Medline Plus website. Click here to visit the Arthritis Today Supplement Guide.

 

Your Takeaway

Odds are that you either now have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, or will get it sometime in your life (not to mention the other types of arthritis). Surely, then, it makes sense to do something about it.

You can beat arthritis by:

  • Eating an anti-inflammatory diet.
  • Regularly doing low-impact mobility exercises and stretching that emphasize joint articulation.
  • Taking as many of the suggested supplements that you can tolerate and afford.

Stay tuned for the rest for this seven-part series, where, hopefully, I’ll address the specific joint where you may be experiencing arthritis.

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Joe Garma
 

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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