Osteoarthritis is the most common joint problem, and can cause pain, discomfort and stiffness. Fortunately there are a number of herbs and natural supplements that can help slow arthritis progression and significantly reduce symptoms.
Affecting an estimated 10% of men and 18% of women over 60 years of age, osteoarthritis is by far the most common type of arthritis in the world. The development of osteoarthritis is due to the degeneration of the cartilage in your joints, and this can result in the common symptoms of pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. Osteoarthritis most frequently affects the joints in your knees, hips, spine, and hands (Glyn-Jones 2015).
Conventional treatment often involves the use of pain relieving medication, which can help reduce pain, stiffness, and improve range of motion but pain relieving medications can have important side effects and do not slow the progression of the disease. Diet and nutritional therapy, however, has been shown to result in important reductions in pain, without side effects, and may help prevent the onset or slow the progression of osteoarthritis (Green 2014).
An unhealthy diet high in refined foods and low in essential vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients could contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. Eating a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts as well as herbs and spices may help (Sanghi 2015).
In a study of people aged 19-70 with osteoarthritis, participants were given instructions to eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet for 6-weeks. Compared to an ordinary diet, the healthy whole food diet was associated with a significant reduction in pain, and the pain relief was seen as early as 2-weeks after initiation of dietary change (Clinton 2015).
Weight loss through dietary change has also been shown to result in important improvements in osteoarthritis symptoms. After a 16-week weight loss diet 64% of elderly women with osteoarthritis experienced a significant improvement in symptoms (Gudbergsen 2012). And another study also found that a 16-week weight loss diet resulted in fast and effective weight loss and highly significant improvement in symptoms in overweight people with osteoarthritis (Riecke 2010).
Exercise is widely recommended for osteoarthritis and because it has similar benefits to pain relieving medication, but no side effects, people often prefer it as a treatment option (Fraenkel 2008). Both strength training (e.g. weights) and aerobic exercise (e.g. brisk walking) can reduce pain and improve function and overall health (Roddy 2005). For example, in one study, simple home-based exercises for around 30 minutes a day significantly reduced osteoarthritis pain within 6-months and continued to have benefits for at least 2-years (Thomas 2002). And a number of studies have found that regular Tai Chi practice is also an effective way of relieving pain and improving physical function (Ye 2014).
Glucosamine is an is an essential component of connective tissue, cartilage, ligaments, and other structures, and has been widely used as a dietary supplement for osteoarthritis for decades. The benefits of glucosamine are thought to be due to pain relieving effects, as well providing nutritional support for the damaged cartilage and slowing further destruction of the joint tissue (Salazar 2014).
Although there are a lot of studies on glucosamine the benefits are still controversial, but this is thought to be due to differences in dietary supplement formulations. Glucosamine sulfate at a once daily dose of 1500mg has been shown to significantly reduce the symptoms, prevent further cartilage degeneration, and reduce the incidence of osteoarthritis-related surgery (Reginster 2012). Lower doses, or other types of glucosamine such as glucosamine hydrochloride may not be as effective.
Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM
Glucosamine supplements often contain other nutrients, especially chondroitin and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and both may improve the effect of glucosamine. Chondroitin, like glucosamine, is a structural component of cartilage. There are over 40 studies showing that chondroitin (alone or in combination with glucosamine) reduces pain in people with osteoarthritis (Singh 2015). For example, a recent study found that 400 mg of chondroitin plus 500 mg glucosamine three times daily was as effective as an anti-inflammatory medication in reducing pain, stiffness, flexibility and joint swelling after 6-months in people with painful knee osteoarthritis, with no side-effects (Hochberg 2015).
A naturally occurring type of dietary sulfur, MSM has also been studied for osteoarthritis and may be helpful. In one study a combination of 500 mg glucosamine and 500 mg of MSM was better at reducing pain and swelling and improving flexibility and mobility of joints than either supplement by itself (Usha 2004). Other studies using MSM as a powder at a range of 1-3 grams three times daily have also found MSM may help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis (Debbi 2011).
Type II collagen
Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II) has been shown to work quickly for symptom relief and has been called “next generation glucosamine,” however UC-II works as anti-inflammatory and does not provide nutrition for your joints in the same way glucosamine does. A pilot study in women suffering from joint pain found that UC-II significantly reduced pain, including morning stiffness, stiffness following periods of rest, and pain that worsens with use of the affected joint as well as improvements in flexibility (Bagchi 2002).
UC-II was also found to be far more effective than glucosamine and chondroitin for pain relief and improving range of movement (Crowley 2009). In people with more severe rheumatoid arthritis UC-II for 3 months resulted in a decrease in swollen joints and tender joints (Trentham 1993). And in healthy people without arthritis, supplementation with UC-II improved knee joint extension and enabled people to exercise longer before experiencing any joint discomfort (Lugo 2014).
The gum resin of Boswellia serrate, also known as simply Boswellia or Frankincense, is a traditional ayurvedic medicine used for pain relief and has been extensively studied as a natural and safe anti-inflammatory. The resin contains boswellic acids, which are thought to be responsible for its health effects (Abdel-Tawab 2011). Boswellia extracts with high levels of boswellic acids are a very promising solution for pain relief as they work fast, with just one capsule or tablet daily and have excellent safety.
A large scientific review of herbal therapies for osteoarthritis found that Boswellia extract was one of the most widely studied and promising herbs for pain relief (Cameron 2014). In one study 100 mg of a high-potency Boswellia extract significantly improved pain and functional ability within just 5 days of use (Vishal 2011). And another study of a high-potency extract found that 100 mg once daily also significantly improved in pain and flexibility as quickly as 7 days (Sengupta 2010).
The yellow spice Turmeric is rich in phytonutrients called curcuminoids that have been shown to be very safe and have an anti-inflammatory effect that may help protect your joints and reduce osteoarthritis pain (Herotin 2013). Dietary supplements sold as curcumin are often actually a mixture of various curcuminoids at a concentration of about 95%. These high strength curcumin/ curcuminoid products are the best studied for osteoarthritis.
People with osteoarthritis taking curcuminoids for 6 -weeks had significant improvements in the pain and physical function scores compared to placebo in one study (Panahi 2014). Another investigation over 3-8 months found that a curcumin extract also reduced symptoms and improved function and quality of walking; and these benefits were associated with reductions in inflammation (Belcaro 2010). And over a 4-week period curcumin extract was as effective as an anti-inflammatory drug (ibuprofen) for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis with fewer gastrointestinal side effects (Kuptniratsaikul 2014). Doses used in these studies vary from just 200 mg of enhanced bioavailability curcumin up to 1500 mg a day.
Lifestyle Labs Recommends
Diet: eat a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, as well as herbs and spices. Use mostly virgin olive oil. Avoid sugars, refined grains, processed foods and too much red meat
Exercise: gentle exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, ideally a combination of aerobic exercise such as brisk walking or resistance exercise e.g. pilates, yoga, tai chi, or weights
Weight loss: weight loss with diet or exercise can help reduce excess weight and decrease arthritis symptoms including pain
Glucosamine sulphate: take 1500mg once daily for at least 3-months
Glucosamine combinations: take 1500 mg glucosamine once daily with 500-1000 mg of Chondroitin and/ or MSM.
Type II collagen (UC-II): take 10 mg once daily for at least 30 days
Boswellia: take 100 mg of a high potency extract once daily for at least 7-days
Curcumin: take 1000 mg daily of curcumin or curcuminoids for at least one month
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