Supplements for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Best Supplements For Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are many supplements on the market advertised to help arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is one form of inflammatory arthritis that can result in severe damage to the joints. 

Are supplements helpful? And what are the best supplements that are scientifically proven or tested for patients with rheumatoid arthritis?

Only in the United States is it estimated that about 1.3 million adults are diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis.

Here are the best four supplements for Rheumatoid arthritis.

Fish Oil for Rheumatoid arthritis

Fish oil supplements are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are found in fish oil supplements. These types of fatty acids can inhibit COX-2 enzyme, which is the same enzyme that the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) can inhibit and, in consequence, decrease inflammation. Some studies show that fish oil can decrease the molecules that produce inflammation, like TNF alpha and IL-6.

Many studies showed the beneficial effects of fish oil in decreasing the risk of heart disease. Now, some studies will show the benefits of fish oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. For example, a study published in 2015,  a randomized controlled trial involving 139 patients with recent-onset rheumatoid arthritis, proved that adding a high dose of fish oil (5.5g per day) to the triple therapy (methotrexate, sulfasalazine, and hydroxychloroquine) significantly increased the number of patients getting into remission and lowered their disease activity. Other studies revealed the beneficial impact of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on patients’ pain, fatigue, duration of morning stiffness, and the number of painful or tender joints. Fatigue is a significant drawback that many patients with rheumatoid arthritis report, so adding fish oil to the current medication regimen could be beneficial. Omega-3 supplementation also reduces non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use.

It is also essential to note that no significant side effects were reported.

Vitamin D for Rheumatoid arthritis

Over the last ten years, researchers discovered that Vitamin D is not only a hormone involved in calcium metabolism. Vitamin D was shown to be connected with the immune system. Vitamin D receptors were found on immune cells, and they were shown to regulate the function of immune cells by decreasing the number of molecules that produce inflammation in the body. In 2022, the VITAL study showed that people with vitamin D deficiency had a 22% increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Studies on people with vitamin D deficiency confirmed an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by 65%. 

That is why I recommend checking the vitamin D level every year and supplementing if the level is low. 

Many patients with Rheumatoid arthritis are at increased risk for osteoporosis, and being vitamin D deficient can also contribute to the worsening of the bone disease.

Best Supplements for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Supplements for Rheumatoid Arthritis Fish oil, Turmeric, Vitamin D, Probiotics

Turmeric for Rheumatoid arthritis

Turmeric also called the ‘golden spice”, has an active ingredient called curcumin. For centuries, this spice has been used in Asian cuisine for its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Over ten thousand studies have been reported about curcumin’s biological activities, including more than 120 clinical trials. 

Initially, studies done in animals showed that turmeric/ curcumin could modulate our immune system cells and decrease inflammation.

 Studies done on people with rheumatoid arthritis showed that using turmeric for at least 90 days will reduce pain, decrease inflammation markers, and disease activity. 

Not only that, but using turmeric will decrease the need for other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, without any other side effects.

Probiotics for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Probiotics are living bacteria that will be beneficial to your gut. In the last century, the bacteria in our gut suffered many changes that are the leading cause of many chronic diseases that we witness today, from diabetes to cancers and autoimmune diseases. The gut microbiome was affected by the changes in our diet and the excessive use of antibiotics. Using probiotics will have a great chance of restoring gut bacteria.

In people with rheumatoid arthritis, gut inflammation and changes in the gut bacteria species might contribute to the onset of this disease. That is why probiotics were studied in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. In beneficial for people who have Rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers showed that adding a probiotic supplements that contain Lactobacillus casei helps to reduce the molecules that produce inflammation and results in symptom improvement in Rheumatoid arthritis. Patients reported decreased pain and swelling in their joints and improved disease activity. No side effects were reported in patients using a probiotic supplement. Probiotics can also be found in many foods I have included in my Rheumatoid arthritis pyramid.

Best Supplements for Rheumatoid arthritis

These four supplements have been studied, and we have scientific proof that they might be helpful in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Using supplements will not cure the disease, but it has great potential to minimize your symptoms and the need to use more medications to control inflammation. Supplements and an antiinflammatory nutrient strategy are the best approaches for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Discuss with your rheumatologist about these supplements and their risks and benefits in your specific case. It is always essential that your doctor is part of your medical journey. 

  • Diana Girnita, MD, PhD, FACR

    Dr. Girnita is a physician-scientist double-board certified in rheumatology and internal medicine, trained at Harvard, with a PhD in immunology. She conducted award-winning immunology research and received the "Top Doc in Cincinnati" award before launching her direct-care/direct-pay Rheumatologist OnCall practice.

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