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Five Supplements for Joint Health That Aren’t Glucosamine

If you’ve read my articles in Flagstaff Business News before or you follow me on social media, you know that I love helping people get healthy, get moving, and get out of pain. A good number of patients I see in my office have joint pain from osteoarthritis. Since osteoarthritis is the most prevalent joint disease, I’m sure a lot of readers can relate!

Osteoarthritis can prevent people from moving like they want to. Life gets less fun and less convenient if you have pain opening jars, chewing food, reaching up to wash your hair, walking, or getting up and down off the floor to play with kids or animals.

But there’s a lot that you can do to promote healthier joints, regain joint function, and have less joint pain.

For this article I’m going to focus on supplements for joint health, but I cannot fail to mention a few baseline health points that must be in order for your joints to feel good. Keeping your baseline health in order also gives supplements their best chance at being effective.

  • Diet. What you eat matters a LOT and eating a diet that is rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, and protein sources will promote joint health. Processed foods, fast food, and sugar-filled foods and drinks will only contribute to arthritis pain.
  • Movement. A joint in motion tends to stay in motion. If you stop moving a joint because it hurts, it may become more difficult to move that joint as time goes on. If joints hurt when you move them, it’s a good idea to see a physical therapist or personal trainer for movements that are therapeutic, build strength, and reduce pain.
  • Weight. Carrying extra weight on your frame can aggravate joint pain and adipose (fatty) tissue can promote inflammation in the body. Arthritic joints will be more painful when they are carrying a heavier load or if they are inflamed.

If you need extra help getting your joints healthy, supplements can play a role in reducing joint pain and help to keep cartilage within the joint healthy. Here are five of my favorites!

  • Collagen. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that taking collagen orally can help the chondrocytes (cells that produce cartilage in a joint) improve their function. And according to research, taking collagen orally improves the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis too. Some studies show improvement in osteoarthritis symptoms with a dose of collagen as low as 10mg per day!
  • Vitamin C. This vitamin is essential to the creation of collagen in our bodies. Vitamin C intake has been linked to less cartilage loss and less incidence of osteoarthritis. It shows the most promise for symptomatic relief in early osteoarthritis, but on a cellular level almost all folks with arthritis can benefit from extra Vitamin C. Research shows a wide range of effective doses (2000-6000mg per day) for Vitamin C, so ask your doc about the dosage that will work best for you.
  • Zinc. A deficiency of this mineral may prevent chondrocytes from functioning optimally. That’s bad news because chondrocytes are the cells that produce cartilage in the joint. The oxidative damage that can occur when there is a zinc deficiency is what causes damage to the chondrocytes and increases osteoarthritis risk. I find that patients generally need 10-30mg of zinc per day with food.
  • MSM. MSM is otherwise known as methylsulfonylmethane, which is why we call it MSM! It’s an organosulfur compound that is found in food, but taking it as a supplement can provide joint pain relief. MSM has been found to decrease the joint pain, stiffness, and swelling associated with osteoarthritis. The ideal dose is based on the individual, but studies show that a dose of three grams twice per day can be effective.
  • Vitamin D. Deficiency of Vitamin D has been well documented in its link to cartilage degeneration. With Vitamin D deficiency, cartilage cannot repair itself and that’s what can lead to degeneration of a joint (osteoarthritis). The good news is that Vitamin D, when it is sufficient levels in the body, could help cartilage regenerate. Because Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and can be toxic at high doses, you should get your levels checked so that your doctor can be precise about dosing if you are deficient.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that can be effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis. There are many herbs, too, that can alleviate joint pain and improve joint function. There are so many, in fact, that it’s difficult to make broad recommendations in the context of an article. I like to prescribe herbal formulas based on the individual patient!

As we move into the summer months, I hope you can find a way to get your joints to a place where they are less painful and function better. We love living in Flagstaff because of its gorgeous outdoor spaces and I want you to be able to get out there and enjoy!

Article by Dr. Amber Belt

Photo by Carol Hagen.