Dietary Supplements and Arthritis – Part 1
The Better Life Experts | September 24, 2009

This newsletter consists of two parts and will examine the use of supplements in the treatment of osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. Part 1 looks at the means by which supplements can be more effective as an adjunct to a healthy diet and physician care and begins our A-Z discussion.

Ideally, a healthy diet should provide all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed by the body. Supplements can be used to complement our diets, but should not be employed as a substitute for healthy, nutrient rich foods. Note: People can take too many supplements at higher doses than they would ever consume in food products, so supplementing with vitamins and minerals can increase the risk of toxicity in some individuals.

If you have been diagnosed with arthritis, consult with your physician about the use of vitamins and minerals before you begin a supplementation program. Remember that it is important to take supplements properly and follow the label instructions. The following list can help to increase the effectiveness of supplements:

- Consume supplements with food in order to improve absorption by the body;

- Be aware that some supplements interact with each other (e.g. zinc interferes with copper and iron absorption). Taking lots of different supplements can reduce effectiveness due to possible interactions;

- Always check with your pharmacist concerning possible interactions with prescription drugs;

- Buy your supplements from reputable manufacturers so that consistency of product is maintained;

- Consider the cost. Taking supplements can get expensive;

- Always consult with your physician before taking more than the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of any supplement.

The following lists details some (but certainly not all) of the supplements popularly taken by people with arthritis. This list is designed for informational purposes only and is not an endorsement by Better Life Unlimited or the Better Life Institute, Inc. of the possible effectiveness or safety of usage of these products.

Aloe Vera – Generally marketed for internal use as a drink, some animal studies have reported promising results, but taking aloe internally might alter the effects of prescribed medications. Any benefits in the reduction of inflammation seen in rheumatoid arthritis may be overshadowed by safety concerns about the ingestion of aloe.

Bromelain – Derived from pineapples, this mixture of protein digesting enzymes may reduce inflammation and the swelling associated with arthritis flare-ups. Taking antibiotics, or any blood thinning medications, such as warfarin or aspirin in combination with bromelain may cause bleeding.

Calcium – An essential mineral for the construction and repair of bones, only 1/3 of dietary calcium is absorbed through food, and as we age, our ability to absorb calcium decreases. Since calcium helps to keep bones hard, it becomes increasing important to supplement with calcium and vitamin D if you have arthritis. Check with your physician about appropriate dosage levels. Additionally, if you have any kidney problems, check with your physician before supplementing with calcium.

Chondroitin Sulphate - Part of a large protein molecule that gives cartilage elasticity, chondroitin sulfate occurs naturally in the body. Supplement forms are generally derived from the cartilage of cattle or fish. It is often combined with glucosamine and is used to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. There is no current evidence that it is effective in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Because chrondroitin sulfate is a slow-acting supplement, it may take a couple of months to notice any improvement in function. If you haven’t noticed any improvement within a few months, it is unlikely that you will derive any real benefit from this product. You may experience an increased possibility of bleeding if you are currently taking blood thinning medications such as aspirin or warfarin.

CMO (Cetyl Myristoleate) – Made from beef tallow (a hard fatty substance extracted from cattle) and marketed under names such as Cetyl-M, Celadrin and Flexcin (as well as many others), Cetyl Myristoleate is a scientifically unproven product for the treatment of osteoarthritis. If you are under physician care and take methotrexate or any other steroids, do not stop taking your medications despite any sales pitches which claim that CMO can be used as a substitute for these prescriptions.

Devil’s Claw – Derived from the Devil’s Claw desert plant of Africa, this supplement claims to have modest anti-inflammatory benefit. Usually taken in capsule form, it should not be used by people who have ulcers, gallstones, diabetes, or are pregnant. Blood thinning drugs such as aspirin and warfarin should not be taken in combination with Devil’s Claw. Check with your physician before taking this supplement.

Evening Primrose Oil – Commonly known as EPO, this product contains the fatty acid GLA (gamma linolenic acid). Several studies have shown that GLA, in supplement form, can relieve inflammation in people who have rheumatoid arthritis. EPO is a slow acting supplement and you may need 3-6 months to get the full benefit of usage. Generally, the effect is lost when EPO is discontinued. It may also be used with fish oil.

Our next newsletter will examine other supplements that may be of benefit in the treatment of arthritis.
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